Highest Bungee Jump in the World

Leanne's photo of Michael jumping backwards off the highest bungee bridge in the world

Leanne's photo of Michael jumping backwards off the highest bungee bridge in the world

How do you top the experience of bungee jumping 111 meters head first at Victoria Falls? You jump backwards off the highest bungee bridge in the world at a staggering 216 meters. They normally don’t let you jump backwards until you are an experienced jumper. Probably so you don’t instinctually try to grab back onto the edge. Since I had only been once before (at Vic Falls) I had to lie a little to go this way, thankfully one of the managers told me what I needed to say. I took the flying fox (zip line) over to the middle of the bridge for the big jump. As I was getting strapped up some of the experienced crew members were very excited about my backwards jump. A few of them felt it was a bigger rush and a totally different feeling than the other way. I wholeheartedly agree. I was excited and smiling big as I stood on the edge of the bridge preparing for the jump. For some reason I have always loved the sense of freefall and looked forward to it again. After I leapt off I intentionally let out a long yell of excitement, but as I turned onto my back and continued to freefall (almost 7 seconds) I had a whole new rush which I hadn’t felt before to which my fun yell unwillingly and uncharacteristically turned into an … “AHHHH SSSHHH#######TTTTTTT!” It was a new feeling and a huge adrenaline high. After the first slingshot I simply enjoyed the second drop, but it sure caught me off guard the first time. When I was done I was on a huge high and wanted to go again, but I will save it for another time. Leanne was watching me from the viewing platform with the camera out and as I stood out on the edge she found the whole thing to be shaking in her hands as her nervousness for me was getting the better of her.

In the afternoon we spent some time up close with saved elephants at a nearby sanctuary. It was a bit of a show though and we didn’t appreciate how structured it was. Unlike the sanctuaries we visited the day before here the animals were put to work for the tourists rather than roaming free and only approaching people if they wanted to.

Tomorrow we are off on a small group tour heading on our last safari this trip in Kruger. Photos from our last few days are added to the South Africa album. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=104519&id=673382190&l=368cc01ac5

The Purr of a Cheetah

Leanne and Michael petting the cheetahs

Leanne and Michael petting the cheetahs

We have just had one of those perfect days that included the surreal experience of making cheetahs purr with affection while petting them, wandering through a forest with lemurs, apes and other monkeys, and sharing a lunch with beautiful and overly friendly birds. To top it off we checked into a stunning secluded treetop lodge with beautiful views of the wilderness, our own private pool, and a wood burning fireplace Leanne roasted marshmallows on.

We left Cape Town for the long drive up the Garden Route, stopping in Mossel Bay to watch the surfers while having seafood for lunch. We spent the night at a contemporary masterpiece of a boutique hotel. It was created by one of South Africa’s most famous interior designers. We were the only guests, probably because the pricing on the Internet was eight times (a currency conversion issue) what it was supposed to be. I contacted the hotel directly because I didn’t believe it and was rewarded for doing so. For dinner that evening we walked a mere 200 meters to a neighbouring restaurant but we were drenched along the way. A light rain turned to a torrential flooding downpour halfway through our walk. We were wet and cold when we ate and happy to return to the hotel to enjoy the tub in our room.

The following morning the sun was out and the sky was blue. We had a wonderful breakfast set out just for us and ate outside while enjoying the weather. We left to visit a monkey reserve. It is a massive forested area where monkeys and apes that have been recovered from all over the world roam free. They are beautiful and entertaining creatures. It was my chance to see Lemurs up close since I missed going to Madagascar on this trip. We agreed that we would heed Canada’s travel warnings and avoid any country deemed too dangerous to visit, and Madagascar was still on that list due to a coup of the government this year and the resulting political turmoil and lawlessness that followed.

After spending time with the monkeys we visited the world’s largest free-flight aviary. It is a massive and attractive park filled with all kinds of brightly coloured birds. We loved our walk through here and stopped midway at a little restaurant for lunch. Despite having an abundance of food to eat elsewhere many of the birds seem to delight in the human attention. If you let them they will land on you and try to share your food, even pecking it from your mouth. While we didn’t let them stay on us, others did and one fellow behind us had a bird on his head and a couple on his shoulders and was feeding them from his mouth. The lunch was highly entertaining, and a bit gross.

In the afternoon we went to a rehabilitation centre for wild cats. Most animals need a fear of humans to survive so you don’t spend time with those that can recover, but you get to visit those that had been bred in captivity and rescued from zoos. These cats are remarkably happy. We watched a leopard on a cat post interacting with one of the staff, and visited large wild cats that look just like domestic ones on steroids. The incredible highlight though was getting to interact with them. To have a full grown cheetah come to you to be pet is something special. We spent a lot of time interacting with two adults and separately with two cubs. To hear and feel a cheetah purr so loudly under your own touch is really amazing. It was a special afternoon for us and something we will always remember.

Leanne in our amazing villa treehouse

Leanne in our amazing villa treehouse

After our high from being with the cheetahs we drove to a tree-top lodge where we are spending a couple nights. This place is absolutely incredible. Each guest stays in a secluded villa reached by platforms through the tree canopies and perched high up in the forest on stilts. We have two patios, a living area with a wood burning fireplace, a large bedroom with gorgeous views of untouched wilderness, a reading room, and massive bathroom and even a private infinity pool suspended high in the air. Incredible! Dinner was equally impressive and amongst my courses I had the best lamb tajine I’ve ever tasted. After dessert we returned to the room to find the fire going, hot chocolate waiting for us and marshmallows on a stick. Leanne roasted marshmallows and then we put on our robes and laid in the chaise lounge in front of the fire. The whole day combined was absolutely brilliant

More photos will be posted to the South Africa album when we get a decent Internet connection.

Great White Sharks

Close enounter with a Great White Shark

Close encounter with a Great White Shark

I have just returned from cage diving with the Great White Sharks in Gansbaai. It is considered to be the Great White Shark capital of the world and draws National Geographic Society film crews and researchers from around the globe to study the wildlife. I had a phenomenal day of viewing the sharks. They arrived beside the boat within minutes of anchoring. In total there were seven different Great Whites and we saw all of them many, many times. We even witnessed a few surface breaches with the shark coming out of the water. Underwater in the cage I could see into their mouths with just the small bars separating me from them. I was very comfortable in the water watching them and put full trust in the cage to protect me. Many of the other people would panic from excitement when the sharks approached and some were jittery from the adrenaline rush of being so close to these massive creatures.

Weekend company in the dream house in Kommetjie

Weekend company in the dream house in Kommetjie

On the weekend we were treated to amazing hospitality. On Friday Nici and Andrew had us over for dinner at their home. And on Saturday we all stayed with Nici’s relatives in a large dream house across from the beach in the sleepy town of Kommetjie. On arrival we saw an incredible sunset. We had excellent company, amazing home cooked meals including salmon, salads, and roast chicken. We are very happy and thankful for the hospitality and enjoyed our time there. Before arriving I had tracked down the only place in Cape Town that has a license to import Belgian beers and I brought them along. This made me popular with Nigel (he owns the house). He loves Belgian beer and still has the beer glasses from when he lived in Europe. By luck, the glasses were for the same beer I brought. He shared his favourite wine with me and we drank rather excessively on Saturday. On Sunday we went for walks on the beach and when we left in the late afternoon we drove around the cape. We could see whales from the road and had another visit with the penguins. We enjoyed our weekend immensely.

Photos have been added to our South Africa album. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=104519&id=673382190&l=368cc01ac5

Trip Hiatus

Watching the sunset from our apartment in Camps Bay

Watching the sunset from our apartment in Camps Bay

We are on a bit of a trip hiatus at the moment. I haven’t taken my camera out in almost a week. We are staying in a very comfortable fully furnished rental apartment across the road from the beach at Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. After over three months of non-stop adventure this has been our chance to catch our breath. Cape Town was an ideal choice with all the comforts of home. We can drink the tap water (yay), do our own laundry, and everyone speaks English. They have great grocery stores (home cooked meals!!) and restaurants and things are relatively inexpensive for us. For example: buying a bottle of good South African wine costs less than $5 CAD a bottle although connoisseurs can pay up to $20 for the best of the best. We have been to the theatre for a couple of movies and it only costs $2 on cheap night and $4.50 all other times. You also get to pick your seat when you buy the ticket so you only need to arrive as the show is starting. We also used our time here to deal with future trip requirements including getting our travel visas for China. When I last wrote Leanne wasn’t feeling well. I am happy to say she is getting back to normal, but she did have a visit with a local doctor and was prescribed some medicine to help kill the bacteria she picked up. We are going over to friends for dinner tonight and all is well.

Farewell Namibia

Dead Vlei, Namibia

Dead Vlei, Namibia

I have wanted to see Dead Vlei in the Namibian desert since the first time I saw photos of it. I am really happy to have made it here and the scenery we saw was exquisite during early morning and early evening. I have heard a few people say Namibia is their favourite country. It is certainly a place to get away from it all. I did enjoy it but the best description I have read of it is actually from the travel company that helped book our desert accommodation.

“Namibia really is a conundrum. On the one hand it is a land of incredible desert wilderness.. remote, soul-awakening places, visually stunning, barely populated and little visited. Whilst on the other hand many of the best known sites vary from slightly to extremely disappointing for a range of different reasons.”

We had a great flight on Namibian air to reach the country although we had a surprise when the cover for the emergency exit door popped off beside us mid flight. The driving wasn’t bad either with the exception of having a huge rock fly up from an oncoming vehicle that put an enormous chip in the rental car windshield.

We are now settled in Cape Town in an apartment we have rented for a while to have a rest from being on the road for so long. It is so nice to be able to make home cooked meals, do our own laundry and to fully unpack.


View from our room in the Namib Desert

View from our room in the Namib Desert

We picked up our rental car at the airport when we arrived in Windhoek. We had a long drive ahead of us to make it out to where we were staying in the Namib Desert. It was over 400km to our destination with most of the journey on gravel roads. Sections of the drive were fortunately very scenic. We arrived just before sunset and had some drinks and settled in. The place we stayed at is far into a private reserve and there is only nature in sight when looking in all directions from the camp lodges. It is a beautiful spot and dinner was good and well presented.

Leanne was not feeling very well when we first arrived. The following morning we did a half day open jeep drive through the dunes and desert. Leanne became feverish shortly after the drive started and by the time we returned she was in absolute agony. Our room has stunning unobstructed views and we stayed in our private camp for the remainder of the day with the staff bringing us both lunch and dinner.

We went to the largest dunes in the world at Sossusvlei in the morning. I hiked in to see the striking barren trees growing out of the white ground behind the red dunes at Dead Vlei before we made the long drive back to Windhoek. Losing a day in the desert was disappointing but with Leanne not feeling well we are glad to be back in civilization. The closest doctor was over 300km away. There was no radio or mobile phone reception in the desert, but surprisingly I was somehow able to get on the Internet briefly at a farmhouse for a quick check.

Photos are posted here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=115353&id=673382190&l=54f2becb30


This office was supposed to help us at 7AM for a 9AM flight. No one there still at 7:39AM.

This office was supposed to help us at 7AM for a 9AM flight. No one there still at 7:39AM.

Our flight out of the Seychelles was about four hours late. We had a connecting flight in Mauritius back to Johannesburg in South Africa and we were told it would be touch and go to make it. The only direct flight from Seychelles to Johannesburg was not for another 5 days. They gave us seats near the exit and priority tagged our bags all the way through. When boarding the seat numbers on the plane differed from those on the boarding passes. For example we were ticketed for row 11, which didn’t exist so we were put in row 15. This caused chaos and further delayed them from getting off the ground. When we landed in Mauritius, while we were taxiing to the gate we saw our SAA flight pull up on the runway and fly off. What frustration. We had been told before boarding that we would be met when we landed, we were not. We had a very frustrating night of having no assistance and then a huge mix of jerks and nice people assisting us. The first person we met would not compensate us for having to stay the night. We had to organize and pay for a last minute hotel ourselves. Another was refusing to help look into alternate tickets because it was 5:40PM and he was shutting down to go home (they are supposed to be open until 6PM). He was a real jerk telling me things I found out the next day were not true, such as there would be no space on flights for days and that I would have to pay $1000 for our replacement flight. Finally someone came and rescued me from him and said they had us booked on a flight the following morning and that we wouldn’t have to pay. We spent a night in a nearby dive of a hotel. All rooms were smoking and the washroom reeked of cabbage. We arrived early at the airport the next day. When we went to check-in they did not have a record of us for the 9AM flight. The only office that could help us was supposed to open at 7AM. It wasn’t until 7:45 that the person at the office arrived to help us out. We were actually on our way to go buy our own ticket to make the flight when we met him. It took 15 minutes to sort out the tickets. Again we had helpful people and jerks. The manager at Air Mauritius check-in was being difficult and almost made it so we couldn’t get on. Fortunately we were able to board just in time and made it to Johannesburg and we were not charged for the flight.

We were supposed to meet Ron Gosney and his family (also on sabbatical from my work) in Johannesburg the night we were stuck in Mauritius. We were both booked into the same hotel. He had a flight the following morning and I missed him and his family by hours when I finally arrived the next day.  We also had a flight we were supposed to be on that morning to take us to Namibia. Fortunately we were able to get it changed to the following day for a small change fee. Many, many thanks to my dad who spent over an hour helping sort out the flight change for us from Canada and saving us a fortune in international calls. We missed meeting Ron, and couldn’t get a refund on one of our nights in Namibia (our cheapest one there fortunately), but all in all we are very happy to be back only set back by a day and it didn’t cost us as much as it could have. We were also glad to hear that Moe made it safely to France and that her flight out of the Seychelles was on time.

Here is hoping things go well in Namibia.

The Eight of August

Us gettting into the boat we hired on Aug 8th. Possibly the last photo of Leanne in her beloved sunglasses.

Getting into the boat we hired on Aug 8th. Possibly the last photo of Leanne in her beloved sunglasses.

On the eight of August we hired a boat and captain to take us to the exclusive Anse Georgette, easily one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We arrived with waves hitting the shore. I was asked to get out and hold the boat steady. I was at the bow trying to keep the boat level while Leanne and Moe exited from the back near the shore. I was in deep water and Leanne took our bags. She had the camera bag around her waste and just got out of the boat. I could see a big wave coming in behind her and yelled out as I let go of the boat to try to reach her. It crashed over her and submersed all of our camera equipment. She ran it ashore and our trusty camera bag kept everything just dry enough for us to get it out and not to have had any damage. We set everything on a rock and it dried out nicely.

I really love this beach, although it was being cruel to Leanne on this day. Leanne came out into the water with me past the cracking of the waves to float in the warm swells. Later when she was going back to shore another big wave came towards her. I yelled out a warning, but she could not hear me as she was toppled over face first into the sand. When she recovered her sunglasses (the first pair she ever loved) had been washed into the sea. We were unable to find them despite a lot of searching.

When we were finished at Georgette the boat dropped us off at Anse Lazio where we had lunch and said farewell to the captain. When we were done we walked towards the bus stop at the top of the hill when a passing car picked us up to give us a lift by the resort we are staying at. This saved us time and money so we were very lucky. We took advantage of the swim-up bar at the huge pool when we returned. In the evening they served our table a seafood dinner of lobster, mussels, calamari, etc. before dimming the lights and singing happy birthday and bringing out a cake for me. This is the first birthday where I feel my new age is a hindrance. I am coping with leaving behind the youthful “under 35” age category since I don’t like that I am now considered too old to join a number of travel tours. I also wasn’t ready to be lumped into the mid-life “35 to 49” age grouping that I now see on my Trip Advisor profile and have to fill-in when doing surveys. I know I will receive little sympathy for this except maybe from a few people in their twenties. It makes me think of how I rolled my eyes a few months ago when a girl was upset about turning the ancient age of 25.

The eight of August is the exact halfway point of our little around the world trip and August ninth is significant for us since it has been ten years since our first date. It is our last full day in the Seychelles and has been a perfect day to relax as it has been raining. The day after this we will be back in South Africa and Maureen will be in France.


Anse Source D'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles

Anse Source D'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles

When we landed there was a tv crew waiting. It wasn’t for us however it was there to greet a young athlete that had won two medals while at a sporting event overseas. It was dark when we arrived and we checked into our basic room with its uncomfortable bed and noisy air conditioner. It was in a great location with very pleasant staff. With a few renovations (namely new mattresses) it would be a really nice budget hotel.

The nearby beach was beautiful. We rented a car and did some errands in the nearby capital, Victoria. In the afternoon we took a scenic drive up to a look-out point. The weather was not on our side though as there were heavy rains obscuring the view. It is not supposed to rain in the Seychelles in August but as with the rest of the world the weather patterns have become unpredictable. In the evening Moe managed to get us reservations to a nearby restaurant that was booked-up. We had a fantastic meal.

We had a bit of an accommodation problem in the Seychelles. The place we were supposed to spend five nights released our rooms for the first night and we found out days before we arrived. We were unable to book into another place nearby and our budget hotel on Mahe didn’t have availability to let us stay an extra night. We used the apology discount we received from the place that messed up the bookings to splurge for one night at the Banyan Tree. So we took the car there as early in the morning as possible to make the most of our short stay.

In my humble opinion this hotel (and the positioning of our room in particular) is probably the most romantic place to stay for a honeymoon in the world. The only location that would beat it is Bora Bora. We had a private hillside villa with our own infinity pool, hot tub, huge deck and views to die for looking out at the beach and the Indian Ocean. Even the shower had windows opening up to the view and an incredible bath tub with bath foam, oils, candles, etc. to set the mood while listening to the waves and admiring the scenery. After closing the villa gate upon entering there was complete privacy. No one can see you on the deck, in the pool, or the hot tub Blissful, relaxing, romantic, luxury.

For the common facilities, there is the most beautiful pool I have ever swam in and a gorgeous soft sand beach with turquoise waves lapping against it and large boulders and lush greenery on the edges. If you want to spoil yourself, this is where to do it. If you plan to go let me know and I’ll tell you what room to request.

We left Mahe on a fifteen minute flight to Praslin. We flew on an SD3-60, a very unusually shaped plane. After arriving at our nice resort on Praslin we joined a sunset cruise for drinks and a swim as we visited the beaches Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette. Both have been voted in the top ten beaches of the world and Anse Lazio is apparently number one. There are so many stunning beaches in the Seychelles that it is easy to debate which one is best and it is all very much a personal preference. Leanne and Moe’s favorite is Grand Anse on La Digue with its big waves and I loved Anse Source D’Argent with its coral, calm waters, and beautiful boulders.

Today we went to La Digue and rented bikes to get around the island. We visited stunning unrivaled beaches and had a fantastic day. We have three more nights to go on Praslin.

Photos are posted here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=113632&id=673382190&l=a368822d76


East coast of Mauritius

East coast of Mauritius

I have updated this entry as I originally missed some key details and felt an edit was worthwhile now that my driving frustration has passed.

The room we stayed in around the Flic-en-Flac area of Mauritius was incredible. It had an amazingly soft comfortable bed and a brilliant room design with sliding walls that open to reveal the twin sinks, the bathtub and shower. The toilet was smartly separated in another private room behind that area where there was also a walk in closet. We booked into the resort well in advance pre-paying when they needed cash and forfeiting any cancellation options for what has been my best cost per value stay ever. We were even upgraded rooms. We all loved the rooms and wished we could take them with us.

After relaxing at the resort we thought we should explore the country a bit. We rented a car and set out to visit Isle de Cerf on the opposite side of Mauritius. It is only about 40km away on the map, but the drive ended up being about 80km through twists and turns. To my surprise it took us almost three hours to travel this distance. We were snarled in gridlock traffic in one of the small cities and had to deal with slow buses, people standing in the road for no particular reason, and the common occurrence of people stopping and leaving their cars in the middle of the road even though there was often space to pull over and get partly out of the way. I should also mention that on the main motorway the speed limit is 110 km/h but the average driver here doesn’t seem comfortable driving over 60 km/h. Despite this it often doesn’t keep them out of the fast lane. Driving here has been a bit frustrating.

Isle de Cerf

Isle de Cerf

Isle de Cerf is very beautiful. We took a fun speed boat from a local village to get there. It was an hour long exploration that took us to waterfalls and circled the island. The speed the boat was able to reach was impressive. The island is busy with tourists and for good reason. One part of the island has soft sand and safe places to swim in calm water, and another part has a lot of boat activities. There is also an impressive golf course on this island, which must be one of the most scenically beautiful in the world. We had good lunch and a great walk. We returned on one of the slowest boats I think I’ve been on and later drove to a Japanese restaurant for some great food. The drive to get there and back to the resort took some time.

The next day we went to the Pomplemousse Botanical Gardens for an enjoyable walk. We continued north to visit what many Mauritians call the best beaches in the country. I personally preferred Isle de Cerf, but they were good and very popular on the weekend with the locals. After walking down the beach we found an authentic Indian restaurant where we had a great lunch. We spent the late afternoon and evening back at the resort for our last night in Mauritius together.

On our final morning I took advantage of an inexpensive four-hand massage at the resort to ease off my stress from driving here. A four-hand massage is simply two masseuses doing synchronized full-body massages on you. This was the second time I’ve had one and they are so incredibly good. It was immense pleasurable relaxation.

When we drove to the airport I wanted to take the scenic drive to see some of the highlights from the South. The weather wasn’t very good and the roads were so curvy I almost had car sickness despite driving. There is certainly a lot of beauty and much to enjoy in Mauritius, but don’t make our mistake trying to see a lot of the country in a short amount of time.

Photos are available here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=112441&id=673382190&l=bbffe7954f