Time for a new Zulu dawn?

CHRIS HUTCHIN­SON DIS­COV­ERS EX­OTIC IS­LANDS, WON­DERS OF AFRICA AND THE ZU­LUS

Sunday Herald Life - - Travel Feature -

THE first film I saw in cin­e­mas­cope as a young boy, was called Shaka. It told of the rise of a boy war­rior who be­came king of the leg­endary Zulu tribe. Ever since, I have had an am­bi­tion to visit Africa. Look­ing through a num­ber of hol­i­day brochures, I read that Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship Boudicca was vis­it­ing South Africa. One of their ex­cit­ing shore tours would al­low us to spend a day on an au­then­tic Zulu en­camp­ment and birth­place of Shaka. It to­tally cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion.

I was fur­ther ex­cited when I read Boudicca would also be vis­it­ing ex­otic In­dian Ocean is­lands of Mau­ri­tius and Re­u­nion, in ad­di­tion Mozam­bique, I had to find out more.

The tour staff, whose in-depth knowl­edge of their wide range of shore ex­cur­sions, helped put to­gether an ex­cit­ing itin­er­ary. Also pleas­ing was the fact that the cost was well be­low the bud­get I set. I booked im­me­di­ately.

We joined Boudicca in Port Louis, Mau­ri­tius; our first tour took us through lush coun­try­side to Char­marel Na­tional Park set in a val­ley. Here we gazed at the beauty of the Char­marel wa­ter­fall cas­cad­ing from jagged moun­tains, ac­com­pa­nied by ex­otic bird­song.

Here also is the area of the Seven Coloured Earths, a rain­bow on the ground, a spec­tac­u­lar sight cre­ated through de­com­pos­ing min­er­als over cen­turies, form­ing dunes with colours rang­ing from red to brown and blue to vi­o­let, a unique legacy of na­ture.

In con­trast we me­an­dered through Cau­dan wa­ter­front, an at­mo­spheric cul­tural area where we en­joyed a twocourse lunch with lo­cal beer at the Ara­bia restau­rant for just £7pp. Then we were en­ter­tained by lively Mau­ri­tian mu­si­cians, and dancers in tra­di­tional dress.

Overnight sail­ing brought us into French Re­u­nion Is­land. A high­light was a jour­ney to Pi­ton Maido over 2,000 me­tres high, through sub­trop­i­cal forests with hedgerows ablaze with fuch­sia, hy­drangeas and en­demic bushes and plants. We paused at La Petite France, ob­serv­ing how gera­nium leaves are turned into an essence used in per­fume mak­ing. At St De­nis you ab­sorb a lit­tle part of France in the In­dian Ocean.

Dur­ing Boudicca’s three days sail­ing we were im­pressed with the crew’s warm per­son­al­i­ties, ea­ger­ness to please, and the in­ti­macy of the smaller size ship. The ship’s ac­tiv­i­ties cater for all, I set­tled for soak­ing up the sun with a good book re­lax­ing un­der a bright blue sky, with the com­pany of dol­phins and fly­ing fish skim­ming the ocean.

Our African ad­ven­ture started in Ma­puto Mozam­bique, on our “must do” list was to visit to an African mar­ket. Brows­ing Feima mar­ket, set in an African gar­den, we found an abun­dance of bar­gains, rang­ing from hand­made crafts to beau­ti­ful coloured clothes, and lots in be­tween, stall hold­ers jovially par­tic­i­pated in bar­ter­ing.

We then vis­ited the CFM Rail­way sta­tion built in 1908, voted the third most beau­ti­ful in the world, now a mu­seum, we strolled around In­de­pen­dent Square, where we saw the Iron House, a unique ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign by a friend of Gus­tave Eif­fal. We wan­dered round the botan­i­cal gar­den, our guide told us how roots and plants are used for al­ter­na­tive medicine.

My imag­i­na­tion was run­ning high as we sailed into Richards Bay, South Africa, time to visit the au­then­tic Du­mazulu en­camp­ment. On ar­rival we were greeted by the Chief in full re­galia. Our Zulu guide took us through a num­ber of their cul­tures in­clud­ing Zulu war­rior’s com­bat, and pre mar­i­tal cus­toms. Bone throw­ing is still prac­ticed to tell the fu­ture, and the medicine man, a hered­i­tary po­si­tion, is still revered as a healer.

Our fas­ci­nat­ing Zulu ex­pe­ri­ence

My imag­i­na­tion was run­ning high as we sailed into Richards Bay, South Africa, time to visit the au­then­tic Du­mazulu en­camp­ment. On ar­rival we were greeted by the Chief in full re­galia

con­cluded with a wed­ding cer­e­mony, and the crescendo of songs was ac­com­pa­nied by ro­bust danc­ing. Vis­it­ing the area where the leg­endary King Shaka lived, ex­ceeded all ex­pec­ta­tions.

A re­lax­ing day at sea gave us the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect and en­joy Boudicca’s ameni­ties. Evenings were an­other high­light choos­ing from a menu of mouth wa­ter­ing op­tions, then to the the­atre to watch an en­joy­able show.

We berthed in Port El­iz­a­beth, and jour­neyed to Pumba Pri­vate Game Re­serve, board­ing a 4x4 and set off on our ad­ven­ture. First it was a herd of dif­fer­ent species of an­telopes and warthogs graz­ing to­gether, then a daz­zle of ze­bra. Climb­ing the ter­rain we met No­math­emba a rare white li­on­ess sleep­ing in the shade, stop­ping only a few feet away mar­vel­ling at this mag­nif­i­cent crea­ture. She opened her eyes, raised her head, looked straight at me, yawned then went back to sleep — an ex­tra­or­di­nary sight!

We paused at a stream and our ex­cel­lent ranger, Daniel, was point­ing out dif­fer­ent birds on our right hand side, I hap­pened to glance in front, and there it was, a huge bull ele­phant only a few yards away; he swung his trunk, turned and went into the bush. A thrilling ex­pe­ri­ence!

Pro­ceed­ing to a lake, hip­popota­mus’ were cool­ing down in the mid­day sun. At the top of the ridge an­other bull ele­phant called Stumpy be­cause of his short tail, de­cided to walk along­side our ve­hi­cle. Then we saw from a close range a fam­ily of four white Rhino — sights to be­hold! This nat­u­ral ter­rain was a bumpy, but ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride. Pumba was an African ex­pe­ri­ence to savour.

Ta­ble Moun­tain stands im­pos­ing as it greets you into Cape Town. The city tour cap­tures its high­lights in­clud­ing its di­verse ar­chi­tec­ture from colo­nial times to mod­ern de­signs. Bo Kaap is an area of multi coloured houses, built when slav­ery was abol­ished, end­ing at the lively wa­ter­front.

Fi­nal tour, des­ti­na­tion — Cape of Good Hope. Our coastal jour­ney took us through quaint fish­ing vil­lages, small town­ships and vine­yards. You are in awe when you ar­rive at Africa’s most iconic land­mark, an aqua­ma­rine sea with waves up to 20 me­tres high crash­ing onto the rocks and cliffs, cre­at­ing a thun­der­ous roar, re­leas­ing huge sprays of white surf. A cap­ti­vat­ing sight.

At Cape Peak, we boarded a fu­nic­u­lar tak­ing us to the sum­mit, to view this breath­tak­ing dra­matic coast line.

Then on to the Pen­guin colony where these de­light­ful crea­tures greet you with chirp­ing sounds.

Re­turn­ing, we en­coun­tered a large fam­ily of ba­boons, the al­pha male stood de­fi­ant in the cen­tre of the road be­fore al­low­ing us to pass. This was a fit­ting end to an en­thralling African ex­pe­ri­ence. An am­bi­tion ful­filled!

This itin­er­ary was ex­cit­ing, stim­u­lat­ing and mem­o­rable. I can see why Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has been awarded the pres­ti­gious Itin­er­ar­ies of the Year Award for the third con­sec­u­tive year.

Clock­wise, from above left, the Cape of Good Hope, the CFM rail­way sta­tion in Mozam­bique, multi-coloured sand-dunes in Mau­ri­tius and some Zulu na­tives

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