Marthe Holkestad discovered her wild side studying for a term in South Africa, and recalls the moment she jumped in the water with a great white…
When I was younger, I was a huge fan of ‘The Lion King’ – who isn’t? Since then, going on safari to see those majestic and beautiful animals up close was at the top of my bucket list. As I was studying in Cape Town, I got to do just that. All of the students I was with visited Garden Route Game Lodge to go on game drives, went shark diving in Gansbaai and visited a wildlife ranch, as well as an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn.
Every trip consisted of driving along the impressive coastline and the beautiful countryside that surrounds the big city. Since our student budget didn’t allow us to stay at all-inclusive hotels, we stayed at lodges or in backpacker hostels, which meant as a group of about 20, we had the luxury of having the hostels mainly to ourselves. BBQ, or Braii as they say, was always on the menu and it was so good and I even enjoyed some better roasts in South Africa than I’ve had in London!
The first trip, to Garden Route Game Lodge, was a weekend full of wild animals. Most of my fellow students stayed in bungalows, but there was not enough for all of us. Two of my friends and I ended up in a bungalow-style hotel room. I didn’t mind, as there were more girly screams than one can count on both hands as everyone inspected their bungalows, which were the home to creepy eight-legged creatures. The trip consisted of one morning safari and one evening safari; it was amazing and the scenery was so beautiful when the sun was rising!
Hostels were our choice of accommodation on the trip to Oudtshoorn as well. Cango Wildlife Ranch is a zoo-like ranch with animals such as tigers, cheetahs, alligators, snakes and huge bats. We got to cage dive with the alligators and also pet some of those adorable big cats which was definitely worth the money. On day two of this adventure, we visited the ostrich farm. On the agenda was a bit of history and ostrich riding. I had no idea that was possible, but apparently it is!
Wildlife encounter number three was the feared great white shark, which we got to meet face to face while cage diving outside of Gansbaai. It was a windy day, so the sea was far from peaceful. Waves and dark sandy water inevitably put a scary bump into the experience – but it was still amazing. We were lowered in to a cage in the ocean and bait was thrown out to tempt the most feared sea creatures with big mouths and even bigger teeth. We definitely had the spirits of mother nature on our side, as the shark swam right beside the cage. A few seasick people and a couple of hours later, the shark got tired of us, so we started our journey back to shore. The loyal mini bus was waiting for us and took us safely back home.