First, allow me to introduce you to my local tour guide, translator, bird & animal identifier, chauffeur, and partner in crime, Wesley Rothmann (chap on the left, I’m on the right).
Wesley will be accompanying me on my adventures over the next few weeks. I met him in Colorado a few years back when he worked at the Winter Park ski Lodge. He is a brilliant human being that laughs at my jokes and sometimes my misfortunes (see the rope swing video in the Oribi Gorge posting).
Week 3 started out with a bang. Wesley and I hit the road for Sodwana Bay on Monday April 27th for a 3.5 hour drive up the Northern coast of South Africa. Our destination was a little rustic looking camp tucked away in what appeared to be an old growth jungle/tropical paradise called Coral Divers. I should point out the car drive over there was not without its mishaps. Along the way we stopped and ate at Wimpy’s (somewhat equivalent to a Mcdonalds or BK). I later found out that the seemingly innocent Wimpy’s burger was my stomach’s arch nemesis. This was bad news bears for my digestive system and my riding partner, Wesley. I’ll spare you the details. Needless to say when you’re traveling abroad in a foreign place there never seems to be enough bathrooms in route. After my stomach got sorted out and I could finally sit back and relax.
It was humbling to see all the natives in their meager mud and thatched roof huts called rondawel’s. We drove further and further into the Zulu-land country side. Lots of people seemed to be wandering aimlessly about on the sides of the roads with no apparent reason or purpose. A few set up shack-shops along the highway (all selling the same fruits, vegetables, and trinkets).
We wound up taking a wrong turn and found ourselves on a sandy back-road that led us through a rural camp. The sand made things near impassable in our two wheel drive car. I received a strange and somewhat concerned look from an elderly lady that looked at us from her hut’s glassless window- as if to suggest we were waaaay out of our jurisdiction. We turned around and headed back to the main road. Eventually we found Coral Divers and all was right in the world once more.
Over the next few days Wesley and I experienced our first real scuba dives in the ocean. Our first dive was at 7am, everything happened so fast- we had our dive meeting, got our scuba tanks, weight belts, BCD’s, fins, snorkels masks, etc. and headed out for the boat. I must admit my first dive I felt like a fish out of water…or maybe I should say a human out of land, which I was. About 10 minutes out to sea I began to wonder if I had forgotten to bring my mask. After several minutes of utter panic I remembered the skipper stowed it safely away in one of the compartments. Before I knew it, it was time to fall over backwards and into the drink; I thought for sure my mask, weight belt and everything else would just fall off me- I felt so discombobulated. Luckily everything was intact, and I sunk like a stone towards the bottom. It was Breathtaking. Color exploded upon the ocean floor. Scads of fish in various shapes and sizes sprawled out before us. I got so excited, that I forgot all of my training to breathe in and out slowly- I’m pretty sure I used half my air tank within the first few minutes.
Instead of trying to explain mind blowing beauty of the underwater coral and abundance of life found on these reefs, I will leave you with this short video:
(Video Coming Soon)
When we weren’t diving, we stayed inside our rustic little cabin or wandered about the main lodge. The whole thing reminded me of a modernized tiki village on some forgotten jungle island.