Black Watch 2007 Leg4

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From Table Mountain; notorious Robben Island in the bay
Itinerary = ports at anchor
Friday 26th January-Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday-at sea
Sunday 28th January-Port Elizabeth,
South Africa
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 30th January-Richard's Bay,
South Africa
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday 3rd February-St Denis, Reunion
Sunday 4th February-Port Louis, Mauritius
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 6th February-Nosy Be Island,
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday 8th February-Mombasa, Kenya
Friday 9th February-Mombasa, Kenya
Saturday 10th February-Mombasa, Kenya

Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th January
Cape Town, South Africa
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The lively V & A Waterfront by night; Black Watch & the Old Port Captain's Building (centre) and the Victoria Clock Tower (right)

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With fabulously hot sunny weather, we've already had 2 days in Cape Town and Black Watch has become our new home-from-home. We are tied-up outside the Table Bay Hotel on the bustling Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the regenerated docks named after Queen Victoria and her son Alfred.

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Black Watch
from the Table Bay Hotel
Table Mountain Royal Star The V & A Waterfront Saga Ruby

We've been joined by 2 lovely old ships; the 50 year-old Royal Star (5,360 grt/220 pass) began life in 1956 as the San Giorgio of the Adriatic Line but she was considerably rebuilt in 1984 and now operates out of Mombasa for the African Safari Club. In the berth beside us is the distinguished Saga Ruby (24,492 grt/650 pass), originally Norwegian America Line's 5-star Vistafjord of 1973. We sailed on Vistafjord 4 times between 1987 & 1990, then again as Caronia in 1999, before she was given a new lease of life with Saga Cruises in 2005. She still maintains an enviable reputation.

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Friday 26th January
Day 3 in Cape Town
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Today we were greeted with Table Mountain's infamous "table-cloth", reducing visibility to zero and closing the cable-car. Just as well we took the advice in the guide books to go up the mountain the first chance you get!

We felt even more fortunate when we saw the first of the new passengers arriving from the airport, 20 hours late, thanks to contaminated fuel in Ghana. A sad, tired lot they looked as they trudged to the ship from the terminal building. Some had been travelling for 36 hours and most of them would be far too exhausted to enjoy anything of Cape Town.

But for us, this was our 3rd day and we had booked a full-day excursion entitled

Cape Point Panoramas

We began with a scenic drive down the Atlantic coast through Camps Bay, with its view of the mountain range called The Twelve Apostles, then beyond the fishing harbour of Hout Bay and onto

Show YouTube video-clip Chapman's Peak Drive, built by convicts in 1915 but bedevilled by rock-falls until expensive alterations were done. It re-opened as a magnificent scenic toll-road in 2004.
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Hout Bay & The Sentinel
from Chapman's Peak Drive
Cape of Good Hope
Me standing on the rocks!
Cape of Good Hope
from Cape Point Lighthouse
Penguin Colony
Jackass Penguin

Entering the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, we journeyed all the way down to the Cape itself. This area was once called the "Cape of Storms" by the Portuguese seafarers navigating these waters but the King thought that would put too many off, so it was re-named "Cape of Good Hope"!

Most people don't realise, until they get here, that this isn't the most southerly point of Africa; that's a point called Cape Agulhas See Additional Map >> but its notoriety derives from the treacherous rocks which have wrecked many ships. It does claim to be the most south-westerly point, whatever that means, but even the best view of it is actually from the nearby Cape Point Lighthouse - and you have to travel on a funicular railway from the car park to get there - which is what we did!

After a brilliant seafood lunch at a fantastic little restaurant overlooking the sea near the famous Simon's Town Naval Base, we visited the nearby Boulders Penguin Colony, where we were able to get quite close to the African (or Jackass) Penguins. They are so cute and fascinating to watch!
On the beach and with a fantastic view across False Bay is the Seaforth Restaurant near Simon's Town
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Show Picture Full Size By the time we got back to Cape Town, the infamous "table-cloth" had been raised and we could see again the 3,563 foot high Table Mountain.

After Dinner back on board, we watched as Saga Ruby left port for East London & Durban, while we sailed an hour later for Port Elizabeth. Picture >>

We left Cape Town with a memory of 3 of the best days we had ever experienced - terrific weather, wonderful scenery and lovely people. And we agreed that, next to Bermuda, Cape Town would henceforth be granted the accolade of our "2nd Most Favourite Destination"!

Sunday 28th January
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
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Sailing south of the Cape of the Good Hope and around the very bottom of Africa at Cape Agulhas, we reached Port Elizabeth, the main commercial port of South Africa. After our second Welcome Cocktail Party on this holiday and being introduced to our new Captain, Tor Bohn, then meeting our new table companions, John & Christine (also "All-Rounders"), we were ready for our first Safari.

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At 18,500 acres, it may not be the largest of the reserves but it's plenty big enough to give the animals a natural habitat. From the back of our 4x4 open Jeeps, we were taken on a 90 min. game drive down to the waterhole where the Hippos were keeping themselves cool beneath the water. Picture >>

Our game warden/driver was quick to drive off-track to give us the best view; when we saw a White Rhino, before we knew what was happening, he had swerved off the track and into the brush. Then we realised that the Bull was protecting an entire family of Rhino behind him! Picture >>

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Giraffes Zebra White Rhino Tribal Dancers Tribal Dancers

It was 45 deg. in the shade today and our hottest so far, so it was long-sleeved shirts, hats and plenty of sun-screen! Lunch was at one of the Lodges, where we had a "safari cuisine barbecue" and some very energetic local entertainment!

After lunch, another 90 min. game drive - but this time, all we found was a (very large) Bull Elephant. We were a little disappointed not to see any Big Cats but you have to take your chances and, for our first safari, this was a fantastic experience.

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Monday 29th January
John's Birthday at sea
John didn't really want any fuss but even he had to accept the cake and "Happy Birthday" sing-song by the waiters at dinner. And the others at our table enjoyed it - it made a change from hearing it every night at another table somewhere in the Dining Room; either that or "Happy Anniversary"!

Today was also the first of a series of talks given by guest-speaker, Lord Charlie Brocket (once of Brocket Hall, Hertfordhsire). After-dinner raconteur and ladies' man, he was remarkably candid and witty about his brushes with the law and his time in prison. Nevertheless, engaging and addictive!

However, my day was marred a little by my dropping my mp3-player on the teak deck and discovering that it was well and truly b...ered. So it was old-fashioned books and binoculars for light entertainment on deck from here on! Still, as they say, "Worse things happen at sea".....

The Sinking of the "Oceanos"
It was during today that we passed the spot where the cruise-ship "Oceanos" sank on 3rd August 1991. Not that there was any mention of it on board - it's not the sort of thing Captain's like to remind passengers about! You may
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recall the amazing news footage at the time, and the scandall over the Captain and his Officers leaving the ship before the ship was evacuated. Miraculously, all 571 people on board were saved. Curiously, in the 3 years preceding this sinking, the Greek Epirotiki Line had already lost 2 of its ships to sinkings, "Jupiter" in 1988 and "Pegasus" only 2 months earlier in June 1991.

Tuesday 30th January
Richard's Bay, South Africa
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Sailing north-easterly for the first time, and beyond the port of Durban, we stopped at Richard's Bay on a day that was overcast and humid. The local pilot was late too, so all our tours were delayed!

Show Picture Full Size St Lucia Wetlands Reserve
Situated in the north-east of KwaZulu-Natal Province, this is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in the World.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Reserve is the third largest park in South Africa. It includes 280 km of coastline south from the Mozambique border to Lake St Lucia, a 60 km-long salt-water lagoon.

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A Stork? Family of Hippo Crocodile Open wide.....!

This is home to a host of aquatic wildlife including flamingo, ibis & kingfisher, so we had high hopes for our excursion by launch but because of poor rainfall, the water-level was too low and accessibility around the edge of the lake was limited. John managed this shot of a Fish-Eagle but aside from some hippo and the weaver-birds, everything was too far away. However, the Crocodile Sanctuary was good and we got uncomfortably close to some of the "residents". We were even invited to hold a baby crocodile - but I was quite content to just stroke its belly, thankyou! Show Picture Full Size

Indian Ocean - 3 Days at Sea
Now we had a chance to relax again and to enjoy the good weather. We had been very fortunate so far, with mostly calm or slight seas and plenty of sunshine. We had seen flying fish, pilot whales and dolphins but once out into the Indian Ocean, we now saw a distinct change in the light; the blue of the calm sea was so intense that it seemed like we were sailing through Indian Ink!

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Blue Skies Seas of Indian Ink Ice Sculpture Demonstration The Finished Product Lazy Days

Settled and at ease on board our "Home from Home", we had collected a lovely group of friends around us. So, after 3 glorious days in Cape Town and then a fantastic day "on safari", even our laclustre day in Richard's Bay was not going to spoil our good mood. However, as we crossed back into the Tropics, the weather began to cloud over....

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Satellite View
Saturday 3rd February
St Denis, Reunion Island
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By the time we arrived at Reunion Island, the weather was not on our side. It was still quite hot but now it was also overcast and oppressively humid.

The mood was not improved by discovering that we were docked in the commercial port 8 miles from St Denis and we would all have to get timed tickets (and pay 3) for the shuttle-bus. Arguments bore no fruit and we had to comply. In the event, the shuttle-bus operation became a shambles, with many passengers getting on in St Denis with either the wrong tickets, or none at all!

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Colonial Mansion
Rue de Paris, St Denis
War Memorial
& Hotel de Ville
Shopping in St Denis The Bride's Veil Waterfall Salazie Church

Exploring the capital St Denis, we found some beautiful old colonial mansions but a lot of the city is run-down and rather drab. The lack of sunshine made it difficult to get excited about this place! Our tour took us into one of the craters of this fertile volcanic island, Cirque de Salazie to see the "Bride's Veil", one of its many impressive waterfalls.

Officially, France doesn't have an Empire but Reunion Island was too strategic as a naval base, so instead, now it's a "department" of France, just as if it were part of the mainland. As such, it is the farthest-flung outpost of the European Community and was, in fact, the first place to use the Euro.

Two months after our visit, on 5th April 2007, BBC News reported a major eruption of the volcano in the south of the island, with spectacular views of molten lava flowing down to the sea! Picture >>

Sunday 4th February
Port Louis, Mauritius
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Only 130 miles away, Mauritius was also French but for only 95 years until surrendering to the British in 1810. Unlike Reunion, however, it gained independence in 1968 and became a republic in 1992. Of the population of about 1.2 million, more than 127,000 are in Port Louis, the capital and largest city on the island. And for a change, this was where we docked! View of Port Louis >>

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Plantation House
Eureka Plantation House
Eureka Plantation House
An ex-Dodo! Trois Mamelles
& Mont du Rempart

Our chosen excursion took us to the Eureka Plantation House, a lovely creole house built in 1830. However, all the other places of interest we visited on this trip were drowned-out by heavy rain. I just managed to get the view across the island towards "Trois Mamelles" & "Mont du Rempart" before it shattered-down and spoiled the rest of the day.

I suppose I had set my hopes too high because Mauritius is synonymous with exotic tropical holidays in all the travel brochures. To be fair, a one-day visit isn't enough to judge a destination properly, especially when it rains all day. But I suspect that, in the right weather, this can be a beautiful island. It's just that we didn't see it, that's all!

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Andoany (or Hell-ville)
Tuesday 6th February
Nosy Be Island, Madagascar
Africa Route Map Nosy Be Location Map
Sailing north-westerly and around the northern tip of Madagascar, we dropped anchor off Andoany (or Hell-ville), the tiny capital of this little island, only about 10 miles across. The first of only 3-4 cruise ships to call here each year, our arrival caused quite a frenzy of activity.

While the crew prepared our boats, the locals began clustering around the ship in their fragile little fishing canoes. They had come to show us what they had to sell, and some had quite elaborate wood carvings on display. But many were just begging - pleading even - these people are so poor.

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Local boats clustering Displaying their wares Give us anything! Diving for gifts This guy got my cap!

Suddenly, someone on deck threw something and all hell broke loose! They were diving in the water to recover it - a bag of toiletries! Within moments, more passengers were Show YouTube video-clip
throwing gifts of cigarettes, old 'T' shirts, even a pair of trainers, all wrapped in plastic Video Pt.1
bags to help them float! Ransacking my bathroom, I joined the frenzy too and even threw one guy a "Black Watch" cap; he didn't see who threw it but he put it on with such pride - he was so pleased!

(Fred Olsen Jr was also aboard Black Watch for this part of the voyage and he actually bought one of these canoes and had it stowed on the foredeck. We carried it all the way back to Southampton!)

The town of Andoany (or Hell-ville) was terribly dilapidated, and the roads full of puddles and pot-holes, but it was bustling with life. A visit to the local market was a bit of a sensory shock but the kids there were delightful and were very grateful for our gifts of coloured pens in return for their photo! Picture >> Video Part 2 >>

Our tour continued inland, sampling lemon-grass and ylang-ylang on the way, and we were introduced to some of the island's other inhabitants, the Chameleons.

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Andoany - Echoes of
a colonial history
Female Chameleon Beach at Andilana My new pets!

Show Picture Full Size At Andilana on the other side of the island, we were given refreshments and a little local entertainment. But when this adorable Black Lemur sat on my shoulder chomping a piece of apple, I wanted to bring him home with me!

Back aboard that night, we reflected on a truly magical, wonderful day!

But as our glittering ship sailed away into the darkness, I thought, "How many of these poor people we met ashore today could ever hope to have any idea of what life was like aboard Black Watch?"

Wednesday 7th February
The Gala Buffet - a case in point?
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I was still thinking self-consciously about Nosy Be when I queued-up to take pictures of the Gala Buffet the following night. However, in comparison to some of the ships we have been on over the years, the Gala Buffet on board Black Watch was relatively modest - beautifully and cleverly done, and still an impressive display, but not excessive. Many of the vegetable carvings were seen more than once, reused on future buffets, and all of the "consumables" within the buffet were either eaten that night (believe it or not!) or they turned up the following day on the lunchtime buffet.

Thursday 8th February
Mombasa, Kenya - Day 1
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So, our second Gala Buffet, Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party and Crew Show all under our belts, we arrived in Mombasa, Kenya's largest port and second largest city, with a population of over 700,000. Yet surprisingly, the city is situated on an island, connected to the mainland by one bridge, two ferries and a causeway. It's frenetic, to say the least!
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The Moi Avenue Tusks Fort Jesus Fort Jesus The Mandhry Mosque They still do it!

The famous tusks on Moi Avenue are not real, of course, but metal. Princess Elizabeth was touring in Kenya when the King died in 1952 and she acceded to the throne, so they erected them to commemorate the event. Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese in 1593 (they seem to have discovered everywhere we've been on this trip!) but it finally fell to the British in 1887.

Show Picture Full Size With its ornate balconies and the smell of spices and cooking filling the narrow streets, the Old Quarter gives you an idea of what Mombasa must have been like in the days of silk-traders and swash-buckling seafarers. The 16th-century Mandhry Mosque is reputed to be the oldest in Mombasa.

In a humid 33-deg C, this proved a good place to visit the air-conditioned tourist shops. The minimal pestering was a change, so you could think while you browsed!

Our city tour also took us to the Akamba Woodcarvers' Market, where the artisans all work in a kind of licenced co-operative. Their beautiful handcrafted goods are sold in the official shop on the site at government-fixed prices with a guarantee that the profits go to the artisans themselves.

After a hot and humid day on our feet, we were pretty exhausted, so it was nice to return to the air-conditioned luxury of our cabins and a nice cup of tea!

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This first day in Mombasa had been an exciting, if exhausting one and a fascinating introduction to a city I didn't expect would be so interesting. This was another "turn-around" port for the ship, so there were passengers leaving tomorrow and more flying out to take their place. We, on the other hand, were coming up to 5 weeks on this "Around Africa Cruise" and had another 6 weeks to go!

Were we bored? Not likely! And it was my Birthday tomorrow and I had just received an e-mail from Andrew at home saying that, after 21 years in the Prudential Staff Lottery, I had won 1,000!

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

2nd Leg Mileage: 4,082 nautical miles
Around Africa Cruise so far: 11,223 n miles
Total Mileage to date: 115,437 n miles

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