The Storms River Bridge where the jumpers jumped from!
The title says my overall feeling about last weekend! I hardly have words to describe my feelings about everything that happened! 

Wellyna and I both took the day off school on Friday to start our adventure with FreeWalkers. FreeWalkers is a charity group who also lead adventure weekends. They are based in Port Elizabeth, so it was an early morning to get there by the time they wanted to start the weekend. We met up with the other group of Americans doing COST (they are based in Port Elizabeth) and there were four other people joining our group: one Israeli, two Belgians, and one German. It was nice to see the American’s again, but the new people were really nice, so it was fun hanging out with them too. We left PE around 9:30 am and headed East towards Plettenburg Bay where we would eventually be staying the next two nights. Our first stop was Bloukrans bungy jumping off the Storms River Bridge into the Storms River Canyon. I didn’t jump because I just wasn’t too keen on losing the contents of my stomach to the Storms River. Wellyna jumped though and said there were no words to describe the feeling she had while falling. The area was absolutely gorgeous, so I was content taking pictures and listening to the screams of people jumping.

After the jumping experience, we drove to Plettenburg Bay, dropped off our bags, changed into our swimming suits, and went snorkeling with seals! We had to take a boat ride to where the seals live and then were instructed on how to act around them and while we were in their habitat. They are very playful creatures and would swim right up to us! There is a video on my facebook page that someone was able to take while we were in the water. You can see the seals coming right up to the camera and playing with a rope in the water. It was just too cute!

After swimming we went and got cleaned up and then went out to dinner. It was an early night because we had to get up at 6 am to leave for our adventures on Saturday! 

Me next to the cage we'd be in!
After breakfast Saturday morning we drove another 40 minutes to Mossel Bay to go Great White Shark Cage Diving! We first went to the main office of the company we went with to hear the safety briefing and to place our lunch order. Then they took us down to the boat. We were on the “Shark Warrior!” The cage we were about to be in was on the boat with us and would eventually get put into the water and then drug around to the side of the boat. Normally the boat goes out to a small island of rocks not far from shore because that’s where the seals are and consequently, the sharks too. Instead, they took us pretty far away from the marina. They had had better luck the last few days at this new location. On the way there, one of the guys working on the boat took out two giant packages of frozen fish. He put them in a big garbage can with some water and just chopped them up with his shovel. He kept adding water to it until it was fairly diluted, and then he started putting it in the water to attract the sharks. I forgot the word he used to describe what the mushed up fish was, but it stank reeeeeally bad. We weren’t anchored for more than 3 minutes when we saw the first shark around the boat. It was really exciting! I was part of the first group to go in. The cage fit 6 people very snugly. The protective bars on the cage were vertical, but there were horizontal bars on the inside for us to hold and put our feet on. The horizontal bars were a few inches away from the vertical bars in order for us to still have fingers and toes when we got out of the cage. 

The men working the boat tied a huge tuna head onto a rope and threw that into the water in front of the cage. As soon as they saw a shark approaching, they told us to go down (which was hard work because of how buoyant the wet suits were!), and then as the shark went for the bait, they drug it closer to the cage! This brought the shark right up to the cage and it even attacked the cage sometimes! I probably should have been scared because...well, they were Great White Sharks, but I wasn’t afraid of them at all. I even wanted to touch the stomach of one as it swam past, but I knew that wasn’t wise. 

I actually got to go a second time during the third group of people because they needed the cage to be weighted evenly. I was more than happy to get back in the water. I have no sense of how big the sharks were, but one of the guys on the boat said the biggest one we saw was about 4.2 meters long! Mossel Bay is home to the largest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world, but they are mostly the juveniles who stay there because their safe. Once they are grown up, they move to the big, wide ocean. 

Being in a cage while the sharks were right in front of me was one of the coolest moments of my life. After the big sharks, we went to breeding area for the sharks and got to swim (not in a cage) in a big aquarium with some baby sharks! They only have cartilage, no teeth yet, so there was no chance of them hurting us if they even got close enough. They were mostly afraid of us, so I only just barely touched the tail of one as it swam away. 

After all of this we went back to Plettenburg and sat on the beach for a little while before going out to dinner. I hung out with the non-Americans most of the night and it was SO much fun! After the weekend I friended them all on Facebook before realizing that nothing they or their friends post will be in English! Thank goodness for Google translate! 

Sunday morning we were off again around ten, heading back towards PE, but we had a few stops on the way. Plettenburg is in the Western Cape, so after crossing the Storms River on Friday, we were officially in the Western Cape. The first thing we saw was a baboon! It was just walking next to the road! The scenery was also almost identical to Oregon, just a little sunnier! Definitely not what I was expecting! There were whole mountain sides covered in pine trees! I took some pictures that will be in the album on Facebook. Then you all will be able to see how similar the landscape it. The similarities are unreal. 

Our first stop on Sunday was to Monkey Land and Birds of Eden. The first is a sanctuary for monkeys who have been held in captivity so can’t be released into the wild. Monkey Land is a very large area of land where the monkeys roam free with what seems like no limitations. They are provided food and medical attention and can live out the rest of their lives without having to worry about being put back in a cage or eaten by a predator. 

Birds of Eden was another area of land that had a huge net over it to confine the birds. They still had plenty of space to fly, but they couldn’t escape. Some of the birds here were very exotic, but there were also some doves and pigeons flying around. 

Our last stop of the trip was a zipline tour of part of Tsitsikamma! We went back and forth across this beautiful gorge with a river flowing underneath us and even some waterfalls! It was absolutely gorgeous! I think this is something that Molly and I might have to do when she comes to visit. It was just that beautiful, fun, and inexpensive.

We got back into Port Elizabeth around 6 pm and then Wellyna and I had a shuttle take us back to Grahamstown, getting in around 8:30 pm. It was a long, long, long weekend, but SO much fun! It was great to get out of Grahamstown, awesome to get the chance to make really cool friends, and even cooler to do all of the things we did in such a short period of time! 




Aunt G
03/10/2013 4:28pm

Live it up!!!!

03/17/2013 6:26am

More awesome experiences! Great whites, oh my!


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