16-19 May 2021
Sunday 16th May and 8 of us boarded flight BA 6303 from Cape Town bound for King Shaka International airport– where we arrived about 11h30. A quick stop to get lunch at Woolworths and at 12h00 we headed on the N2 bound for Shayamanzi Houseboats on Lake Jozini.
Distance from King Shaka airport is 3 hours 33 minutes on the N2. This road has so many coal trucks on it and they seem to travel without any thought of motorists on the road. Literally one will find 2 to 3 trucks ‘tail-gating’ their way along the road. So difficult to negotiate passing them!
However, this is a lovely scenic road, and there is plenty to watch along the way from Nguni Cattle to interesting houses; and the time soon passes by. We took regular comfort breaks.
On arrival at Tiger Lodge, we were met at the Shayamanzi blue gazebo by staff members Angie and Bongani – and completed the necessary indemnity forms. Once completed, we were driven down to the water-front, where 2 tender boats were waiting to take us to our home for the next 3 nights – houseboat Shayamanzi 1. Our luggage was transferred to the boat before us. The crew of 4 who are on hand to help were – Siya (the Captain), on hand to welcome us and briefed us on the Houseboat and safety procedures. Mike (the Chef) ex Malawian was there to cook up a storm, always with a broad smile. There were another 2 crew members on hand.
Programme for the day –
The word Shayamanzi means “Hit the Water” – and even though you do not actually do this – the waters you are surrounded by, are huge and immense. Surrounded by the Lebombo mountains, Lake Jozini is close to the Eswatini (Swaziland) border and at night the only lights visible are the border post flickering in the distance.
Very soon dinner was served (19h00) and because of our early start in Cape Town, it was ‘early to bed’ for many – time to try out the comfortable beds in the ensuite cabin – complete with shower, wash hand basin and toilet!
Meals are plentiful and no-one can ever complain of being hungry!
Breakfast is vast with yoghurts, cereals and always fresh fruit, a hot buffet of eggs and other delicious add-ons.
For lunch on our first day, we were served Malay butternut & cashew curry; fillet kebabs in a mustard sauce; freshly baked Biltong and Feta Buns.
Pre-dinner drinks offered with different snacks served on the bar counter – Chilli Bites; Salted mixed nuts; Breadsticks etc.
On our first full day the Captain sounds the hooter, announcing departure and we are off on a long cruise – we saw elephant; giraffe and crocodiles on our first day –
Late afternoon a few fished off the houseboat – Samantha caught a tiger (wow the whole of Cape Town heard immediately about this feat); John also nabbed one, and Rob (who loves fishing – also brought in another fish). Brian had a few nibbles and one good bite, which removed the bait from the hook, but wasn’t successful.
Lunch on Day 2 was Fish and chips (everyone loved this!) with a fresh salad.
Dinner on Day 2: –
Brian welcomed everyone to our NAUGHTY-CAL evening. Everyone was handed a luau – a sign of Welcome!
After dinner, and to provide a break until dessert, Brian and Carol headed off to their cabin and returned dressed as pirates “Captain Skurvy Shorts” and “Lady Cassandra” the First mate.
Captain Scurvy Shorts told everyone he was now in control of the vessel – all his motley crew were in the brig with scurvy; his parrot is in Davy Jones locker. Lady Cassandra was rescued from Leprosy island where a group of prostitutes kept complaining that business was dropping off! This little ‘skit’ was well put together by Captain Skurvy – well done Captain!
Captain Skurvy had his eyes and ears open and noted a few transgressions in the past two days – Marie got handcuffed to her chair as she had the most transgressions! All good fun and laughter. This was followed by some “dancing” with lovely music from Theresa.
Our second day dawned and the tender boat heads out again to seek the illusive tiger fish. Today only 1 fish ended up in the hands of Rob (again)! Game viewing included the biggest collection of spider nests on the water’s edge; some lucky to see and hear the Fish Eagle; and one lone hippo grazing out of the water– photographers dream. Only important necessity was a to be in possession of good pair of binoculars.
After lunch we moved our houseboat to another alcove and at 16h00 we all went out on the 2 tender boats to search for game, from the water. Only saw one elephant; some waterbuck; but possibly the highlight was the number of hippos in the water – unbelievable and quite scary as one is not aware of them – they seem to be protecting their young as one of our boats had a ‘bump’ from one of them! This was a unique experience albeit scary for a few of the ladies who saw the hippo’s jaws open! In nature we are the transgressors as we were invading their territory and they were only doing what anyone does when you have young!
Last night and we found Mike busy on the lower deck, preparing a good old South African braai.
Wednesday morning: Final day check out is 10am and we had over two hours travel time back to Tiger Lodge, so we departed from our overnight position and had “breakfast on the go”.
On arrival the crew took our luggage up to our waiting vehicle. A few enjoyed coffee and tea at the Tiger lodge and by 11h00 we were back on the N2. A short stop at a craft / vegetable stall was enjoyed and some ‘shopping done’ by Sip who just had to have a fabulous Natal basket and Theresa who purchased lovely dishes, Carol found a lovely bracelet!
It was decided to head straight to the airport – only options were to veer off the main road to either Richards Bay or St Lucia, both of which would have put us at risk of missing our flight. After a meal, and our flight BA6306 had us back in chilly Cape Town by 20:40 and home by about 21:30 – exhausted but exhilarated!
To sum up – Cruising on a Shayamanzi houseboat is a once in a life-time experience – never to be forgotten; totally relaxing; sophisticated but not pretentious; unassuming and something that once you have done you feel the need to go-again and again!