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Overview: We spent 3 nights in Mossel Bay, including real estate hunting, a 4 wheel drive ATV safari in the private game reserve Botlierskop, a day trip inland to the semi-desert Oudtshoorn to see ostrich farms and to pet cheetahs at Cheetahland.

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Arrival, Town, Real Estate, 3 of 5 stars - recommended! Botlierskop, 3 of 5 stars - recommended! Cheetahland, Braai, Shark Cage Dive, Departure
Satellite Photo: See this satellite map of the Mossel Bay area with pushpins and then zoom in at least once. Or the South Africa satellite map.
Arrival: We arrived in Mossel Bay from Hermanus by car in the evening. And yes, Mossel is the Afrikaans word for mussel (the shellfish). The outskirts consist of an unfortunate industrial / oil-refinery sprawl, but the town is nice, and has the only north-facing beach (i.e. sun-facing, like a south-facing beach in the northern hemisphere) in the country.
Town: We stayed at the Huis te Marquette B&B, which has a good attached backpackers (Mossel Bay Backpackers), situated near the scenic The Point.
I used the Internet while sipping a jumbo ("double") glass of inexpensive yet drinkable red wine in the sister backpackers' lounge.
Spraying wave at the tidal channel After a nice breakfast at the B&B and some real estate shopping (see below), we enjoyed a tasty seafood lunch at Kingfisher on The Point, overlooking the tidal pool and some surfers catching waves. Then we walked the promenade along the coast loop of The Point (in the center of which was a caravan park with barbed wire fence!?) to the Point Hotel and the tidal swim channel, on the outside of which waves crashed spectacularly.
3 of 5 stars - recommended! We drove back to get our bathing suits and returned to jump into the cool water and enjoy the crashing waves and drifting down the channel. Also, above the channel, below the lighthouse, is an historic Khoisan cave.
In the evening, we picked up some snacks at the Superstar grocery store for the next day's road trip, then walked along Marsh Street near our B&B looking at several restos before settling on Ying Thai where we sat on the cool patio because there was a large group of giggling 14 year old girls inside having a birthday party.
Real Estate: After a nice breakfast at the B&B, we called the Pam Golding real estate office, the local franchise in a major South African real estate agency, about a property we had seen in a brochure which seemed reasonably priced. Friendly agent Denzil K. showed us that property (under construction) as well as a few areas to get a feel for the town: Santos Beach (the main/swimming beach in town), Diaz Beach (a large horseshoe shaped beach 10-15 minutes away), a townhouse right on the waterfront in town, and the scenic The Point area (i.e. near our B&B).
Coming from North America, there were some notable differences in how real estate is listed and sold:
  • There is no Multiple Listing Service (MLS), just (usually) one exclusive listing agent.
  • There is usually just one agent representing both buyer and seller.
Also, there are some design "peculiarities" relative to what we are used to:
  • The washing machine (for clothes) is usually in the kitchen cabinet like a dishwasher.
  • There were no power outlets in the washrooms (although the hotels did have them).
    Denzil told us that they weren't allowed, and that his wife used a hair blow-dryer in the bedroom, which seemed perfectly logical to him :-)
  • The north side of property is the sunny side, since this is south of the equator.
At 17:00 we met Denzil to see 2 condos at Santos Beach, then he drove us to Diaz Beach where another agent, named Gerbie, showed us 3 condos in different buildings. Unfortunately they were disappointing, either in terms of poor layout or bad view.

Here is a good example of the problem with having no MLS: in one of the condo buildings, we could see another half dozen "for sale" signs hanging on the balconies of other units, but our agent couldn't show us any of them. If we really wanted to see all the units in that building, we would have to contact multiple listing agents and set up multiple viewing appointments, which of course is highly impractical.
Day Trip: We set out after an early breakfast the next day for a long day trip to a private game reserve, and inland to Oudtshoorn in the semi-desert Little Karoo to see ostriches and cheetahs.
Tip Tip: this was too much to do in one day: we didn't have time for the ostrich farms and felt rushed all afternoon, plus it was a lot of driving.
A better plan would be to make a day trip to Oudtshoorn, and do the game reserve on a separate day on the way to/from Knysna.

Quad-bike safari and giraffes Botlierskop: We drove 30 minutes to the 3 of 5 stars - recommended! Botlierskop Game Farm, a 1500 ha (3750 acres) private game reserve, for a 2.5 hour quad-bike (4 wheel drive ATV) safari. Since the price was the same whether we shared a quad-bike or not, we elected to each drive our own - the only downside being that you occasionally have to hang back a bit to let the dust settle from the quad-bike in front of you). It was just us two and our guide (on his own quad-bike), as the other guests elected to go on the large army-like truck. We made the right choice, as we could move faster and get closer to the animals than the truck.
White rhino When we first arrived, they served us coffee next to the large stone fire pit in the middle of the wooden deck in front of the beautiful lodge.
We saw a fair number of animals, including some new antelopes (Bontebok), with the highlight being coming to within 20m of 4 white rhinos and a small giraffe herd that had climbed a steep hill.
Although the reserve had lost one cottage and 4 rhinos in a relatively recent brush fire (due to the drought conditions), the fynbos ("fine bush") re-grows well and there was a surprising amount of green vegetation in the areas of charred landscape.

After our quad-bike tour, we piled into the big truck to see the hand-raised lions in a gated compound. Naturally they were snoozing in the shade during the hot late morning. This part was disappointing for us since we had already seen so many lions on safari.

One interesting story we heard was from a helicopter pilot at the lodge, who was talking about Great White Shark spotting from the helicopter. He said he likes to point out the (small) people on the beach to his clients as he flies out to sea, then a few minutes later you see a (big) great white shark in the water (e.g. 6m long!) which puts the size into perspective.

We ate lunch at the lodge (I had a bobotie) before driving inland...
Cheetahs Cheetahland: We drove inland via scenic country and (small) mountain passes on the R328 (that's the highway number, not a price in Rand) up to Oudtshoorn in the semi-desert Little Karoo. Due to time constraints, we skipped the ostrich farms (ostrich races, tasty meat), and went straight to the 3 of 5 stars - recommended! Cango Wildlife Ranch & Cheetahland. This is essentially a zoo, which also breeds cheetahs and occasionally white lions for conservation. The meerkats were particularly fun to watch (like a live version of the Meerkat Manor TV show)! Other animals include alligators and crocodiles, a snake house, and a raised walkway over several different big cat pens (leopard, lions, cheetahs etc.).

White tigers We skipped the slow-moving included tour and went straight to the cheetah petting. For an extra fee you spend 10 minutes in the pen with the hand-raised cheetahs and their handlers (who took photos on our cameras for us). Their brochures show incredibly cute young cheetahs being cuddled, but as with all cute small animals, they grow older and bigger. The five cheetahs were 8-10 months old when we visited, which is more of an adolescent than a baby, and definitely too big to cuddle! Yet still very cute! They were amazingly like domestic cats with rough fur, mostly snoozing and loved to be petted and have the back of their heads scratched! One of them even gave my calf a long lick with its big tongue. And you should hear them purr! Like a domestic cat that swallowed a small motor.
Susan also did the white tiger petting experience; they were 10-12 months old and larger than the cheetahs. However, they seemed more interested in sucking on the handler's fingers than being petted, so it was a little disappointing.
Braai: Part of the reason we were time constrained was that our realtor Denzil had invited us to a braai at his house that evening. He has a gorgeous renovated house on a hill overlooking the bay, with a huge covered patio with full living room furniture, and a lap pool on the side of the big front yard (where the view to the sunny north was; remember this is south of the equator). Other guests included an Irish couple who had previously bought a plot on a golf course from Denzil and had a house built, which partly explained why they were watching a European rugby match on TV when we arrived fashionably late. The dinner included good wine and a sampling of tasty meats, including biltong and boerwars.
Shark Cage Dive: I had booked a great white shark cage trip through the backpackers (getting a discount). Unfortunately, after my early breakfast, the receptionist informed me that the boat trip was cancelled due to weather. I looked outside and it was sunny and beautiful. Odd. Major bummer!
The trip was supposed to be a boat ride out into the ocean, where they drop a shark cage at the surface and you get to snorkel in the cage and see the beasts up close, presumably after chumming the water to attract them. This is a popular activity between Mossel Bay and Cape Town. I later heard from a South African friend that the government was considering banning these tourist dives because the number of shark attacks on humans has been increasing.
Departure: So we checked out and drove to the Point for another tidal channel swim, but this time the seas were very rough and the sky was stormy black in the distance. While we were standing on the diving-board-wide platform and rocks in the middle of the channel, fully clothed and holding our daypacks, a wave crashed below us and totally soaked Susan, and I do mean totally drenched, while I was virtually untouched by the spray by the luck of being the one to be standing on the narrow platform. Within minutes the storm clouds moved in and the rain poured down.
Somebody told us that the coast can experience 4 seasons in one day, and of course this made it clear why my shark cage dive trip had been cancelled.

We drove to
Knysna 100km (2 hours) further down the coast, towards the eastern end of the Garden Route.
Lunch at KingfisherR148 + tip
mussel starterR25
California saladR45
seafood chowderR29
toffee appleR18
passion & tonicR10
2 coffeesR6 each
bottle of waterR9
Groceries from SupersparR73
bulk pistachios (soft :-(R131/kg
bulk trail mixR76/kg
Strepsils (cough drops)R23
plastic bagR0.15

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