Sailing the Ionian Sea

I grew up far away from the sea.

My parents were very overprotective but I guess that wasn’t enough to reshape my adventurous personality.

I’m an explorer at heart and so is Captain Fox who didn’t stop believing in me even for one moment (mainy due to the lack of more suitable candidates for the co-skipper position).

Carried by the wind and water, on a 34 ft Beneteau Oceanis, the two of us crossed the Ionian Sea, explored many of the islands and even conquered the mighty Ithaka – the kingdom of the ancient hero Odysseus.

This journey certainly required some sailing skills and a good amount of courage, so here I’m going to share our experience in navigating around this beautiful and legendary part of Greece.

Day 1

Vliho to Meganisi

We chartered the boat from Vliho Yacht Club. Vliho is a small but important bay on Lefkada Island and many people start their sailing holidays from this place.

Meganisi island is quite close to Lefkada but considering my limited sailing experience, we decided to take some baby steps until I managed to learn more.

The water was smooth and the wind was about 15 knots in the afternoon. One thing that makes Greece a sailing paradise is that the wind is very predictable – 1 to 5 pm is the ideal time because there’s almost no wind before noon but it gets too strong after 4.30.

We spent the night next to a village called Little Vathi – highly recommended!

Namib Desert

I was thinking of the fox in the “Little Prince” as I was leaving the Namib Desert and there he was, right in front of me.He winked at me.

I saw many mirages that day but this wasn’t one of them. It was so surreal that I had to make sure I took enough photos.

You probably remember this part:

“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near –

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”


It made so much sense in the desert – and it happened just as I was leaving Namib. In my previous post I mentioned that Namibia was a magical place.

One doesn’t go to the desert just like that. Most people prefer to go to Paris or Venice or a fly to a tropical island with white sand and turquoise water.

The desert is a special place where you are all by yourself and your inner demons; there you can set them free.

Have you ever felt the same way during some of your travels?

MY NEW LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA 

It’s been almost a year and a half since I moved to the other side of the world.
Africa.

South Africa.

It’s autumn now, almost winter, while the Northern Hemisphere is expecting the summer. 

The stars are different. 

August brings hot wind and red dust, December – heat waves and rain that does stop for a week. 

There are eleven official languages in South Africa and countless accents. 


Most people go home before sunset; the day starts at 5 in the morning with the shouts of the incredibly loud hadeda birds. People sing while walking on the streets. 

Now I know what is the true meaning of the safaris.

I’m not afraid of lions anymore. I know how to track different animals in the savannah and have no problem sleeping in a cave. 

The Ocean’s waves are huge but that makes them great for surfing. 

I made friends with a few blue cranes and a penguin colony. I learned more in one year that I had learned during my entire 4-year undergraduate degree . I know who are the people that I can trust even when I’m at the end of the world.

 I used to wait for the summer to come, now I’ve come to the summer. Because at the end of the day, the winter in South Africa is like a nice summer day in most countries.


Life is short and precarious and boring, so we must take the opportunity to change this and live it the way we want it to be.
No reason to stay is a good reason to go.

SO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA?


It’s been more that a year since I moved to live in South Africa. I remember the first time I saw the land from the plane – perfect squares of neat green fields and red soil. I’ll never forget this moment. 

All people need some time to adjust to a new country. For me this period lasted for about 5 minutes. I came to my home country for a week and even though I enjoy seeing my family and friends, the truth is, I can’t wait to go back to South Africa.
This doesn’t mean that I have no problems living there. 
Living in South Africa as a foreigner is almost mission impossible: you’re not able to get anything without a SA ID number, there’s no information on the Internet, in fact usually there’s no Internet, no public transport, you can’t even buy a SIM card…if you’re lucky you might have electricity. 

It’s a very developed country but also a very restrictive one. I know it sounds weird.


But at the same time – the people are great and the food is delicious, the arts scene is very good and so are the jazz clubs, it’s a very young nation, the weather is probably the best in the world, and of course – the national parks are amazing (and the whole country feels like one huge park). 
Life in South Africa may not be for everyone, but for me it’s still a dream come true. ❤️

THE PENGUIN KINGDOM – SIMON’S TOWN

A cute penguin couple arrived on this beach in 1982. They liked the scenic Simon’s Town and well, decided to start multiplying. Today there’s thousands of them and what’s more amazing, the beach is open to public, you can go and swim around them. 

Like most places around Cape Town, water is not very warm but the temperature gets quite nice during the high season if you stay in the shallow parts.


It took me a few days to realize I actually saw penguins right next to me and it wasn’t in a zoo. I always thought they lived on Antarctica and nowhere else. These guys are smaller than the Emperor penguins. They’re quite friendly and would pose for a picture with you.

There are many other activities around Simon’s Town like surfing or, you know, diving with sharks, but this is number one for me. After all, there aren’t that many places in the world where you can make friends with a whole penguin colony!


The 10 things you need for a great safari experience

A question I’m always asked is “What do I need to wear/bring on a safari?”So here is a short list of the most essential things for a game drive (according to me).


1. A wind proof jacket 

If you’ve never been on a safari before, you probably don’t assume you’d need one. Still, most game drives start around 4.30-5am and most likely you’re going in an open vehicle, which means the wind would be quite strong and cold. The temperature will start going up after sunrise, so layering is the best option.

2. Sunscreen 

Once the sun has risen, you would need to use sunblock. A typical safari would last for a few hours after sunrise, so make sure you don’t get sunburned.

3. A hat/ cap

I’m a fan of the Indiana Jones type of hats as they are also very good for the walking safaris, as they can protect you from the thorny bushes/trees. But even for a game drive you would need one, as you’re going to stop on the way for breakfast/lunch and also because there’s not always shade in the open vehicles on the game drives. A baseball cap is fine too.

4. Binoculars 

Many of the animals would be in the distance, especially the shy ones like leopard, cheetah and serval. It’s always useful to have binoculars with you and it would definitely help to find more animals.
A photography tip: if you’re taking pictures with your phone camera, put the binoculars in front of the lens and it would help you zoom in and take a close-up picture of an animal in the distance 🙂 

Here’s an example from Mr. Jonas

5. Water/ coffee/ tea
Preferably in a thermos.
6. Khaki is the best color for your safari outfit, but it’s not the only option.
Okay, here’s picture of me and our ranger-tracker-driver-genius Jonas. You could wear whatever you feel like, but I guess  it’s more fun to dress in safari style 🙂

This really depends on the area though. In countries where the tsetse fly is a problem, definitely stick to the classic khaki/ beige colors. 

Wearing white is not a good idea as it’s too bright and it might scare the animals away. The same rule applies for any flashy and bright colors.

My advice would be to stick to the earth colors.

7. A good camera
If you’re planning to buy a camera for your safari adventure, make sure you choose one with a great zoom.

8. Repellent 
As they say, the deadliest animal in Africa is the mosquito.Again, that really depends on the country – for example there’s almost no malaria in South Africa, except in Kruger Park.

9. A nice backpack
The best way to keep you wallet, binoculars, phones, cameras, sunscreen etc. in one place, otherwise you might forget something in the car.
10. A map or a book of the area.
They’re very useful. Many of them will tell you what is the likelihood of finding lions or elephants (or whatever other animal you want to see) in a certain area. You definitely need one of the if you’re planning a self-drive

Safari in Style 

When you go on safari, you can choose between staying at a basic place and focusing on the game drives or finding a lodge or a guesthouse that would enhance the experience.
We chose the second option. This doesn’t necessarily mean overspending, although the more designer lodges tend to be quite expensive. The biggest difference in the price of accommodation comes from the place – the ones inside the Kruger Park are generally much more expensive than the ones in the Greater Kruger.


So for that reason we decided to stay outside of the park and it was still absolutely amazing! The owner of the lodge was a retired interior designer and obviously a great one.
One of the most amazing things was the proximity of the animals – they were coming to drink water from the waterhole (it was right in front of the lobby) – and we had giraffe, zebra and antelope visitors.

We could hear the animals calling each other, especially at night. The owners were able to recognize the animals by their sounds, so they were able to “translate” for us 🙂 They also shared plenty of incredible stories of close animal encounters.
Also, after more than a year of living in Pretoria, I finally learned what the real Africaans food tastes like! It was absolutely delicious!


And here is the braai (a very special African barbecue) area – one feels like a part of an African tribe.