Weekend Wrap: SA's first winter weekend, ocean mysteries and Kruger lone lion returns home

2017-05-14 19:10 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - What a cosy weekend for South Africans all round! Jozi and surrounds saw temperatures drop to sub-zero, while the Drakensberg had snow on the peaks throughout the weekend. 

If you've been utilising the rainy weather to stay indoors all weekend, we envy you! But it's time to get the week going and it's best to get schooled on what you might have missed over the weekend. 

Here are the top travel stories you need to know about - 

SA's first wintry weekend 

Across South Africa, Saffas saw the first, real wintry weekend with snow, rain and overall miserable (read: lovely) weather. 

On the border between Lesotho and South Africa on Sani Pass, the road has been closed due to the heavy snowfall. According to  Snow Report SA, conditions were dangerous on the iconic pass on Sunday evening.

"We advise no one to travel to or from the area at ALL," Snow Report SA warned on Sunday, 14 May. "There are already over 40 people currently living, eating and sleeping at the Lesotho border post who are stuck because of the weather and they are running out of supplies," they say. 

SEE PICS: Winter is here - first snowfall of the season hits the Eastern Cape

According to Gauteng Weather, the weekend saw the first coldfront of the 2017 season hit Gauteng overnight on Friday and Saturday, 12 and 13 May. 

The photos and videos showed staff of the Sani Pass Mountain Lodge 'rescuing' people who have fallen victim to the thick snow on the pass. 

For Monday, 15 May, the SA Weather Service says the eastern parts of the country can expect rain and conditions, while the western parts of the country will experience a heatwave up until Tuesday, 16 May. 

READ MORE HERE: Weather Update: Heatwave hits western parts as East Coast braces for more cold, rain

South Africa's great white shark mystery under the spotlight 

An orca whale killing spree of great white sharks which has gripped the coast of South Africa saw the first-ever dissection of a white shark following an attack of this nature.

In the past two weeks, three dead white sharks washed up on the shores near Cape Town. With almost surgical precision, the livers of the sharks in all three cases were neatly removed, but little else was eaten. Even the hearts of the two of the sharks were left intact.

Following the unprecedented dissections, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), confirmed this week that orca whales were responsible for all three killings and that they were targeting the large nutrient-rich livers of the sharks. 

Various small pods of orcas have been spotted around Gansbaai in recent weeks.

"We have never seen anything like this," said Alison Towner, a biologist from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, who contributed to the dissection of the sharks. In all three cases, "there was a large gaping hole between her pectoral fins where they were torn apart to reveal her body cavity… and that their large livers were completely missing. This information, combined with the recent sightings of orca and disappearance of white sharks in the area, provides convincing evidence that the orcas are responsible for the shark's death."

“This is an extremely rare occurrence,” she said in an email with Traveller24, “This is also the first time worldwide the carcas of a white shark was recovered post orca predation, let alone three carcases within one week!”

You can read the full story here: South Africa's great white shark mystery: The full story

Another ocean mystery in Indonesia... 

Speaking of ocean mysteries, another ocean phenomenon in Indonesia is leaving residents with more questions that answers. 

According to VICE, the "mysterious creature from the depths" which washed up in Indonesia's eastern Maluku province caused controversy after locals couldn't figure out what exactly it is. 

Initial reports from Indonesian soldiers stationed in the area called it a giant squid, while a video shared by the official Facebook page of the Indonesian Army shows a man describing the creature. 

Check it out here... what do you think it is? 

Braai tour keeps SA spirits high and hot 

For the past five days, 20 cyclists with a taste for the finer things in life have been riding through the Klein Karoo, making their way from George to Swellendam via the most scenic district roads and mountain passes in the Western Cape. 

The five-day ride is the inaugural Tour de Braai, an antidote to South Africa’s obsession with gruelling mountain bike stage races, tents and communal toilets.

The Tour is the brainchild of Jan Braai, the man behind the National Braai Day initiative and the National Braai Tour. 

Riders on the first Tour have come from all over South Africa, with one participant from Germany and another from Switzerland also dipping their toes into the braai and bike trek. 

The Tour de Braai started in George last Monday, 8 May, with overnight stops during the week including daily luxury accommodation and fine braai dining in Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Rooiberg Lodge in the Klein Karoo, and Riversdale. On Friday afternoon, 12 May,  the Tour will reach its final destination of Swellendam. 

Check out some highlights of the tour - 

Lone lion on the loose might have wandered back to Kruger... 

After a panicked public in Mpumalanga trended on Twitter following the #LionEscape in Mpumalanga, the search operation for the remaining missing Kruger lion that escaped the Park on Monday 8 May, was called off on Friday, 12 May.  

The search operation for five lions that escaped from Kruger National Park on 8 May resulted in the successful capture of four of the five lions.

On Thursday 11 May the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) decided to officially call off the search for the one lion that remains unaccounted for. “We have decided to officially call off the search operation as there has been no sighting of the missing lion since the other four were captured on Tuesday," Johannes Nobunga, CEO of MTPA told Traveller24. 

"We suspect that the lion might have probably gone back to the park," adds Nobunga.

When asked if the lion may have walked back into Kruger, South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson, Reynold Thakhuli told Traveller24 "that is a possibility". 

READ MORE HERE: UPDATE: Search called off as mission Kruger lion ‘may have walked back into park’ 

Zuma to open in Indaba 2017 

South African Tourism, led by the President Jacob Zuma will officially open INDABA at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on 16 May 2017.

INDABA is Africa’s top tourism trade show that is expected to bring together more than 7 000 delegates that represent the top tourism products in Africa including the world’s leading travel buyers and travel and tourism media. 

The show will run from 16 – 18 May 2017, and will see the boosting of SA's upcoming Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs). According to Neil Nagooroo, chairperson of the Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA), this year's INDABA will focus especially on promoting and offering these enterprises a platform to interact with international authorities. 

Nagooroo tells Traveller24 that a total of 90 SMMEs have been selected to represent SA at INDABA, following a rigorous selection process in which the 10 best enterprises from each of SA's nine provinces were selected, trained and prepared for INDABA with the assistance of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA). 

SA Tourism's Ntshona agrees that this new Hidden Gems programme, as it is called, will be a major enabler for "emerging and existing enterprises that are at least 50% black-owned". 

This year, the INDABA organisers will also be launching an event app, in line with international best practice, which all attendees will be able to use during this year's event. The app will include maps, programmes as well as social media links. 

READ MORE HERE: President Zuma in Durban to officially open Indaba 2017

Winter is here! 

Looking at the photos above, there no denying it... Winter is finally here! But if you're an avid traveller, that is good news. 

Traveller24's newsletter for this week is dedicated for the wintry months ahead, pinpointing all our favourite winter destinations, winter camping tips and everything you need to know to make this season your favourite one.

Sign up for our next newsletter here, and check out some of our favourite #WinterEscapes ideas here - 

Epic South African winter retreats to soak in the season

15 reasons to travel South Africa in Winter

8 Wild SA specials to take advantage of this winter

Winter holiday blues? These are the #AfriTravel spots you should be heading to!

11 of the best spots to see snow in SA