With Crystal Blues berthed at the (quite decrepit) Tuzi Gazi Marina at Richards Bay, in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal, we learned that a number of wildlife parks were close by and very easy to access.
To our surprise, within 24 hours of arriving in South Africa we found ourselves sitting in a rented car on our way to St. Lucia, our first road trip since leaving Reunion. Then, a two hour boat ride through the wetlands provided an exciting and eye opening introduction to wild life viewing in South Africa. I was surprised (and excited) to see so much wildlife just one hour from a major city. At this point I realised just how special South Africa really is .... we had been in the country just over 24 hours, and were literally in love.
Being so close to so many wild animals was almost overwhelming - how was it that private enterprise tourism didn't ruin the obviously beautiful wetland tourist sites ? An extended conversation with the guide and boat driver provided the answer - every single boat on that waterway is piloted and guided by a government employed wildlife ranger, a specialist in the local habitat and someone committed to managing this resource vary carefully. So, private enterprise can invest and setup tourism operations (i.e. cruise boats) here, but they are very closely controlled by the Kwa Zulu Natal wildlife organisation. This is a great example of public / private partnership.
We returned to Crystal Blues that night determined to see more of the local game parks and wildlife, and encouraged by the well managed, relaxed, respectful and generally happy society we had been exposed to.