Drop Zone – The Tallest Slide in Africa

uShaka Marine World in Durban is best known for their conservation projects and marine life, but they also provides a huge variety of entertainment with the uShaka Village Walk, water park and beach. Named after the Zulu King Shaka, the theme park attracts people from all cultures and walks of life and has become a main attraction on Durban’s Golden Mile coastline.

Their Wet n’ Wild water park was pretty high up on our list of things to do, although with water parks being a world-wide phenomena we nearly didn’t make the time to go. But at the last minute we found some free time and decided to make the most of it and oh man was it an experience.

uShaka sign

uShaka houses the tallest slide in Africa. Standing at a whopping 18 meters tall, I can almost guarantee this is one of the scariest things I have done. You don’t truly realise how high this slide is until you begin climbing the stairs to the top of the Drop Zone and you don’t have any kind of harness on, which makes it pretty terrifying.

As we get to the top, I’m last in the queue and my sister is before me. One by one, we watch our friends slide down in what looks to be the most thrilling drop. They each turn back after they reach the bottom and despite how tiny they seem from so high up, you can still see giant grins of accomplishment across their faces.

My sister finally gets called to step up. She walks up the last few steps, stands at the top of the slide for a few seconds, then looks back at me.

“I can’t do this.”

“Of course you can do this! Come on, the boys have all just gone. It’s not that bad. The stadium jump was scarier than this!”

“Ness, I’m serious, I can’t-”

“Yes you can, just cross your legs, cross your arms and go. You can do this!”

She sends me one last pleading look and takes a deep breath. She plummets down at a crazy fast speed and in a few seconds she’s at the bottom.

Then it’s my turn. I step up onto the highest platform where I can see everyone waiting for me.

Oh my god.

It’s so high up, there’s nothing to stop me falling off this slide and, holy crap, it’s like a near vertical drop.

There’s no one to cheer me on, just the ride assistant looking at me waiting for me to get a move on.

I’m so close to abandoning this whole idea. Is it even safe? How did they build it? Is it structurally sound? What’s to stop me just flying off the slide into the sky? Why didn’t I research this?!

I start panicking and I feel the same fear that I just saw all over my sister’s face. But she’s fine. She’s at the bottom waiting for me. The ride assistant clears her throat and I know she’s judging me, waiting for me quit.

I can do this.

I take a deep breath, cross my arms and slide forward.

It’s an exhilarating blur. I’m flying down so fast.

Then I feel it.

At first it’s uncomfortable. And then… pain.

I forgot to cross my legs.

I’ve got the wedgie of a lifetime and by the time I reach the bottom of the slide, water was all up in… well… in places that the sun don’t shine.

I finally stop sliding and I can’t move. Everyone knows something is wrong. After a few seconds, I force myself to hobble out while discreetly detaching my bikini bottoms and plaster a smile on my face to hide the pain.

“What happened?! Are you okay?”

Okay so my smile wasn’t fooling anyone. I waddle over as fast as possible, which was pretty damn slow, abandoning all pretences of being fine.

“Ow.”

Despite reminding every person before me to follow the instructions which uShaka have plastered everywhere, I forgot to cross my legs.

 

Ushaka Drop Zone
An excerpt from uShaka’s official site warning us all of the dangers!!!

 

While everyone confirmed that you can’t avoid a slight wedgie on this slide, you can definitely avoid the high level of discomfort which I experienced. We all found this terrifying and if anyone tells you it’s easy to slide down this, they’re lying to you. But I soldiered on to explore the rest of uShaka’s exciting (and significantly less painful) water slides.

If you’re not a thrill seeker and simply looking for a fun day out, you can drift around the Dizzy Duzi river (the ultimate relaxing ride) or have a walk around Sea World. You can also enjoy a stroll through the Village Walk with a huge variety of restaurants and shops and the occasional performances and activities. Topping the list though is the gorgeous and vibrant uShaka beach which has the calmest summer waves Durban has to offer.

Out of all the activities we did on this trip, the Drop Zone is probably the only thing I am not so keen on doing again. But it’s safe to say that if I do ever get brave enough to take the plunge, I will definitely remember to cross my legs.

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Orchids Festival – Explore Kew Gardens

The 23rd annual Orchids Festival at Kew Gardens has kicked off and it has transformed southwest London into a tropical paradise.

For those of us who can’t really afford a holiday right now, this stunning display will treat you to taste of Thailand’s vibrant plant life, culture and even food. It runs until Sunday 11th March and entrance tickets are a pretty reasonable £16 per adult for the whole of Kew when booked online (although I highly recommend you pack your own snacks because food prices are hella expensive). If you really want to splash out, you may be able to get tickets to the Orchids Festival: After Hours with live performances, botanical cocktails and Thai massages!

My mum absolutely loves orchids and along with my aunts, photos of their orchids are frequently sent to our group chat to claim bragging rights and earn the coveted title of Supreme Orchid Queen.

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Just a small snippet of my family’s many conversations about orchids. I searched for ‘orchid’ on WhatsApp and there were over 100 results…

 

We entered Kew Gardens and I was in my element, ready to go full Tree Hugger and turn into my spiritual animal; The Koala.

Here I am in full koala mode hugging a Eucalyptus tree!

 

My mum quite literally squealed with delight when she found out where we were going and it did not disappoint. I’m not by any means an orchid expert and it’s safe to say I like the idea of gardening more than the actual task itself. In fact my favourite flower is the humble Snowdrop, which is in fact a weed. While you might not find these inside the greenhouses, they are scattered around the gardens and while most people were inside ooh-ing and aah-ing over orchids, I was outside having a photo shoot and losing my mind over Snowdrops.

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Here’s a small collection of my photos, kindly edited by Alvino Rodrigues (@vinoroddersdesign).

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the festival so much I may actually invest in a few orchids and compete with my aunts. The displays are so impressive and clearly a lot of time has been put into creating this. We spent around 2 hours in the greenhouse and there’s so much to see that we could’ve spent longer. You can find a floating mini replica of the Bang Pa In Palace which is visually stunning, along with giant floral columns and arches.

There’s also an original Thai cart on loan from the Thai Embassy. I cannot recommend visiting the Orchids Festival enough. It helps that the greenhouses are kept at a nice warm temperature (albeit slightly humid) and are ideal if you want shelter from the biting cold winter winder.

There is so much more to look at than just orchids. If you’re lucky you might spot a few reptiles hanging about and there are even some fish (including a piranha!!!). We has just enough time to visit the Treetop Walkway which stands 18 meters high just above the treetops. It feels slightly unstable and sways a lot in the wind which definitely made us question our own safety. “It’s an engineering masterpiece!” my sister assured us excitedly as she tried to educate us on why the structure wouldn’t collapse and kill us all. You may not want to go up there on a windy day if you have a weak stomach, but the view is worth it.

 

If you’re like me, the highlight of any trip is food and the Thai Street Food stall next to the Princess of Wales Conservatory sells mouth wateringly delicious Thai food. But be warned; the queues are usually pretty long and it’s a bit pricey (although a much better option than buying food from the cafe’s at Kew which are overpriced and definitely not as yum).

Whether you’re passionate about orchids, a keen photographer and quite like plants or simply looking for an Insta-worthy background, the Orchid Festival is drop of vibrant warmth in the heart of cold grey London and definitely worth a visit.

Shark Diving on the Aliwal Shoal

Durban’s coastline at sunrise is easily one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see and is home to some truly amazing creatures. With the Aliwal Shoal just a few kilometres off the coast, it’s a shark diving hot spot. If you’re looking to tick things off your bucket list then this is the place for you.

We frantically booked our shark cage diving experience the night before (top travelling tip; don’t do this, even though it turned out really well for us), so with a few hours of mental preparation and one member of our group hungover from clubbing, the 9 of us set off.

With the most breathtaking sunrise as our backdrop, we drove along Durban’s South Coast at 4am heading towards the Aliwal Shoal. Armed with the comforting knowledge that we would be in a cage, I gazed out towards the horizon, silently thanking whoever controls the weather for the calm ocean and clear skies.

So we get to this unofficial-looking place in the middle of nowhere and my sister, who arrived there a few minutes before us, approaches me with panic in her huge eyes and whispers “There’s no cage!”

………

My stomach drops.

“What!?” I panic-whisper back at her.

“They said it’s not as good when you use the cage so they have a cage but they don’t use it unless you’re really scared and you ask for it.”

Our Expedition Guide Diaan strides up to us and flashes us his brilliant, confident white smile explaining all the reasons we shouldn’t worry and I seriously consider whether we should really be doing this. But I’m too embarrassed to ask for the cage (even when I see my sister’s terrified glance at me) and I want the best experience we can possibly get.

My cousins dramatically bid us farewell and tell us that if we survive they might consider going themselves. 20 minutes later and I’m on a boat flying across the ocean and absolutely loving it. The thought of sea sickness hasn’t even crossed my mind as I keep my eyes peeled for flying fish and dolphins.

We reach the shoal; the waves are getting a bit large and I see a flash of nausea pass over everyone’s faces, but I ignore it because of my deathly fear of vomiting. The bait is set and a few minutes later, fins start to appear. They’re massive; bigger than I thought considering these Blacktip Sharks aren’t supposed to be that dangerous. We gear up and on the count of 3, we’re in.

It was amazing and honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. These sharks are beautiful and gentle and we were even lucky enough to see a few adorable baby sharks. It’s heartbreaking to hear how many are caught and die in shark nets each year. With the nets replaced by an electromagnetic boundary, so many sharks could be saved along with with countless other creatures such as dolphins and turtles.

The Blue Wilderness team actively promote shark conservation and for those who want to get more involved, they run many different research and volunteering projects for all levels of experience. We were so lucky to have found such excellent guides on such short notice. Raising awareness for shark conservation is a huge part of conservation and currently over 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans. Fear of sharks is a massive reason why people aren’t aware of how much damage we’re doing to the ocean, and how (most) sharks are not aggressive or a threat to humans at all.

Seeing sharks up close is the most surreal experience and they’re a lot calmer than I expected. They were totally uninterested in us, although a few of the shark pups were more inquisitive. The Blacktips just brush past you and it’s a lot harder than you think to judge depth perception when you’re looking through a snorkelling mask in the ocean.

“Oh my god I kicked a baby shark!”

I turn around and see my boyfriend looking pretty upset with himself while trying to not swallow seawater. I try and swim towards him and just as I kick my flipper out my foot impacts quite hard against something solid, but there was no one behind me.

I stick my face in the water and see a shark swimming past me. My imagination skips straight to me losing my leg and animal activists everywhere hunting me down and I frantically send telepathic messages to the shark in the hopes of saving my toes. Oh no I’m so sorry please don’t bite me.

The shark swam off as though nothing happened and I breathed a sigh of guilt-ridden relief. After nearly an hour in the water we were all ready to head back with most people feeling tired or sea sick.

I was one of the last people in the water, and as I swam towards the boat, I see our hungover friend leaning over the side of the boat. It almost happens in slow motion. One by one, each of them realises he’s throwing up and they each get that look of queasiness across their face… and then everyone threw up.

Nope. I turned around and swam away in the opposite direction. If I watched that any longer or got any closer, I would have 100% been sick right there in the ocean.

Sea sickness is real people! It affects so many more of us than you might think. Most of us who’ve been on a nice boat ride down the Thames think we don’t get sea sick, but let me tell you, the rough open ocean is a whole other story.

Obviously I survived but I did kick that shark quite hard, so Mr Shark, if you’re out there reading this, I am truly very sorry.

 

If you want to check out our amazing shark diving video (edited by yours truly) do check out my YouTube video here!!

“You know you’ve got a crisp on your top…”

Let me set the scene for you. It’s October 2016 and I’m (sort of) newly graduated and living up life at home.

“You know you’ve got a crisp on your top…” my sister said to me, as she came home from work to find me lying on the sofa. I looked down and, lo-and-behold, a lone crisp was left on my top from the pile of crisps I had put there earlier for easy access. You know, so I didn’t have to hold a ginormous bag of crisps while lying down.

“Oooh yeah!” I replied, excited as I popped the last crisp into my mouth.

My sister stared at me, disgust and amusement pasted across her face, like when something is so gross that you just can’t look away.

It was at this point I realised that I had become a bum.

If I didn’t get up to go to the gym in the evenings, it’s likely that I wouldn’t have left the house most weekdays. Ignoring my sister’s pity-stare, I detached myself from the sofa and got my lazy arse to the gym.

At the gym I remembered something important and turned to my boyfriend, excited to check what had been occupying my mind for most of the day. “Hey did you see that cool whale video I tagged you in?!”

“Which one? You have way too much free time” he laughs.

Two months prior to this I thought I definitely would have been employed at this point, not getting my thrills from forgotten crisps and Instagram posts of random animals. After handing in my last piece of uni work, the break that I told myself I needed had extended way past one week well into a month. One minute I had to wait to finish my work and the next I decided I had to wait to get my results. Procrastination is my speciality, I’m sure you can all relate. I used to think finding a job was as easy as rocking up and charming them with a few of my best, most-practiced jokes and them realising how awesome and employable I am. But alas, earwax, in the words of the wise Dumbledore. The world of publishing doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m not even sure I’m that funny.

On a more positive note, the need to start being proactive (and stop stumbling into the deep and scarring parts of the internet) had motivated me to start this amazing blog. Shout-out to all my fans reading this, i.e. my mum, sister and boyfriend. I hope you’re all excited to read about the ADVENTURE OF NESS. Stay on brand guys.

So kids, thus concludes the story about how a small potato crisp changed my life.

Oh, and the look of horror that crossed people’s faces when they saw what I had become.

I even found a job 3 months later!

..I still eat crisps off my top though.