All posts by Craig Lotter

About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don't have time for myself any more.

The Birds and the Trees of Harry Giddy Park in Mossel Bay (2018-06-29) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 JUN 2019

Right as you start your entry into Mossel Bay’s old CBD, at the very top of Marsh Street on the right is a lush green haven called Harry Giddey Park (or Harry Giddy, the Internet can’t quite make up its mind), a public park with trees, running water, a bandstand, a playground, an aviary and even a couple of farmyard animals scattered about.

First laid out as Victoria Park in 1887 (complete with ornate metal gates erected in 1903 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee), the park was later renamed as Harry Giddey Park in honour of the man who spent much of his time and money revitalizing the grounds during the early 1940’s.

The end result of all this work is a wonderfully laid out park that has a little bit of something for everyone. It has a good collection of interesting trees and plants, interesting pathways, a few bits and pieces with historical significance dotted around, the triple play of birds, animals and a small playground area as entertainment options for the kids, and then of course a lot of lawn to be enjoyed by families in search for some family down time in what is a lush green tranquil space.

(It also just happens to be the home for the Mossel Bay bowls club too).

Honestly, I’m a little surprised that it took the girls and me so long to get out and explore this little block of green on the Mossel Bay map.

And then, seeing as this was our last day in the Garden Route, in true Mossel Bay fashion the girls and I ended off our June Mossel Bay holiday by watching a whale frolic out at The Point. Perfection.

Related Link: Harry Giddey Park | Mossel Bay

Caravel and Post Office Tree at Bartolomeu Dias Museum in Mossel Bay (2018-06-26) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 JUN 2019

As one of the larger Western Cape museums in existence today, Mossel Bay’s Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex is a treasure trove of local cultural, Portuguese maritime, and natural history. In addition to the outside displays of the famous Post Office Tree, the Ethno-Botanical Garden, the Fountain, the Munrohoek Cottages, and the Malay Graves, the complex is also home to three distinct museums, The Granary, The Shell Museum (the largest shell museum in Africa), and the primary focal point of the complex as a whole, the Maritime Museum.

Although its history stretches back to that of about 1963, the museum complex in its current form was only really established in 1989, a direct outcome of the incredibly successful and well attended 1988 Dias Festival which celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the 1488 arrival of the first European explorer to set foot on South African soil, the highlight of the festival being the big spectacle landing of a seaworthy, life-size replica of Bartolomeu Dias’ famous caravel.

Now after dawdling through the grounds, touching everything in the garden, reading up on the historic mountain passes in The Granary, marveling at the beautiful mollusk homes in The Shell Museum, hiding under the Post Office Tree, and rolling down the sloped lawns (the kids, not me), we next traipsed over to the secret big reveal of our museum visit – the nondescript stone building marked as The Maritime Museum.

And yes, just like the surprise we ourselves as kids experienced when walking into the museum for the very first time, my girls got just as big a thrill when they entered down the stairs and walked into this:

And yes, of course we explored it.

What can I say, a visit to the museum is always a good way to spend some of that holiday free time!

Related Link: Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex | Visit Mossel Bay | Mossel Bay

Travel Start with Travelstart
[Partner Content] 31 MAY 2019

You know, I’ve never actually ever dealt with a real life travel agent before. In fact, come to think of it, I’ve never even stepped into a travel agency’s offices before. With software development being my daily bread and butter, I’ve always been quite content dealing with online systems as opposed to people, and as such when it comes to travel arrangements I’ve always been more than happy to use an OTA (a.k.a online travel agency, an abbreviation I have literally just learned a handful of minutes ago) for my needs.

Anyway, when it comes to South Africa, one of the biggest and most prominent players in this space is undoubtedly Travelstart (who now seem be on a massive marketing push to get their name out even further than what it already is – as evidenced by this here partner post of mine too I guess).

Interesting fact, Travelstart is headquartered right here in Cape Town, and so is technically a South African company, despite having first been breathed into life by Swedish founder Stephan Ekbergh back in 1999 – who then sold it off to investors, before finally buying it back again following his emigration to South Africa in 2006. And quite frankly, the company hasn’t looked back since. A leading OTA in Africa and the Middle East, Travelstart now finds itself operating in some 15 markets across the region, including the likes of Botswana, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Primarily making money through Pay per Click advertising and an extensive affiliate network of travel partners, TravelStart brings tons of value to the everyday traveller (i.e. you and me) by offering some of the best travel deals across all its comparison functions – those being the full trifecta of flights, hotels, and car rentals.

So literally a one-stop compare and book shop (and that’s not even noting the toes now dipped into the Business Travel and Package Holiday markets either).

Plus, it is hard for me not to like how they do what they do. Extremely technologically focused (i.e. they seem to be rather fond of us programmers in general), the Travelstart website is clean, responsive, well written, and frankly a pleasure to use. (And with local customer support for when needed, it feels like a bit of a no-brainer if you are looking for the easiest way to book your next holiday.)

Right, so basically Travelstart IS a good way to start your travels then.

Related Link: Travelstart

Fish and Shells at The Shell Museum in Mossel Bay (2018-06-26) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 MAY 2019

The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay consists of a number of different elements all clustered in one location. There are the outside attractions of the famous Post Office Tree, the Munro Cottages, the Ethno-Botanical Garden & Braille Trail, the Fountain and the Malay Graves, and then the main buildings namely the Granary, the Maritime Museum, and finally the Shell Museum.

The Shell Museum is an interesting little animal in that it is part aquarium, part shell museum, and part African mask museum. Housed in a building that was erected all the way back in 1902, this small museum is a wondrously colourful look into some interesting examples of aquatic life (complete with touch tank – an absolute delight for the little ones), and hosts a very nicely displayed collection of sea shells and masks – all well presented with copious amounts of interesting, informative (and quite often artistic) displays.

The museum itself is not a particularly big space (it does have two levels though), but as with any museum installation, the value that you get out of visiting is directly proportional to how long you stay and more importantly how much you read.

And if you are as curious a person as what I am, then those two usually end up being a lot longer than any of my kids like!

So nothing shellfish of me wanting to go there after all.

(Plus, it was rather nice to be able to share this museum visit experience with my folks for a change. I think the kids rather enjoyed having Granny and Grandpa tag along!)

Related Link: Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex | Visit Mossel Bay | Mossel Bay

Test Your Callbacks with API Tester from Rigor Software & Sites 10 MAY 2019

I’m not entirely sure whether or not Runscope’s excellently useful Hurl.it is still operational, but if not, then Rigor has a great alternative lined up in the form of the aptly (but not quite as cleverly) named API Tester.

Built on top of the same platform as Rigor’s commercial API monitoring product, API Tester is a quick and simple way to make HTTP requests to and extract values from your hosted API scripts. In addition to this, this nicely laid out tool allows you to also assert whether response values are correct, reuse variables across steps, or inject custom logic using JavaScript.

So basically a quick way of building a multi-step test to validate an endpoint or even a suite of tests to traipse through all your back end services. Well made, useful little tool then.

Related Link: API Tester | Rigor

Tea in the Park and a stroll along Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town (2018-05-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 MAY 2019

It is an absolute Cape Town institution to head out for a walk along the Sea Point Promenade. Stretching all the way from the Waterfront at Mouille Point all the way down to Sea Point, the promenade is perfect for a family outing on foot – it is free, there is loads of space, it is an healthy activity, there is a playground or two dotted along the route, and of course the views are absolutely phenomenal.

Despite all of the above, we don’t actually go for too many walks along the promenade, primarily because we don’t live particularly close to it. So on the odd occasion that we do head down that way, it’s like a little mini travel adventure.

On this particular outing in May of last year, we hopped on the route at Three Anchor Bay, strolled along past the Blue Train and the Putt Putt, turned at the Green Point Lighthouse and then ambled over for a light refreshment at Tea in the Park situated in the fabulous Green Point Urban Park.

The girls made sure to give all the playgrounds a go, we had fun with the crashing waves spilling over the promenade, and finally ended it all off by watching the kayaks set out from the protected cove of Three Anchor Bay. An absolutely perfect afternoon out!

Always nice to play tourist in the Mother City.

Related Links: Sea Point Promenade | Green Point Park | Cape Town

Hiking up the Hill at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Bellville (2018-04-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 APR 2019

Bellville’s 300 hectare large nature reserve in the form of Tygerberg Nature Reserve offers a great opportunity for locals to stretch their legs in nature without really having to go anywhere. And while it may not be a mountain, Tygerberg Hill still rises high enough to give you a great view of Cape Town, the mountain and its suburbs.

Home to around 500 different plant species, a large number of birds and a couple of small animals to be spotted, Tygerberg Hill also serves as a popular environmental education hub for local school excursions.

There are quite a couple of short trails that criss-cross all over the reserve, meaning that in theory you can put together just about any walk to suit your needs. The hill also has a trail accessible by wheelchairs, as well as a couple of simple picnic spots dotted around.

Last year Ryan, Chantelle and I went for a nice and sweaty stroll around the hill, and these are the pictures that I ended up with. (Always a good excuse for micro stopping when the going gets tough!)

Always a lovely outing.

Related Link: Tygerberg Nature Reserve | Tygerberg Hills | Bellville

Hitting Balls at the Mossel Bay Golf Club (2018-03-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 APR 2019

See the sea from every tee. That’s the tagline on the Mossel Bay Golf Club’s official website. Mind you, that is pretty true. Sitting nicely elevated above sea level means that you do have a pretty good view no matter what direction you look in, not to mention the added glee of having a herd of springbok bounce out in front of you every now and then.

The Mossel Bay Golf Club itself is well over a hundred years old, having been established way back in 1905. However, its current grounds only came into play around 1924, with a massive redevelopment taking plac in 1999, resulting in the creation of the Mossel Bay Golf Estate and massively upgraded facilities.

The end result? A delightful course that is well looked after, offers great views, and is easy enough for a rank amateur who only plays golf a handful times a year (i.e. me) to tackle.

So that is exactly what Ryan, Dad and myself then did.

And no, of course I didn’t win.

Related Link: Mossel Bay Golf Club | Mossel Bay

World War Artifacts at the Warriors Gate M.O.T.H. Shrine in Durban (2018-02-07) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 APR 2019

Founded in Durban in 1927 by one Charles Evenden (a cartoonist on the staff of the Natal Mercury newspaper), the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (M.O.T.H.) is an international organisation of front line ex-servicemen and women organized around the three ideals of ‘True Comradeship’, ‘Mutual Help’, and ‘Sound Memory’. As such the ideal is to help comrades in need, either financially or physically; and to remember all servicemen who have answered the Sunset Call, both in war and peacetime.

The headquarters of the order are located at Warrior Gate, the foremost M.O.T.H. shrine situated on the grounds of The Old Fort and across the road from Kingspark Cricket stadium. In addition to its function as the group headquarters, Warriors Gate is also home to an incredibly interesting Museum of Militaria, displaying hundreds of artifacts from across the world spanning multiple armed conflicts in which South African forces were involved.

Primarily covering the early wars like the Boer War, 1st and 2nd World Wars and the Border Wars, the war museum is stocked with all manner of uniforms, regiment/unit badges, rifles, guns, medals, medical and hand tools.

It is an incredibly interesting collection of war memorabilia and perhaps of course particularly poignant for any visitor who perhaps partook in any of these armed conflicts.

The museum is open to the public and entrance is free – though donations towards the upkeep of the facilities are of course welcomed.

An absolute must for any local war fundi then.

Related Link: Warriors Gate Museum of Militaria | M.O.T.H. | Durban