South Africa, Part Two: Madikwe Game Reserve

Time for our Africa recap part two! Our time in Madikwe reserve. We went back and forth for a while about where to do our safari, and ended up and Madikwe as a recommendation from the travel agency we used, and honestly, I don't think we could have made a better decision. We talked to quite a lot of people and heard about multiple safari experiences, and I truly think that we could not have made a better decision for what we wanted. The things that were most important to us? One: Seeing lots of animals, close up, in their natural environment. Two: Staying somewhere NICE. Three: Not having to worry about finding the animals ourselves, and learning something in the process. Four: Just having a good time. 

As a little side note, we only had ONE thing go wrong on this trip.... me getting bitten by a CRAZY roided up spider. It started as a quarter sized bite on my foot that slowly expanded to take up my ENTIRE foot and then a rash over basically my entire body. Luckily it wasn't too too bad until two days before we left, but once I googled "spider bite South Africa" in my down time and read about amputation and skin grafts I started to get a SMIDGE worried. I also have the craziest skin ever (allergic reactions to the sun and cold among other things) so I decided to not think too much about it until I got home. So I went strait to my doctor after getting off the plane (where I needed to hide my ailment to avoid being thrown into ebola quarantine), who made a point not to touch me and looked up rashes on the CDC website which was UBER comforting. Then he proceeded to bring in two other doctors to look at the medical weido, but they decided it was no biggie, gave me some meds and I was on my way. So that's all cleared up now which is GREAT. Compared to other things that could go wrong when traveling, I'm ok with how it all played out! OK.... now on to all the fun fun details!

One of the awesome things about Madikwe is that it is a reserve with ONLY guided tours from the lodges within  the reserve. Which means that its organized and well run, only three cars are allowed at a sighting at a time, which means you get VERY close and because all the cars are in contact with each other, you are pretty much guaranteed to see something amazing. Our drivers were truly amazing, they take you around, telling you all sorts of interesting things, and even take some time out of your drive to feed you and ply you with alcohol if you want it! We did two drives a day, 3 hours or so each, one early in the morning, and one in the evening (which turns into a night drive for the last hour). We saw EVERYTHING we wanted to, as you can see from the photos, plus some really crazy things we never would have expected. For instance: A pride of lions, eating a pregnant zebra, one of them eating just the fetus, with the jackals skirting around trying to steal scraps, when a herd of elephants comes up all pissed and scares the lions away, taking down trees and all sorts of other things in the process. It's just crazy amazing. 

a slideshow, because there are too many pics!

We stayed at two different lodges on the reserve. Tau Game Lodge was first. It was the bigger of the two lodges, we had a little "hut" though I use that term lightly because it's REALLY nice. We got to our room to find a little monkey peaking in our windows (SO CUTE, but apparently they'll shit all over your bed and tear your room to shreds if you don't lock your doors, smart little buggers). We had a SUPER fun time there, we were with paired with a group from Texas for our game drive and they were REALLY fun. One of our favorite parts of this trip was all the people we hung out with, it's really what made this our favorite vacation yet. Tau had a fun bar area and pool tables and other social spaces which really encourages the guests to hang out and have fun, which we definitely did! Our next reserve, Impodimo Game Lodge,  was a little smaller and a little more geared towards relaxation. Our room there was even better than the one at Tau and overlooked a watering hole that was always PACKED with animals, we could just sit on our deck and watch elephants, baboons, kudu, warthogs, you name it, come up and get a drink and hang out. Impodimo wasn't fenced in though, so you needed to get escorted to your room after dinner with someone with a rifle to avoid getting eaten by a lion, better safe than sorry right? eek. So that kind of made late night drinking and socializing not so likely. Despite that, I still liked that lodge as much if not more than Tau. But really you couldn't go wrong with either! The food was AMAZING at both, I ate wildebeest, and other weird things, all of which were delicious. Both lodges were all inclusive, which we really liked and really made the whole thing stress free and relaxing. So yeah, I could go on forever about all the details, but I'm going to let the pics speak for themselves, and say that I am already dying to go back and do it all and more all over again! 

P.S. Check in later this week for an AWESOME new save the date that just went out!!! 

Cape Town, South Africa...Best Vacation Ever

Cape Town, South Africa

So we're back in good ol' US of A! All I've got to say, is that South Africa was AMAZING, Chris and I have decided that it's been our favorite vacation yet, and thats saying a lot as we've done a lot of traveling and had some pretty amazing vacations. So I need to do our vaca recap in two different posts because honestly there's just too much to talk about! Just cutting down the photos to a manageable amount was tough. So I'm breaking it up into Cape Town, and Safari. So today, let's talk about Cape Town, South Africa! P.S. this is going to be a lengthy post because I want to recommend all the awesome things we did and give kudos to all the different companies we used. 

Before I go into details about what we did, I just want to mention a couple things. So when we were planning this trip, we decided on the end of August because that's the end of winter in South Africa and therefore the bush is pretty thin which makes seeing animals during Safari a little easier. So the weather when we were there was a little cool, mornings and nights were chilly, between 40 and 60 degrees, but it would really warm up during the day which was great, so most of the time it was high 60s to mid 80s. The other thing I wanted to mention was the cost of the trip. We used miles to get there, so not having to pay for our flight was a huge help as thats can be a pricy portion of the trip. The hotels we very nice, not cheap, but not exorbitant either. Once we were there, we spent VERY little money on food and everything else which was unexpected after spending more that we expected on the lodging. That being said, we did meet lots of people who were doing the trip on a tight budget and seemed to be loving it. So I do think it's a trip you can do within most budgets. OK, now onto the fun stuff! 

First, the flight blows and it's long, It took us about 30 hours or so door to door, but thats the price you pay for going to new and interesting places! We stayed at Cape Codegan, a little boutique hotel in the down town area. Everyone there was seriously amazing and super helpful and our room was really nice as was the rest of the hotel. We came knowing what we wanted to do, but hadn't had time to research and book tours, and they took care of all of that for us and made really FABULOUS choices! 

So, above and below are some of the photos from when we did a ton of stuff in one day. We did a Shark tour SUPER early in the morning, and then a little driving tour of Boulders Beach (PENGUINS!) and Cape of Good Hope. We used Shark Explorers for the boat tour that took us to seal island (if you watch shark week, you know what I'm talking about) and saw some seals get munched on. That photo of the shark in full breach (jumping all the way out of the water) was the actual photo from our trip taken by the tour company. It was pretty insane and totally worth it, we saw lots of great white sharks very close up. It was nuts. Then Boulders Beach was a short stop, that photo of the two penguins on top of the rock is very Penguin from Batman and cracks me up, little evil villain penguins, plotting their next nefarious scheme. Seeing wild penguins was just pretty cool. Next was Cape of Good Hope, which was just beautiful. We hiked up to the lighthouse and then down along the coast where we saw some ostriches and got some really amazing photos. One of the things about this trip that made it so amazing was seeing animals you usually see in zoos out in the wild, If you're an animal lover, you really can't ask for anything more. The next day we did a tour of Wine Country, if you've ever been to Napa or Sonoma and done a wine tour there, the wineries are very similar. We used Wine Flies for this tour and they were great. They kept the whole thing super upbeat and interesting, it's definitely aimed towards a younger crowd, but still making sure to give you lots of great information. Ok, only a little bit more in this section...

Cape Town, South Africa

Last but not least were some of the Architectural sites we saw in Cape Town. We headed to Bo Kapp, because I'm a designer, so of course I need to see the pretty colorful neighborhood and take lots of photos. It was pretty, but not as impactful as I was expecting it to be. I'm not sure why, but I was just expecting it to be a larger area, you really had to position yourself well to get a good photo, also, i wanted to swap out all the cars with colorful vespas or something to make it more picturesque. Oh the need to take perry pictures, it's silly sometimes. We just had a cab take us there as a little detour on our way to the Warf, and just had him wait while we took some photos, which really worked out perfectly as there aren't any shops or other sites up there. Then we headed down to the wharf, which is fun and touristy in all the very best ways possible. There's lots of good shopping and restaurants as well as live music and pretty views. I highly recommend taking an afternoon and evening in that area! So that's all I've got for this post, I'm trying to keep it brief as I could go on forever! Long story short, go to Cape Town!  Check in next week to hear about our Safari! 

Cape Town, South Africa

It's almost vacation time!

I'm getting PUMPED. It's been a CRAZY six months. All the invitations I've designed for this wedding season (June-October) are out! I've got a handful of winter weddings this year, and lots of day of designs for October to still work on, but the crazy busy time has passed! Between that and starting the new job, (which I'm LOVING) life has been a little crazy, with very little time to breathe. So with all that, you can only imagine how excited I am for VACATION!!

The hubby and I are off to South Africa in just four days! It's been a trip we've always wanted to do, and it seemed like the perfect time. We're starting out in Cape Town, where we'll see penguins, whales and sharks, crazy colorful neighborhoods, do some amazing hikes and eat tasty food. Then we're off to Madikwe for a safari, where we'll see elephants (if you followed the blog when we went to Thailand last year, you know how I feel about elephants), lions, giraffes and more! I haven't really had time to think about it much and it's just now that it's really hitting me! Ekk! Any one ever been? Any tips?

I'll be sharing pics when I can, but I'll be on vacation, so no promises, but I'll definitely have pics and posts when I get back! I have a couple posts ready for while I'm gone, be sure to check in next week to see one of my FAVORITE designs from this year. We did gold foil letterpress and it's AMAZEBALLS. 

Disney Birthday Weekend

caitlin spaulding disney

So today is my birthday!  I go back and forth at this point about whether or not 29 makes me feel old. I'm typically mistaken for a college student so I'm still ok with getting older. Except this weekend, at Disney, my body FELT old. I mean MAN my feet and back hurt. Also, staying up until 4am for extra magic hours has basically annihilated me for the week. It was a really awesome weekend though, the main reason for the trip was my little cousin's birthday (hence the t-shirts) but it was a nice overlap with my own birthday. Chris (the hubby) had been traveling for work and couldn't come, so it was with some family and one of my friends.  Disney really is my happy place. As a designer I always notice the thoughtfulness of design and amazing details that are all around you, no one does it better. We did Universal for a day too, and though Potter was great, it'll never be Disney World. I thought I'd share some pics from a truly awesome weekend! 

Time for Disney!

Custom Disney Vacation T-shirts

I'm off to Disney World tonight for my little cousin's 10th birthday! I've always thought my family was above the whole matching family vacation T-shirt thing, but yeah, we're not. Hallie wanted to wake up in Disney when she turned 10, and wanted as many of her favorite people there as possible. We figured it was time to go all out, so I designed these t-shirts for our whole gang to wear on Sunday to the Magic Kingdom for Hallie's day of Disney birthday fun. (Sorry for the bad pics by the way, I'll take some better ones when we're all wearing them!) I used to make the T-shirts and they were really great, they had a really good assortment of styles and no minimum order for different colors. I figured if we were going to do matching Ts, I could at least get a bunch of different styles and colors so we wouldn't be all Tanner Family Vacation (anyone remember that Full House episode?) So as I'm on vaca, I'll won't be posting until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Have a great weekend kids! I'll be posting lots of Disney pics on Instagram during my trip, so feel free to check in there!