Imagine yourself sitting in a safari jeep in Africa watching a herd of elephants amble by so close that you can feel the earth tremble, hear them breathing, and see how they watch out for their young. Some adventurous people from Williams Lake got to experience this and so much more in September.
It began a few years ago when I had an opportunity to travel to South Africa. While I was on safari in Kruger National Park watching a mother leopard with her two frolicking cubs I decided that I needed to bring others back to experience this with me. It was just too wonderful to not share this adventure.
I had been leading groups of students on trips for many years while teaching in Williams Lake I decided to continue to organize tours with adults.
I organized a group to embark on this trek that began in Cape Town at the southern tip of the African continent and took us through South Africa into Swaziland and finally into Zimbabwe on a journey of a lifetime.
We arrived in Cape Town, a stunningly beautiful city, with Table Mountain rising up out of the sea and dominating the landscape. We took a gondola to the top on a gloriously sunny day and were greeted with spectacular views that went on and on in every direction. Earlier that day we had taken a ferryboat over to Robben Island where political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were detained. Our guide, who was a former prisoner, told us stories that only a prisoner would know about the time he spent on this island. It was very emotional.
We drove to the Cape of Good Hope where the warm Indian Ocean meets the cold Atlantic Ocean. It was named Cape of Good Hope so that the sailors were not afraid to travel these treacherous waters. We had a group photo taken there waving Canadian flags and singing our national anthem.
We experienced a total of four safaris beginning with Pumba Private Game Reserve, where we saw a variety of wild animals living in their natural environment. It was here that we first spotted the impalas, which are beautiful little deer-like creatures who are the main food source of carnivores. We watched families of elephants foraging for food and decimating the trees as they pulled the leaves and branches into their hungry mouths. We watched a graceful giraffe bend down to drink from a pond and then saw two male giraffes fight by hitting their necks together. Really crazy! Zebras grazed on the new spring grasses looking up at us inquisitively as we took photos. We also saw hippos partly submerged in the muddy waters trying to keep warm on this cool spring day. After this, we enjoyed lunch at the safari lodge which was a feast with many South African specialties including bobotie and the delicious malva pudding.
We visited a huge township near Port Elizabeth and it was difficult to see how these families lived. Many live in shacks with no running water. The government is slowly improving living conditions, but it will take many years. The children ran up to see us and loved having their photos taken, then viewing themselves. We spent some time at a local pub listening to singers and they got us all up dancing. They live very simply in the township, but they seemed happy.
We then flew to Durban and crossed the border into Swaziland, one of Africa’s smallest countries and the continent’s last absolute monarchy. We got to go on a few more safaris here including one on the river where we saw hippos submerged in the water as well as crocodiles basking in the sunshine along the shore.
Next, we went to Hluhluwe Game Reserve which was outstanding. There were so many animal sightings including a pride of lions playing on the river bank and a lone leopard trying to escape the tourists. Then it was onto Kruger National Park where we experienced Cape Buffalo lumbering along, herds of elephants with their young, and many more amazing animals and beautiful birds.
We finished off our adventure in Victoria Falls in the country of Zimbabwe. The falls were breathtaking and gave out a thunderous roar as the water crashed down. We stayed at a beautiful resort along the river where warthogs were grazing, vervet monkeys stealing food off the table, and traditional dancers and singers performing every evening. We went to an elephant encounter where we got to feed wild elephants and touch these magnificent animals. Some went to a lion encounter and were able to pat a male and a female lion while learning about the “King of the Jungle”.
The people of Southern Africa were wonderful – funny, beautiful and welcoming. Our guide Duane was fantastic! His knowledge about his country was phenomenal and he shared it with the pride of one who truly loves his country. But one of the best things about our tour was the people we were travelling with! We had so much fun together sharing this once in a lifetime experience. I hope to return again one day!
I will be doing a presentation on Egypt on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at the United Church – hope to see you there!
– Sharon Smith (250-267-3227), firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.grouptoursite.ca/sharonsmith