Today was another pretty banal day, although I nailed my W.W. Fenn piece, which was nice. Fitz wants to present it at all school meeting through Mr. Cobblah, although I have no idea how. I guess I'll just see how it plays out. Im currently preparing my presentation on my Africa trip for Global class, and Im very excited to show it.
I went to bed at 7:00 last night, and woke up at 7:00 this morning. Unfortunately, this was not due to my own will, but to the sheer exhaustion of flying 20 hours. Nothing noteworthy happened today, probably because I didn't notice it. Although I am tired, it is quite pleasing that I am not as dead as I was when I arrived in South Africa.
After a bittersweet drive in the morning we packed up and headed out. The flight left from Hoedspruit, and was around 50 minutes long followed by an unexpected layover. A dust storm in Dubai grounded all planes for around two hours, which resulted in an intense sprint to the connecting flight. It is funny how leaving the country, or even the neighborhood for as short as a week gives an an expectation that things will change at home. I was, to say the least, very disappointed that this wasn't the case. Anyways, back to normal life, I guess.
I am starting to realize that the incredible sights of each day are very regular. In terms of the amount of animals seen, this was one of our worst trips, but there was some moments. At one point, after a dry spell for 45 minutes or so, a whole herd of elephants, both big and small, crossed the road all around us; many of them were within reaching distance as we passed. Once the crossed, they began to throw dust all over themselves, in order to protect from parasites. After the morning drive, we visited the hoedspruit endangered species center. The main focus of this place was to breed both regular and king cheetahs, and release them back into the wild. I had never seen a cheetah before, and, let's me tell you, they are magnificent creatures. We learned a lot about their behaviors and actions as well. In the center they also housed many rescued animals, such as rhinos who's horns were cut off by poachers, exposing the inside of their nasal cavity. There were also some lions who had been abandoned a circus in Portugal. Although the backstories of these animals were extremely saddening, it was very touching to see them rehabilitated and healthy again. It really gives an appreciation for how delicate living beings really are, and how every single person is responsible for the lives of others. To think that these incredible creatures could be gone so soon is insane. Whether it is recycling, or even planting trees, we all need to do our part. We leave tomorrow afternoon, but there is still one more drive before then. I will write from Dubai.
The days just keep getting better and better. The usual sights were seen, such as waterbuck Impala, and giraffes, as well as some slightly rarer finds. There was a herd of white rhinos which were grazing, as well as a lion pride, complete with mother, father, and Cubs. Later in the day we went on our elephant encounter, where we got to meet a rescued elephant that has been raised by one of the lodges, his name was jabulani. Considering,how big he was, Jab, as they called him, was quite gentle with us. We got feed him, take some pictures, and learn about African elephants in general (the guide had a pretty good reference point). They also brought out a two year old bull, who was very nice as well. I think that I have a new favorite animal! We later learned that this reserve is actually fenced in, with around 20000 acres of free roaming land. In the last private park, the land was actually connected right to Kruger, the main public reserve which stretches to Tanzania. This means that animals still migrate, just as they would. In our night drive we got to see some monkeys, two of which were still babies, and we're really cute to watch climb around. After it got dark, a family of hyenas found their way near us, who were getting ready to start searching for food. Tomorrow we are going to visit the hoedspruit endangered species center, where we will see animals that have been rescued from the wild.
In the morning before we left the bush camp, all of us went on a bush walk. Basically, it allows you to see all the little things that are impossible to notice while driving. We learned how to identify giraffe and Impala dung, as well as some different track prints. I gained some knowledge poisonous trees, and even which plants make good toilet paper. It was interesting because the guide was actually armed with a shotgun just in case some animals become erratic. After that we headed to the next reserve and lodge. This one is much larger, and slightly more hotel-esque, than the camp before. There are much more guests here as well, with numbers close to 100 visitors. We once again went on a game drive, and were able to see hippos, one of which actually destroyed some birds with his jaws, and thrashed around for a bit in the water (really scary animals!) as well as Wildebeest, African Eagles, kudus, Mongooses, and hyenas; all of which are incredibly fascinating animals. At one point we actually witnessed a leopard eating an impala in a tree. Tomorrow we are lined for and elephant interaction event, which should be fun.
Today was another great day. We woke up bright (well, the sun hadn't risen yet) and early to the sounds of birds chirping. Our first drive brought sights such as bull elephants playing with each other, water buffalo, beautiful birds, and even the same lion family we had come across before, only this time with the father, a full grown male lion. At one point he started to make noise, which we later learned to was to tell any rivaling lions to back off because it was his territory. I never realized how powerful it was. It brings chills down your spine, and the sound waves actually reverberate in your body. We later saw a white rhino, which are pretty rare in the area. What impressed me the most was the sheer mass that he carried, and the incredibly large skeletal structure the was within him. Three more guests from Nebraska arrived later in the day, all of whom were working with habitat for humanity in Cape Town for a week before. For dinner, the chef cooked us ostrich meat, which is heavenly. We are going to a different reserve tomorrow, which should be great.
Today was, to say the least, breathtaking. We arrived at the bush camp to the surprise that we would be the only guests for two days. This is quite a perk, for no guests means private game drives (safari drives in the nature reserve). The camp is great, with a gorgeous view of the bush velt. The drives happen at 5:00 am in the morning and 4:30 pm in the evening, the most active times for viewing. We embarked on our journey, and, almost immediately, came across a 15 foot-tall giraffe, which was impressive. We soon saw some zebras, a faint glance at an elephant, as well as some impalas. That was all expected, although still amazing. What wasn't was a lions den that we found. Six Cubs trotted away from us when they spotted the truck, and to our surprise we saw a half eaten water buck carcass, which some lionesses were feeding on. The sounds of bones crunching, the smell of animal, and the sight of this event gave an immense appreciation for the pure beauty of this natural place. We also came across a leopard, which was sleeping for most of the time.
Thank God the flying is over. The airport here was extremely small, only consisting of a baggage carousel and a front desk, but really nice looking. We are now at where we will be staying for the first night, a small family lodge right outside the airport. The one thing that surprised me was the overwhelming amount of green. Everywhere you turn, there is just miles and miles of luscious vegetation. It is the rainy season right now, which all this life flourishes on. Near the hotel there is an absurd amount of tall trees as well, with trunks that resembled telephone poles. After talking with the taxi driver who brought us to the lodge, we realized that they were used for just that, poles. Anyways, we are driving out to a camp about two hours away, where will begin our Safari.
I just landed in South Africa, and I'm inconceivably exhausted. The flight was 8 hours long, and slightly more boring then the first one. I wasn't able to look around on that flight, which I did do this time around. I was quite stunned to find out that in the first class cabin, each seat was behind sliding doors, which gave a futuristic pod-look to the area. Besides this. It felt exactly the same to the Dubai-Boston trip. Fortunately, I only have one more short (45 minute) flight until we reach Kruger national park in Nelspruit, South Africa; our final destination