The phrases ‘dream trip’ or ‘bucket list item’ are probably overused, but in this case it was a magical job that I feel so very lucky to have experienced!!! The trip began in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a gorgeous city beneath Table Mountain on South Africa’s southwest coast. The first photo shows the view from Table Mountain, and in the distance is Robben Island, the notorious prison that once held Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment.
Just off the coast of Cape Town is the greatest concentration of Great White Sharks, but the weather and choppy water conditions didn’t cooperate for cage diving. Instead, the group decided TWICE to jump off the perfectly nice Table Mountain…once for parasailing and the other time abseiling (or rappelling)…what a rush!!
Next, the group took a scenic jeep tour excursion from Cape Town to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. And instead of a jeep back to Cape Town, we took power boats!
Although the weather didn’t cooperate to see sharks, there was no shortage of wildlife around Cape Town:
Before leaving Cape Town, the group had a final banquet at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel with a special guest… a cheetah!
Next up was a flight to Skukuza Airport, on the border of Kruger National Park in the Northeast corner of South Africa. I was lucky enough to fly in the cockpit and saw elephants on the edge of the airport property on the landing (lucky outside of the airport fence)! I didn’t need to wait long to see wildlife after landing either..both on the drive to Sabi Sabi and at my room was a baboon and a Nyala!! Sabi Sabi is a private game reserve situated in the larger Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
We immediately took off in open-topped jeeps in search of wildlife in the area…and there was no shortage! There was a local guide that rides on the front (hood) to help spot, and each driver radios to the others to share location information. It was really helpful throughout the trip. The animals are both used to the vehicles and know that they are neither predator or prey, so for the most part, completely ignored them! Exceptions appeared to be the understandably nervous prey animals like springbok, warthog, and zebra, that tended to run when we got close.
It’s very difficult to describe how emotional and incredible it is to see these creatures in the wild. Looking at elephants in the eyes, or a rhino that is essentially a living breathing dinosaur… and realizing just how small we are, and just how long this untouched land has survived in harmony. Half the time I was singing the lyrics to ‘circle of life’ and the other half I was just trying to take in the size and scope of the landscape..
I also loved seeing the lessons I had learned about in Biology class so many years ago. For example, the mutualistic relationship of the oxpecker bird that eats ticks and parasites living on the rhino. Or seeing and hearing the power of the elephant that doesn’t walk around things, but right through them, clearing debris, bushes and whatever else is in the way. This clearing, then becomes a place where the Springbok and other prey animals gather because they have greater visibility to see predators coming…everything seemed to have a place and a purpose.
It was a dream to see a leopard! And even more incredible to watch when it rounded a corner and ran into a hyena! Apparently, it is common for the opportunistic hyena to catch the scent of a leopard and follow in hopes of stealing its kill. The leopard growled and jumped out and the hyena ran off.
Saving the best for last (the lions), here are a few more critters we were lucky enough to see:
I’m fairly certain I would never get tired of watching lions. It was spectacular being in the wild, near these huge powerful predators. Although they needed to be cautious and keep an eye out for other lions, the rest of their time looked to be spent sleeping, playing (ie- practicing for fighting or hunting) and looking for food. They are awesome: