First, an apology for no photos. As it turns out, the iPad version 1 is not compatible with Flickr. I could potentially upload photos to another site and somehow get them up on the blog, but that would take a lot of time and brain power – the former I have lots of and the latter I have very little of. So, I promise, there will be multiple posts with more information about this amazing trip and photos that will, hopefully, give a glimmer into what traveling to this corner of Africa is like. (I can’t promise though – I have learned how to use my camera inside taking close up portraits of food but out in the open and trying to photograph cheetahs has been a learning process.)
We are about halfway through the safari portion of our trip. There have been many surprises for us. The first being that we are not in Kruger National Park after all, but a private game reserve called Zulu Nyala, about 200 kilometers south of Kruger. It is hard for me to believe that we traveled so long and so far and essentially had no idea where we were going. Fortunately, the people who were supposed to pick us up arrived on schedule and here we are. I had imagined the three hour drive to the park being in an open-air jeep on dirt roads through the savannah, but in fact we were in a van on a modern highway through incredibly lush, green, rolling hills. Randy thought we would drive through rain forest, so we were both wrong.
At the park, there are two game drives per day, one starting at 6am and one starting at 4pm and on three of them we have seen wildebeests, warthogs, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, and lots of impala. Also a few spiders that were terrifyingly large with webs the size of small cars. We are still on the lookout for crocodiles and a leopard that roams between this park and the one next to us. This is a Big 4 game park and there are no lions, but we plan an afternoon trip to the park next door to hopefully catch them.
As most people who have seen animals in the wild will tell you, there is no substitute for this experience. Even though this is “game park lite”, meaning that the animals are protected here and we see the same ones over and over, it is still them living in their natural habitat and getting very close to them with a guide who knows a lot about them and their habits. We were lucky enough to see three elephants, a teenager, her mother and her aunt, full on swimming in the watering hole. Not just getting wet on the shore but completely in the water. They were blowing water on each other, tackling each other, huge beings surprisingly graceful and lovely in the water. It was very moving. As they moved to get out, the calf put her trunk on her mother’s back, just as if a child was asking to hold the hand of its mother. I had just read a bit about elephants and how intelligent, social, and family oriented they are, so it was especially amazing to witness this display.
Anyway, more once I am back home and have a few hours (or days) to sort through our images. We are feeling very far away, very thankful to our loved ones who are keeping our children safe and happy, and just a bit homesick.