It was finally here, our South Africa Safari Adventure.
Our South Africa Safari Adventure was a chance to see the Big 5 animals in their natural environment (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos) as well as giraffes and other exotic African animals!
We flew into Johannesburg and rested up for a couple of days, seeing the Mandela House Museum in the suburb of Soweto where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946-1962 before his long prison sentence for standing up against the apartheid government of that era. The house is a single-story red-brick matchbox built in 1945. It has bullet holes in the walls and the facade has scorch marks from attacks with Molotov cocktails (petrol bomb). The inside hosts some original furnishings and memorabilia, including photographs, citations given to Nelson Mandela, and the world championship belt given to Mandela by Sugar Ray Leonard. Then, we drove by the house that Desmond Tutu lived in nearby and in downtown Johannesburg saw Nelson Mandela’s law office. The Mandela and Tambo law firm was the first one in the country to be run by Black partners.
Next on our South Africa Safari Adventure was a short internal flight to Hoedspruit Airport near the Kruger National Park area of South Africa. Then, we checked in to our lodge located within a private game reserve called Kapama. This wildlife arena is 13,000 acres and we instantly felt like we had escaped to a place away from time.
For the next three days, our schedule would see us up early around 5:30am for coffee and a small breakfast and a morning game drive out in the wild from 6am-9am. Once back to the lodge we would have a full breakfast and then be at our leisure until lunch, usually around 1pm. The lodge had several swimming pools, bars, as well as a spa and gym. At around 4pm we would head out again for our three-hour or so evening game drive and be back to the lodge for dinner around 7:30pm.
(A note for the reader – these were photographic safaris with quaint and close observations of the animals from an open-air vehicle at Kapama, there was no hunting of the wildlife involved.)
It’s hard to describe the joy and wonder of seeing African animals in their natural habitat. For me personally, it was another reminder to be mindful of our environment and our planet, as well as respect the shared space us humans have on planet Earth with animals, no matter where we are or live. There’s a harmony to life and the natural world and we need to work hard to restore the self-destruction we’ve imposed on it.
After an absolutely amazing experience at Kapama on safari we took a flight to the seaport city of Cape Town. One of the first things we did was go to the top of Table Mountain, the majestic plateau dominates the city’s skyline and is the most photographed attraction in South Africa. We took the cable car to the top and hiked around for about an hour. The views are spectacular from up there.
After coming back down we made a stop to check out all the colorful houses of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. However, it was only after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 that it became possible for homeowners to paint the neighborhood with these lively colors. During apartheid it would have been illegal. Today, Cape Town is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Later that evening we were treated to a wonderful immersive African heritage dinner show at GOLD Restaurant.
Just outside of Cape Town, we visited the Cape Winelands area consisting of vineyards, historic estates and contemporary wineries, dates back some 350 years. We took a day to do some tastings there. As a self-proclaimed California wine snob, I thoroughly enjoyed the quality and varieties of wine in the Winelands, especially their blended reds. We visited Fairview winery that’s been in business since 1693!. Next, we visitedd Solms Delta, a former farm now winery run by the descendants of slaves and then workers under apartheid there who now own half the winery and finally get to profit from it. Also in the area, you may have seen the famous footage of Nelson Mandela walking out of prison after 27 years. It was here in the Winelands at Drakenstein Prison where he walked out of the gates a free man to crowds of supporters.
The next day we took a road trip around the Cape Peninsula with a stop at the Cape of Good Hope area, a gorgeous rocky headland on the southern end of the Cape. We hiked “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail” – a moderate 1.5 miles up and back paved trail with spectacular vistas up by a lighthouse. We continued our drive on roads that cut through sheer cliffs and twisted around emerald-green mountains. Along the way we encountered many animals, including antelopes, ostriches and baboons. With a must-do stop at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town, we saw the small and charming African penguins. It was fun to observe them for a while, they were so cute!
Saying goodbye to magical South Africa, we took a flight to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive falls are twice the height and width of the famous Niagara Falls in North America. David Livingstone (“Dr. Livingstone I presume”), the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the falls in 1855. While walking around to the various viewpoints of the falls, we were showered with mist, which felt good in the afternoon heat. We stayed nearby at Victoria Falls Lodge and had an awesome African dinner interactive show at their Boma Restaurant.
We concluded our tour with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia. As the elephants were frolicking in the water and the deep red/orange sun was setting just above the river, I knew that Africa had become a part of me at that moment.
As of writing this article, we’ve been back stateside for a bit and our amazing adventure is still sinking in. It was the trip of a lifetime. Before going, I thought that doing an African safari would be a one-off, albeit bucket list trip. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat because it’s such an incredible experience. So therefore, I will be hosting another awesome South Africa Safari Adventure group tour in 2023. Let me know if you are interested!
Stay tuned for next month’s article as some of us went up to Uganda afterwards for chimpanzee tracking and gorilla trekking in the jungle. I cannot wait to share this immersive, almost spiritual experience with you.
Credit: Some of the amazing photos by tour participant Keri Hargbol