Safari Through Southern Africa

When I was in the second grade, our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I proudly shared with the class that I wanted to be a zoologist. The teacher seemed surprised, and asked me “you want to go into the cages and clean up the elephant poop?” The rest of the class laughed as I slunk down, red-faced, under my desk. That embarrassment didn’t deter me from my lifelong love of animals, nor from my lifelong dream of someday going on an African safari (the photo kind, though, since I’ve also had a lifelong aversion to guns).

As an adult the idea of 30+ hours of travel to get there was a damper on that dream. Plus there was always another European country to see! However after several of our friends came back with fantastic tales of their safaris, we decided in 2015 to bite the bullet and go. We figured enough cocktails can make even 30 hours fly by.

Normally I prefer to plan trips on my own, but for this one I worked with go2africa. I liked that their tours are completely customizable. I also liked that the agent I worked with lived in Cape Town so had deep knowledge of the country. I had a wonderful experience working with them so if you’re looking for someone to help with your African adventure I can heartily recommend this agency.

Cape Town

We started our trip with four nights in Cape Town. We stayed at the outstanding Cape Cadogan, a wonderful boutique hotel in the Gardens district. The hotel is in a great location, an easy walk to restaurants and the central sights. Our room was spacious, the staff excellent, and we enjoyed the evening cocktail hour.

On our first day we took a trip out to the Cape peninsula. Along the way we got our first view of wildlife, spotting an ostrich near the beach.

An ostrich on the beach?

Once we got out to the cape, we had another wildlife experience, baboons! While we enjoyed the chance to see baboons, they’ve become somewhat of a pest in the area. Lock your car because they’ve learned to open car doors and destroy the interior looking for food. They were particularly bad around the cafe, where a couple of young boys decided it would be fun to use a foot long sub sandwich to play keep away with one of the larger male baboons. I could have told them the baboon would win. Quickly tiring of the game, the baboon got angry and eventually snatched the sandwich right out of one of the kids hands. I was happy there were no injuries! Leaving the baboons behind, we made the short hike out to the end of the cape for the spectacular views.

Cape Point

The next day we took an excursion to the top of Table Mountain. I was a little surprised by the length of the queue to board the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. My worry was unnecessary since. the line moves fast and we we were soon at the top. The views are worth the wait! The table top is a much larger area than I thought it would be, so we hiked around for a couple of hours taking advantage of the view in every direction. It was stunning! Returning to sea level, we spent the afternoon exploring Cape Town, starting at the V&A Waterfront, a fantastic area for shopping, sightseeing and eating.

As we drove around town, our guide told us stories of growing up during apartheid and suggested a visit to the District Six Museum. The museum was extremely educational and enlightening, presenting the history of apartheid in a thoughtful and unforgettable way. We capped the day off with a trip to Boulder Beach to see the penguins. That evening we took a cab over to Camps Bay, on the other side of the mountain, and went to Codfather for dinner. We got there a little early for our reservation so took a walk along the beach and enjoyed a sunset cocktail before having one of the best seafood dinners I’ve ever had.

We started off our third day wine tasting in the Cape Winelands region. The wine country was gorgeous, each winery we visited more beautiful than the last and each with wonderful wines. On the drive back to Cape Town (we hired a driver so had no worries imbibing!) we stopped at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens for a tipsy afternoon hike. The tree canopy walkway is spectacular and I loved the protea gardens highlighting this native South African wonder.

Sabi Sands

From Cape Town we flew to the Shukuza airport and were driven to our next hotel, andBeyond Kirkman’s Kamp. It was one of the most luxurious places I have ever stayed. The cabins are beautifully appointed and the staff is wonderful and friendly. While there we took early morning and evening game drives and saw an abundance of animals. In addition to the big 5 (lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant) we saw tons of giraffes, zebras and hippos. The evening game drives included the traditional sundowners which I heartily enjoyed as well!

I though I’d be nervous being so close to animals that could easily eat me or crush me. Our guides put us ease, explaining how they leave the Jeeps out for extended periods so that the animals get used to them; they just see the vehicles as part of the landscape. To that end he warned us to never stand up while we were viewing the animals, since breaking the profile can cause them to come investigate. So one of the only times I was fearful was when one of the other passengers in our Jeep decided to stand up to get a better picture of a pride of lions we were observing. On the ride back to camp our driver gave her a lecture on how she had endangered all of us, and made sure she knew if she ever did it again she would be banned from any future game drives. They take safety seriously!

The other time I was a little nervous was during one of our dinners. These were elegant affairs. We’d have drinks in the main house and then served a very tasty dinner out in the main lawn. One night the servers came flying out of the house telling us all we must come inside, right away. We all complied, and while standing on the porch saw the incredible sight of a large herd of elephants making their way through the area where we were enjoying dinner just moments ago. About ten minutes later the herd had past and we went back to our meal – surprised that the herd had walked by without disturbing a single table.

Chobe National Park

Our next safari adventure was in Botswana, at the Chobe Game Lodge in Chobe National Park. We took morning game drives there, and for the afternoons instead of game drives we were treated to river safaris. We saw ample numbers of lions, rhinos and other wildlife but it was the enormous herds of elephant and buffalo that were truly impressive. Each evening they’d come down to the river to drink and bathe, and watching hundreds of elephants make their way into the river is an amazing sight!

Chobe purportedly has the largest concentration of elephants in the world. The lodge is known for its sustainable practices and also has Africa’s first and only team of all female guides. I appreciated knowing my tourist dollars were going to such a progressive place committed to making a difference.

Victoria Falls

The final stop on out African adventure was the historic Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. A very formal hotel that was clearly built for the upper class, I’ll admit I felt a little uncomfortable walking around in my schlubby shorts and t-shirts. The hotel is beautiful and the service excellent, and it’s a very short walk to get down to the falls. We went during the dry season (best for game sighting) so the falls were only running at a fraction of their strength. They were still an awe inspiring sight.

I fell in love with Africa and want to go again, next time to east Africa perhaps to see the Great Migration. Until then I’ll leave you with our view of the sun setting over the Zambezi River.

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