Friday, 2 January 2009

Safari

Well, it's been a long time since I've updated this blog, but
I thought I'd start it off again on the New Year. And there's
definitely plenty of great stuff that I've been doing over the past few
weeks to blog about, so hopefully I'll be able to build up some
momentum and talk about what's going on here.

My family (Mom and Dad and Brother Scott) came to visit over the past
two weeks for the holidays. We really had a fantastic time,
and it seemed mainly dominated by food. It seemed like almost
every restaurant we went to had phenomenal food - here's a list of the
great places we ate, for anyone who visits Cape Town and wants a place
to eat:

Restaurants we loved

  • Five Flies

  • Mama Africa

  • Caveau

  • Barusso's Pizza

  • Riboville

  • Hussar's Grill (get the Warthog Ribs)

However, the most exciting thing we did was clearly the three-day
safari we went on in Kruger Park, way up north. So that's what I'll talk about
now.

Two days after my family arrived, the five of us (me, my family, and
Kristen) got on a plane to head up to Kruger. Of course, this was
not without a bit of disorganization from the Cape Town airport, which
was unable to cope with the fact that our flight has a different
schedule on the weekends than it does on Saturdays - hence, our plane
which was supposed to leave at 9 was listed on the airport monitors as
leaving at 10. There was confusion, which was eventually
sorted out after talking to several different airport employees, most of whom
did not give a shit. All of which is just to say that it was
a nice introduction to African disorganization for my family - TIA (This
Is Africa).

Regardless, we made it to Jock of the Bushveld,
a safari lodge situated about an hour inside Kruger. For
those who don't know, Kruger is an enormous piece of protected land
near the northern borders of South Africa. On it, all the wild animals
of the bush are allowed to roam free and do what they want, living the
lives they are meant to live (more or less). So there are
lions that hunt the zillion species of antelope (or whatever-the-hell else
they want - lions are pretty kick-ass, as I learned), elephants that
roam around and knock down shitloads of trees, buffalo that stink to
high heaven, and all sorts of other crazy animals. And people
are allowed inside with passes to travel along the roads and watch whatever
they can see. But please don't mess with the animals, 'cause
they will eat you. Kruger was made especially famous by the
awesome video of a baby buffalo being attacked by lions, which were
subsequently drubbed by almost every other predator in the wild.

Anyway, we got there in time to chill out for a minute before going on our
first expedition into the wild. We piled into the truck with
our awesome guide, JV, and set off. The first trip was not all
that great. After wandering around on the trails for about two
hours, we finally managed to see a couple of lone elephants from afar, which
was cool, but it was somewhat disappointing.

However, the next morning, after waking up at 5am, we set off again and
had an explosion of sightings. We immediately saw a lioness and her two
not-yet-grown sons walking along the road. Now, I have to
say, I was somewhat skeptical about the exciting-ness of lions before I came.
You always hear that they are the kings of the jungle and everything
(even though they don't live in the jungle, but in the bush), but I
just kind of figured it was media hype. But seeing those
lions, not even grown was definitely impressive - they walked right in front
of our car, looking at us with a look that said, "I am WAY cooler than
you, and I would eat the hell out of you if you even THOUGHT about
messing with me."


Lioness staring at us

Unfortunately, those were the only lions we
saw on the trip, but they were pretty damn cool, and they were right up
close in front of us. We also proceeded to see a leopard in a
tree (a rare sighting because they are really solitary and shy), a
whole pack of wild dogs (rare because they are endangered), a pack (?)
of white rhinos, and a bunch of other cool littler animals (including
an injured honey badger, which was really mean looking). They
were all really cool, and I was reassured that we weren't doomed to
seeing nothing on this (fairly expensive) trip.

The best part was to come on the second, evening outing. We spent about two
hours driving slowly along a dried-up riverbed, with JV seeing tons of
tracks of exciting animals, but never seeing anything. I
could tell he was getting frustrated, and so were the rest of us.
By that point, I was pretty much decided that evening trips sucked, and
morning trips were the shit.

Leopard in a tree

Finally, we headed out of the riverbed, and it seemed like we were headed home. Then JV noticed some fresh giraffe tracks (he was really amazing at
spotting things - I guess that's what being a ranger is all about) and
he quickly spun around and headed back the way we came, and out the other way. In about five seconds, we saw a whole bunch of giraffes eating leaves,
silhouted against the night sky. They're really gorgeous, and
the ladies loved it. So we were slightly mollified about seeing
nothing so far, and started heading down the track towards the main
road.

Giraffes are amazingly elegant

Suddenly, JV shut off the engine and the lights, and
shushed us to be quiet - there was a big herd of elephants straight
ahead on the road. There were about 3 adult females and 5
little kids, playing with each other and running around - real cute.
We stayed watching them for a few minutes, then started up the car and
inched along, expecting them to get out of the way. One of
the females puffed up her ears at us as if to tell us to get gone, and her
little baby did the same, which was super cute, but they quickly got
out of our way, and ran around behind us trumpeting. Finally,
we moved on a bit more... and right on the trail, directly in front of us
was a HUGE bull elephant, which massive tusks looming over us.
And he was NOT happy to see us. JV flashed the
light in his eyes to try and scare him away, but he was having none of it.
He puffed up his ears to make himself look bigger (and it worked, and made
him even more intimidating) and started to charge us!

Death approaches?

He stopped after a couple of feet (mock charge), but my mom almost lost it
Of course JV had it under control, and revved the engine several
times while making little mock charges of his own. You could
even see the indecision in the eyes of the elephant before he decided he
didn't really know what we were, so he moved out of the way, still
facing us. Then JV gunned the engine and shot out of there -
as I looked back, I could see the bull behind us start to chase us away,
trumpeting. It was highly exciting. Whether or not we were
in any danger, it really brought home the fact that no matter if there
are roads built through Kruger, it really is still the wild, and that
elephant would not have hesitated to kill us. If we hadn't
been in the big ol' car, we DEFINITELY would have been toast.

So we spent a few more days there, and each outing was very exciting with
lots of animal sightings. We did manage to see the big five
(lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and cape buffalo - the five most
dangerous animals to hunt on foot) and a whole shitload of other really
amazing creatures. All-in-all, it was a pretty incredible
experience, and I would highly recommend some form of safari to anyone
coming to Africa. Totally worth it.

4 comments:

Diesel said...

Amazing. Although I am a bit concerned that you ate at a place called Five Flies.

Alex said...

Yeah, the whole thing was really neat. And I have to say, I was a little nervous when we stepped into the restaurant (Five Flies) and their sign has a picture of flies buzzing around. But that place was by far the best restaurant we went to - goes to show, just 'cause the flies like it, don't mean it ain't delicious!

Christina L V said...

Hey Alex, you have to take Steffen and I around to these restaurants! We will be there in less than two months! Yeah! So you really recommend this Kruger Safari? Email me your travel info (guide, flight, lodge), maybe we will do that. Love, Chrissy

Christina L V said...

Hey Alex, you have to take Steffen and I around to these restaurants! We will be there in less than two months! Yeah! So you really recommend this Kruger Safari? Email me your travel info (guide, flight, lodge), maybe we will do that. Love, Chrissy