Tag Archives | safari

A Ticket to South Africa

“All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa.  We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”—Ernest Hemingway

They say that you shouldn’t start blog posts with a quote.  They say that it some how takes away from rest of the post.  I think that is bunk.  Hemingway was onto something.  His thoughtful comment completely captures how we feel about Africa.  While our visit to South Africa was short, it changed us forever.  We want to take you along on our discovery.

Township south Africa

A view of Soweto

The Soweto

Our African experience began in Johannesburg, South Africa, affectionately known as Jo’Burg.  We endured the long flight from the States.  It continues to amaze us that you can board a flying tin can and travel half way around the world in less than a day.  Once we got our feet underneath us, we joined up with our guide Henry and headed for the Soweto.  Soweto is short for “South Western Township.”   The sprawling shanty metropolis is the home to 1.3 million people.  It has a rough and difficult history that we won’t dive into here; needless to say, we felt that it was important to see and attempt to understand first hand.  Our guide drove us around the Soweto, pointing out the hospital, when electricity came to the area, and how all the city functioned. Our guide took us into a couple of homes. We met the families that lived there.  Our “abundance guilt” bubbled up in our hearts.  A visit to the township was powerfully instructive. We ended our tour at Nelson Mandela’s house and mentally exhausted.

The next morning we hired our rental car for our adventure.   You would think that we would engage a Range Rover for the self-guided safari that we were embarking on?  No, we went cheap.  We opted for the four-cylinder Chevy Aveo.  Bad decision.  But we will save that story for a little later.  We headed north on highway one.  Our destination:  Zimbabwe.

Going into Zimbabwe

Crossing the border into Zimbabwe

Destination Zimbabwe

One of Luci’s lifetime goals is to visit Zimbabwe.  Why would an Idaho farm girl set a crazy goal like that?  We do not know.  The journey took a little over 5 hours.  As we approached the border crossing, we began to have second thoughts.  Zimbabwe does not have the friendliest relations with our fair country.  We parked at the South African checkpoint on the south bank of the Limpopo River.  We went in and were greeted by a grim-faced bureaucrat.  We explained our intent to cross into Zimbabwe, get our Passport stamped and return.  We both saw the blood kind of drain out of his face.

“Why are you doing this thing?” He politely asked.  We smiled and tried to explain.  Rather than attempt to counter our stupidity, he instructed us to do a number of things for our safety.  “Pull your car around to the front of the building, it will likely be stolen or broken into.  Go there, come back quickly and see me when you return so I know that you have returned safely.”

Zimbabwe border

Welcome to Zimbabwe

At this point, both of us were having second thoughts.  If our rental car company didn’t want us to drive across this river into this country, why in the world are we going across?  Like walking the plank, we bravely marched across the baboon ridden bridge.  We were headed by foot to Zimbabwe.  We were obviously tourists. Luci had her camera around her neck.  We didn’t have our belongings wrapped in a sheet or carrying grocery sacks across the bridge on our heads like others crossing.  As we approached, we were welcomed by camo-clad militia men with AK-47s strapped to their backs.  Each in turn looked at us with healthy suspicion.  We nervously whispered back and forth to each other…”keep walking, keep walking.”   We entered the run down custom’s house.  It was sheer craziness.  Crowds pushed forward to face the three to four border agents that were behind bars.

The heat that day was blistering.  Humidity was off the charts.  The air was close in the steamy small room.  We were unsure of ourselves.  Our naivety was written on our faces.  A couple of different agents came from one of the back rooms and pulled us aside and suggested that we pay them to make the process go faster.  We declined.  The price was adjusted.  Again we opted out.  In the developing situation, it soon became clear that the likelihood that we were going to make it out of the experience without our wallets being lightened significantly was highly unlikely.  Was it worth it for the Passport stamp?  I said, “Let’s go.”  We walked out.  We dashed back across the bridge to check back with our caring friend and find our car unmolested.  We had accomplished our goal.  We had set foot in Zimbabwe.  The adventure was just beginning.

South Africa Safari woman

The view from the veranda of the lodge.

 

A peaceful outpost

We made our way back into the savanna of South Africa.  We had done our research and found a quaint bed and breakfast on a small reservoir, the Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge.  This was our first taste of the night sounds of Africa.  It was wonderful.  We had our dinner on the veranda overlooking the water and listened.  We recounted our brave adventures that day and started to connect with the place that we had traveled so far to see.

The next morning we would head out on our self-serve safari to see some of the most incredible animals in the world.

Africa was truly a grand adventure!

 

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Our 7 Links

Tripbase recently started a new project meant to connect travel bloggers around the world & share their awesome content.  We were nominated by our friend Christina of Middle Seat View.  Thanks Christina!  We have been running our blog for the past year and a half.  We have learned a lot.  More important we have made some great friends all around the world.  People that we would have never met.  We are so grateful for their friendship.

So as a part of this project, we share 7 links.  These are out babies, so it was hard to pick ones for each question…Anyway, here they are.  We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we had writing.

At the end of this post, we nominate a few travel bloggers to continue on the project.

1)    Our Most Beautiful Post:

http://1000fights.com/general/fighting-couple-safari-2/

Our trip to South Africa was a tour of sights, sounds and images we will never forget.

2)    Our Most Popular Post:

http://1000fights.com/general/turkish-baths-arent-for-whimps/

Hands down, Mike’s  first Turkish bath has been far and away our most popular.  Not sure why?

3)    Our My Most Controversial Post:

http://1000fights.com/general/observations-race-south-africa/

Race is always a touchy subject.  It can elicit strong emotions.  This was a great guest post that took on the subject.

4)    Our Most Helpful Post:

http://1000fights.com/general/turkish-take-aways-churches/

This took us the most work to research.  We worked hard before we visited the sites to know what we were going to see.  Writing the we did equally the amount of research.  We have had a number of kind comments about it’s helpfulness.

5)    A Post Whose Success Surprised Us:

http://1000fights.com/general/blogging-bombshells/

We decided to host a little “blog beauty contest”.  We wanted to highlight the great travel blogs out there.  We didn’t expect much,and candidly didn’t put a whole lot of work into it. Turns out it went crazy!  Folks voting and encouraging others to vote.  It was a blast.

6)    A Post We Feel didn’t get the Attention it Deserved:

http://1000fights.com/greatest-fights/

Part of our blog’s mission is to collect great travel fights.  Read our best one.  Have a great travel fight, we would love to hear about it.

7)    The Post that We are Most Proud of:

http://1000fights.com/slideshowable/swaziland-a-window-into-hope-and-desperation/

Swaziland is not exactly on everyone’s destination list to visit on vacation.  We did.  We were better people for it.  So many lessons learned.  I just wish we could have spent more time there.

Now comes the fun part. I’m nominating the following bloggers to share their wisdom by publishing their 7 links on their blogs:

The Roamantics

Jack and Jill Travel

The 10 Year Itch

The Thinking Nomads

Dream a little Dream

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The Secret Safari

Africa is on just about every one’s list as places to see.  With that said, one of the primary barriers that prevent folks from going on safari is the hefty price tag.  Our initial search for safari providers yielded prices ranging from $1000 to $5000 a night!  Ouch!  Perhaps one of the best kept secrets to going on safari is Kruger National Park in South Africa.  Envision a national park the size of England.  It is the self-serve safari.

Here is the drill.  You drive your own car between the different camps in the park.  You simply map out in advance where you want to stay.  Each area has its own character.  There are basically three different types of camps: Main camps, Bush camps, and overnight hides.  Each has its own level of accommodation, cost, and comforts.    We stayed at Sirheni, Olifants, and Skukuza.  We made stops at Mopani, Punda Maria, and Satara.  Let us know if you have quesitons about any of these.  Our favorite was by far Sirheni.  Some camps offer morning and evening walks and drives with park wardens. Candidly, we saw more critters on our own.  But the wardens did offer interesting insights.

Going it on your own in an air-conditioned car, also allowed us to see exactly what we wanted to see. We set our own pace. Taking some back roads, we even got caught in a herd of water buffalo!

Ok we must offer this caution disclaimer.  DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR AUTO.  You are very safe in your car.  Kruger is not Disneyland .  It is not a zoo.  You are on the turf of some of the most dangerous animals on the planet (hippos being one of the most dangerous?!).  There are snakes.  There are large predators.  STAY IN YOUR CAR.  As two people that are prone to fights, we were concerned about the danger in our car as well as out.  Interesting enough, being cooped up together for four days passed uneventful.  The dramatic beauty and adventure that is around every corner in Kruger prevented any blowups!  AMAZING!

So do you really get to see the animals especially the Big 5?  YES!  Take a look at a few of the animals we saw:

Must haves for doing Kruger:

Food-One of the downsides of doing Kruger is certainly the food.  Many of the Bush camps don’t have restaurants. If they do have a restaurant, it tastes like cafeteria food. You can bring your own food and barbecue or cook at any of the camps. We did this one evening and should have done it every evening.

A good auto-Make sure your auto is good working order. Make sure you have a spare tire(s).  You are truely on your own.  Some roads are very rough.  You don’t need a Range Rover, but you do need something that wont leave you in a lurch.

Updated GPS-we used a garmin NUVI.  Worked great.  Not all roads appeared.  But enough to get us between camps and even a quick jaunt into Mozambique.

A better than average Zoomer-A good camera with a 250mm+ lens is mandatory.  You will not be getting out of your auto.  So you must let the lens do the walking.

Be friendlyMost of the people we met were also doing the self-serve safari. Slow down and ask them what they’ve seen and share what you’ve encountered close by. On one back road, we got tipped off that there were lion cubs just a few miles away. Most likely, we would have driven past and never seen them. On another adventure, someone pointed out a leopard!

Cash-We were not prepared for this.  Much of what you do in the park takes cash.  There are ATMs but they are all from one provider bank so if your card doesn’t work with that carrier, they wont work anywhere. (see Africa fight #5)

Bring shower shoesAs a self diagnosed germ-a-phobe, I can say most of the camps were clean, with the exception of the showers. I was glad I brought some flip flops!

Kruger is amazing.   A great safari is within your budget.

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