Spring Break Part 1: SafariCape Town, Spring 2012
Back in the States, spring break normally consists of going back home to relax, spend some time with the family, and catch up on the sleep that you missed out on during midterms. That was not the case this semester. To put it lightly… this was the most epic spring break I have ever had. It was full of adventure; in fact, we packed so much into that week that it is going to take me several posts to tell the story in full. So, get ready. Here is part one… The first part of our spring break started out with our IES-organized safari. We got on a plane to Johannesburg and then drove to Kruger National Park from there. After resting up at the hostel the first night, we got up at the crack of dawn the next day (no, literally… we got up on 4am) so that we could be the first in line for safari when the park opened. It took about an hour to get there and we drove in open vehicles on the highway. It was so, SO cold. But it was all worth it when we got to see the sun rise over Kruger Park. It was beautiful. [caption id="attachment_39592" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Watching the African sunrise on our way to Kruger."][/caption] And with that, our safari began. We hit the road with our tour guide looking for as many animals as we could spot. [caption id="attachment_39596" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Welcome to Kruger!"][/caption] We were all so excited for this trip. I know I had been looking forward to it for weeks. We were out to find all of “The Big Five,” which are the animals that are the hardest to hunt in South Africa. They are the rhino, water buffalo, elephant, lion, and (the very rare to spot) leopard. [caption id="attachment_39597" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Some of my fellow IES students and I all ready for safari!"][/caption] The first animal we saw was the impala. They are very common around in South Africa. Kruger is to impala as upstate New York is to deer. But hey, they were still really cute to look at. [caption id="attachment_39598" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Some baby impala testing out their antlers!"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_39599" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Next up was the monkey! These guys were fun to watch as they flung themselves from branch to branch. "][/caption] The first of the big five that we were able to spot was the elephant. We also saw a couple of baby elephants. This made my heart melt a bit, as the elephant is my favorite animal. It was adorable. [caption id="attachment_39600" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The babies linking onto their mothers. "][/caption] We also found this guy trying to disguise himself behind the tree… [caption id="attachment_39601" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="We can still see you back there!"][/caption] The second of "The Big Five" spotted was the water buffalo. We actually saw a herd of about 40-50 of them. [caption id="attachment_39602" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Some of the water buffalo we spotted. Two of “The Big Five” down, three more to go!"][/caption] Some of the other animals we saw were the zebra, the baboon, and the hungry hungry hippo. I have included some pictures for your viewing pleasure… [caption id="attachment_39603" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Our tour guide explained to us that zebras are an endangered species. There is actually a zebra national park near UCT that is dedicated to preserving the species. Who knew?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_39604" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="A baby baboon hanging onto its mother. "][/caption] [caption id="attachment_39605" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Some hippos hanging out with their crocodile friends by the water."][/caption] The third animal of "The Big Five" we found was the lion. She was really far away, but I did manage to snap a picture of her. [caption id="attachment_39606" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I felt like I was in the movie "The Lion King" for a split second."][/caption] The first day of safari was extremely eventful. By the end of it, we were exhausted. That night we actually got to sleep in Kruger Park so we could go right to the safari part on the second day. We stayed in hunts on one of the campgrounds after hanging out by the campfire that night. It was so much fun. We were told to be careful walking around at night, as there had been numerous occurrences of the park animals finding their way onto the campgrounds. (I learned my lesson from climbing Lion’s Head and remembered to bring my flashlight on this trip). And I am happy to report that no one was eaten by a lion at night. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to hit the road bright and early the next morning in search of more animals. After all, we still needed to see the last two of “The Big Five.” [caption id="attachment_39607" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="My roommate, Arielle, and I at the Kruger Park campground."][/caption] The second day of safari was just as eventful as the first. We did get to see a rhino, however, it was so far away that it was hard to get a good picture of it. So, you’ll have to trust me on that one. Rhinos are actually becoming harder and harder to spot these days, as they are being poached more often by hunters who are selling their tusks for large sums of money. The park has stepped up security in hopes that it can stop this and save the rhino population. With four down, there was only one left to find, the leopard. We were told not to get our hopes up too much though, as it is fairly rare to see one of them. Leopards are very territorial animals, so often there is only one of them every couple of miles. One of my favorite moments was when we witnessed an elephant cross the road. This guy literally halted traffic. [caption id="attachment_39608" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="At least he looked both ways before crossing. "][/caption] Some of the other animals we saw were a warthog (Pumba, from The Lion King), and several birds (including Zazoo, also from The Lion King). I essentially referred to all of the animals we saw on this trip by their "Lion King" character names. That’s normal, right? Then, finally, at the end of the day, just when we were about to exit the park and head home, we saw a leopard. We were all very bummed at the thought of leaving without seeing one, but just as we were leaving the park, we spotted one about 100 meters from the exit gate. The leopard was hiding in a tree way off in the distance. [caption id="attachment_39609" align="alignnone" width="250" caption="Consider the leopard found! Finding all of "The Big Five"… check!"][/caption] And with that, we were done with our safari trip. After two long days, we headed back to the hostel to rest up for part two of our journey. [caption id="attachment_39610" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Bye bye Kruger! It was fun while it lasted!"][/caption] Next stop: Soweto, Johannesburg! You can read all about that in Part Two… coming soon!
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