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South Africa


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 16 Part 3


Wednesday November 18, 2015 cont …

The Victoria Falls Hotel is situated in the Victoria Falls National Park along the southeast corner of town across from the falls.  Built in the early 1900’s, its grand Edwardian architecture capture the spirit of old aristocratic England.

Victoria Falls Hotel

Front entrance of The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe

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Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 4


November 6, 2015 – 12:00P

Rough night’s sleep.  My mind kept pondering over what to expect on our first game drive plus, the repetitive male lion mating call in the near distance took some getting used to.  haha!  Finally, I fell asleep sometime after 2:30A.  I woke up once to use the restroom.  Aryn had brought these mini battery operated candles that she had bought form the dollar store.  There is one beside our sink and one on the back of our toilet.  They provide a great little night light for the tent.  I was awoken this morning by native drums and a friendly “good morning” from one of our guides.  As I stretched myself into consciousness we heard a “plop” above our heads followed by a sliding sound down the pitch of our canvas roof.  We were like:  “What the heck is that?”  Then we saw a little baboon head pear over the edge of our roof into our room.  There were baboons jumping from the overhanging tree onto our roof and sliding down our roof.   They were playing!  It was hilarious.  They were also jumping down onto our stone front porch but as soon as we stood up from our beds, they left the porch.  They seem curious yet very skittish.  Much like the zebras we’ve encountered along the side of the road.


Baboons sliding down our roof

I have a new morning routine out here in the bush:  following my shower and moisturizer I have to apply sunblock and Deet for the mosquitos.

Breakfast was simple but filling.  Then it was off to our first game drive in Chobe National Park.  Our total group (minus our trip leader) equals 15.  We go out in 2 separate jeeps.  Out guides at this camp are “Six” and “Genius.”   They’re very friendly and incredibly knowledgable.  It’s amazing how they can spot even the smallest of creatures at a distance.  What I found the most interesting on this drive was the variety of different species co-habitating together.  In the grass across the Chobe River in Namibia we saw different types of antelopes (impalas and kudus) grazing with a “dazzle” of zebras and we saw a “clan” of hyenas running behind them all.  Amazing.  Inspiring.  And very educational.


Our game drive jeep

Our most frequent encounter on this trip were impala antelopes (mostly female).  We also saw a lot of zebra, sable antelope, cape buffalo, elephants (baby elephants are so cute btw) and get this … cows!  And they were wearing bells – no joke!  The beef industry is apparently huge in this region.  So these cows were all owned by a Namibian farmer.


Cape Buffalo

We also saw a lot of magnificent birds and even a few monkeys.  There were also a lot of small grey & blue spotted chicken-like animals called guinea fowls.  They travelled in packs and were quick to scatter as our jeep approached.  Our guide said they were nicknamed “Chobe Chickens” and someone in our jeep (I believe Donna) asked if they were edible.  “Six” said the meat of the guinea fowl is edible but so tough that they have to be cooked for many hours over hot coals and then once the meat is cooked the natives throw away the meat and eat the coals instead (because the meat is so tough).  haha!

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl aka “Chobe Chicken”

“Six” is a funny guy.  The roads of the park are dirt and extremely bumpy.  They called riding through these parks the “African massage.”  Six kept joking:  “It’s not the driver or the jeep, blame the roads.”  He was a good driver and very aware of tree branches that encroached the road.  He would slow down the jeep and raise his had to try and lift the branches up over the roof of the jeep.  He would then joke:  “I am the branch manager.”  I found this hilarious since that’s what I do for a living – branch manager of a bank.  🙂

I also learned what a termite mound was.  Very interesting.  If they were solid they are still active, the ones with holes (exposing the inner tunnels) are no longer active.  The soil from these mounds is so dense and strong it’s used to build the walls of the homes in African villages.  They range in size but are typically tower-shaped structures some thousands of years old.  For example, it takes a termite colony 100 years to build a mound the size of a soccer ball.  Very interesting.


A 1,000 year-old termite mound

Lunch was delicious.  Had my first taste of shepherd’s pie – very tasty.  Now I’m sitting on the cement ground of our front porch at our “tent.”  Aryn is inside trying to take a nap before our 3:00P afternoon game drive and “sundowner drink.” – not sure what that is but it sounds fun!  I’m looking out at Chobe National Park.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful.  I can hear a hyena in the distance.  Before yesterday, I didn’t even know what a hyena sounded like.  Now I’m hearing them not only in person but in their natural habitat.  What a privilege.  Everything else around seems still and relatively quiet.  There is a gentle breeze that feels good amongst the, otherwise, hot air.


Today’s afternoon/evening game drive was awesome.   Our first sighting was a “troop” of baboons around a grove of trees.  They were nestling their babies in their arms and when they walked their babies clung to their bellies and wrapped their tail around their mother’s tail.  So adorable.


Baboon mama and her babies

Next our jeep ventured into a trio of Southern Giraffes.  Six turned off the engine and while we sat their snapping a million photos another giraffe appeared from the trees, followed by two more until we were surrounded by 20 giraffes.  They kept coming from behind trees and cross the road right in front of us to go munch on more trees on the other side.  They were watching us as closely as we were watching them.   We must have sat there, in absolute awe, for, at least, a half hour, watching this “stride” of giraffes.  It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.  So cool!


I like that at the end of the day Vitalis briefs us on what to except the next day, including what time we need to wake up and be at breakfast.  After this briefing, our guides Six and Genius walk us to our “tents” by flashlight.  There are two guys dressed in all black that sit up along the trail leading to our tents.  Apparently, they stay up all night on guard.  They are watching for lions and leopards coming through camp.

Time for some sleep now.  It’s quieter tonight.  Mostly, I’m just hearing cicadas and crickets and the occasional baboon barking or hyena howling.  No lions tonight – as of yet.


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 2

November 4 – 6:30P

Arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa safely with luggage.   On the plane I watched Paper Towns (which was touching yet sad), Entourage (the movie) Antman (which I’ve been waiting to see ever since it came out) and the first half of Ted 2.  I slept on and off for maybe a total of 2.5 hours so I’m hoping to sleep well tonight.  Although the flight was 15 hours it didn’t feel as painfully long as I had expected.  Maybe I slept more than I’m calculating.

We are staying at Protea Hotels which seems to be a chain.   Accommodations are poshly modern.  Aryn and I just dropped off our luggage and are now going downstairs to meet her mother Judy and sister Katherine at the restaurant.  The room is small and the only thing separating the bedroom from the shower is half of a glass wall so we’ll have to get a bit creative with our bathroom privacy tonight.  Haha.

8:25P – The four of us ordered a bottle of South African cabernet labeled Warwick.  It was a very nice, dry and flavorful red.  I tried the Springbok Carpaccio which was served raw.  I learned Springbok is a type of antelope common to the area.   Its color was deep red and its texture was similar to salmon in terms of soft and almost disappearing in your mouth (not chewy at all).  It was tasty and paired great with the cabernet.  However, it didn’t fill me up so I ordered chocolate cake for dessert.  The cost for all four of us to eat and drink was $50 – not bad.  Going to bed now.  Exhausted. I have my mini travel fan next to my bed and some melatonin to hopefully help calm my curious mind and help me sleep.   Very excited to see our first camp and experience my first game drive.


Trip of A Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 1

November 3, 2015 – 2:50P

Waiting at my gate at the Akron/Canton Airport for Delta Airlines Flight 2211 to Atlanta where I will meet with long time friend Aryn Wilson, her mom Judy and sister Katherine for out trip through OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) to Africa!  Departing at 3:21P and arriving at 5:10P.  The flight to Johannesburg, South Africa departs at 7:10P with a flight time of 15 hours (sigh).   Planning on taking some melatonin paired with plenty of red wine to help me sleep.  Lunch was a delicious Oktoberfest beer and some mediocre spring rolls at the Great Lakes Brewing Co spot in the airport.

I’m excited and a bit nervous.  I have no idea what to expect and so my mind is racing.  I’m hoping to see some giraffes!  I emailed our trip leader Vitalis and he said that three of the four parks we are visiting have giraffes!  Already missing Aaron (and Louie, the pug).

Hopefully this trip allows my mind to destress from my hectic work life and free my mind to spark some creative juices flowing for my next books “Sheldon’s Falls” and “The Integrity Pie.”  Got my headphones and some music on my iPhone.  Gonna listen to some Pearl Jam.

P.S. Praying for safe travels and Aaron to be safe at home.


Overseas Adventure Travel: Ultimate Africa 2015 Pre-Trip


Roughly 2 years ago (March 2013) my partner, Aaron and I were back in the San Fransisco Bay Area for a friend’s wedding.  During our trip we stayed a few nights with an old college friend (and the maid of honor) Aryn.  I’ll never forget this moment that sparked the trip of a lifetime: “Ultimate Africa”  The three of us were seated in Aryn’s living room of her Concord, CA apartment when I noticed a photo book placed on her coffee table.  I picked it up and paged through it amazed by all the beautiful photos of African animals.  I asked where she bought the book and she said they were her photos she had submitted through Shutterfly.  I was completely blown away.   Not only were these photos magnificent but the proximity Aryn was to these wild and roaming animals I had only ever seen in cages at various zoos.  “Oh yeah,” Aryn said, “these game drive jeeps take you right up to the lions and rhinos.”  Wow!

Aryn had mentioned that her and her mom Judy were looking to take a second trip only to a different part of Africa.  She emailed me a link to OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) and their “Ultimate Africa:  Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari” including an overnight in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Without hardly a second  thought, I enthusiastically said”: “Sign me up” and on November 3, 2015 Aryn, her sister Katherine, mother Judy and myself were all on a plane from Atlanta to Johannesburg.

During this trip, I kept a daily journal and I thought it would be fun to post this (day by day) on my blog.  I will begin with the first post tomorrow proceeding for the next 17 days (taking a break for the Thanksgiving Holiday and maybe Black Friday).  I will be including photos and videos that correspond with the events and sitings of each specific day along with videos of the “tents” we stayed in at each location.

8 months prior to the trip I had to get in touch with Passport Health Dept to begin my vaccinations and 2 days prior to the trip I had to begin taking my daily malaria pill (I highly recommend taking this WITH food).  Packing was very involved, I had to get a specific type of mosquito spray (Sawyer brand) to apply to my clothing – which it’s recommended to do outside and away from many contact with pets and your skin).  I also purchased 3 cans of bug spray containing, at least, 30% DEET, that I sprayed on my check, ears, and any exposed skin each morning.  I ended up only using 2 cans of the DEET so I’m returning the 3rd to Dick’ Sporting Goods tomorrow.

I also recommend packing a back-up battery for your camera.  Our tented camps provided laundry service for everything except our “smalls” (underwear), so I only packed 2 pairs of shorts, a pair of gym shorts, swimming trunks, 5 pairs of socks, a hoodie, hat and 4 shirts.  I packed enough underwear for 10 days as I was able to wash them in the bathroom sink in our tent (powered soap was provided).  I also recommend buying a cheap pair of sunglasses (don’t bring your expensive name brand pair).  Other items are sunscreen, a flashlight, an extra bag to pack souveniers and whatever toiletries you need – including Advil, DayQuil, NightQuil, Tums, Vitamin C & Zinc, extra contacts if you wear them, lotion, aloe, and see if the pharmacy will prescribe you a pill for traveller’s diarrhea.  The flight from Atlanta was 15 hours, so I recommend bringing something to read (although there were dozens of good movies to choose from, plus the essential sleep – if you’re able to sleep on a plane).  Check with your cell phone provider too about a cheap international calling or FaceTime Plan.  🙂  Lastly, I highly recommend buying a pair of “zip off pants” that covert into shorts.  I bought mine online form Eddie Bauer for $40 plus shipping.  TOTALLY worth it!

OAT is great about helping you prepare for this trip and they do accept installments on your payment.  A couple weeks prior to the trip they sent me a small booklet called: Your Final Document Booklet.  This thing was incredibly informative and I was very glad I brought it with me.  It included our Day-by-Day Itinerary, Friendly Reminders and Emergency Contact Information of each place we were staying to copy & give to our loved ones at home.  I called and asked for an extra copy to leave at home with Aaron, which they gladly sent.

Hope you all enjoy my blog!