Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"TIA;" This Is Africa

Not being sure where to start with the Africa trip (certainly I'll require more than one blog post), I'll start at the end.

I'm sitting in the Nelspruit airport, waiting to fly to Johannesburg, the first of three legs and 28 hours home.  This morning we saw four leopards, for a total of NINE individuals during our six night stay at Savanna Private Reserve.  Really.  They were often within a few feet of the Land Rover.  Truly this will take a while to sink in.

As will the whole experience.

Each day starts with tea and coffee at 5:15 and out we go at 5:30 to sunrise and anything from a coalition of three male lions cruising in the early light (think reservoir cats) to an elephant crashing into a marula tree to knock the fruit to the ground.

Each vehicle transports up to six guests, a tracker perched on the left front fender, and a driver/ranger (guide).  We had the great privilege to be guided by Neil Whyte, a native of the bush, naturalist, and talented wildlife photographer (his photo blog) on each of our 12 game drives.  It is such a delight to see his sense of wonder (and patience) as he educates us about things he has surely explained a very many times before.  We were typically the first to leave and the last to return to the lodge. We loved that!

Mid-day brings breakfast at about 11:00 and photo downloads, reading, and napping until lunch at 3:30 followed by the afternoon game drive.  Animals, not perceiving the Rover as a threat, get very close.  Sometimes close enough to touch (in theory.  Don't panic, Mom).  The first time a lion passes three feet below your face in the open vehicle and looks up at you, it can be a bit of a shock.

On the way back to the lodge after dark, we might sit quietly surrounded by a herd of cape buffalo in the moonlight, or photograph a spotted eagle owl startled from the road in the tracker's spotlight.  Watching the full moon rise was breathtaking.  Perhaps most memorable was the lion polishing off a newborn cape buffalo, bones and all.

There was time for a quick (outdoor) shower before dinner at 9:00.  Most of the time we were the only Americans among the diverse guests.  Meals were delightful, although I confess we were sometimes struggling to keep our eyes open.

It was tough to leave, but we found that as we were warned, we'll be back.

The African Safari Gallery can be seen on my Facebook Page.  Alas, there is trouble with my new provider.