October 31, 2011

Photo Safari I – guest post by CathyR

 

Well, what would you think if you received a phone call out of the blue saying “Congratulations, you’ve won a safari to South Africa”? Probably the same as Paul thought – it’s a con, what’s the catch?

Fortunately he didn’t (as I am wont to do) hang up!

“Did you stay at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Birmingham in May”?

Mmm – yes …

“Do you remember completing a competition entry, when you checked out of the hotel”?

Mmmm – no not really ….

“Well, you’ve won first prize in the random draw – a five day safari trip to Kruger Park in South Africa. We’ll be sending you an email”.

Wow, ok!

And then came the email:

Which finally convinced him.

We’d won!

He then had the job of convincing me – and ten months later, we went on our safari!

We left it as late as possible, and chose the end of August. This is the end of the SA winter, the end of the dry season. With water supplies concentrated around fewer waterholes, and almost no foliage on the trees, conditions would be optimum for spotting wildlife.

Hardened cynic that I am, I thought that this was going to be “safari for the masses”. I envisaged being packed in a safari jeep with loads of others, going out in convoys, and generally being herded around and not seeing very much. How pleasantly surprised I was to be proved so wrong!

Our prize itinerary included time at Elephant Whispers (a sanctuary with six tamed and trained elephants rescued from culling)

http://elephantwhispers.co.za

This was a really interesting morning. One of the guides gave a fascinating talk, with one of the elephants lying down so we could feel his ears and his skin, and look under his feet …

After the “Interaction”, we went on a short elephant ride (no dignity here, for us tourists, when it comes to being helped off the back of a very tall elephant)! Elephant Whispers was just on the other side of the Sabie River from our accommodation, the Hippo Hollow estate. We returned to Hippo Hollow and then, from their side of the river, came the elephants to have a good old wallow and scratch and play around in the mud and the dust and the grass and the water. What a treat that was, to sit in the sun and watch them for an hour and a half.

Tembo, the largest of the six elephants, wanting to come out of the river onto the hotel-side river bank, and having to be dissuaded!

Our safari “proper” with an early morning game drive. We also had as part of the prize a full day safari and two sundowner safaris, which left us with two mornings/early afternoons free. Concerned about the potential hordes of tourists, we booked ourselves on private early morning safari, to guarantee at least one trip with just us two and the guide. As it turned out, we were the only ones on the full day safari and one of the evening drives as well, so we had three private trips in all, which was just fantastic! ^^

For our second free morning, on our last day, Paul persuaded me to have a go on the Skyway Trail, Africa’s longest aerial cable trail comprising nine separate cable slides over – and through – 1.2km of forest. http://www.skywaytrails.com. To say I took a bit of persuading is putting it mildly. But the alternative was quadbiking, and I’d tried that before. Never again!! *

And it was fantastic!!  I loved it!! As soon as we’d finished, I wanted to do it all again.

Paul said smugly, “I knew you’d enjoy it”!

At the top of the first, high slide. This is SO not a good idea. There is NO WAY …

Wheeee!!!

Touchdown!

Through the woods

Fantastic! I want to do it all again!

* I do not do adrenalin at all. I don’t like fear! If you’d seen me having a go at quadbiking in Namibia three years ago, you’d have laughed! I was absolutely pathetic!  Two – very slow – circuits of the practice track and that was it – I was in the jeep with the driver following the others on their quadbikes over the dunes! Much more fun – and I could take pictures.

^^ Photos to follow in part 2.

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