Hello SA16 blog readers!
Sadly, today was our final day in South Africa, but it’s alright because it was a great day!
Yesterday and today were both extremely eventful and fun. Yesterday (Sunday, 3/27), we drove to Pilanesberg, a city 2.5 hours away from Johannesburg, to go on our safari. Around lunchtime, we checked into our hotel, the Bakubung Bush Lodge, and settled into our rooms. The hotel was a beautiful bungalow-style resort, complete with active monkeys hopping from tree to tree and a view overlooking some of the grassland area of the national park. At 3:45 PM, we embarked on our safari adventure. Because we had 30 people, we split into 2 different groups and rode with separate safari guides. However, we all observed magnificent animals during our first safari ride (we had one safari ride in the evening and another one in the early morning). During this time, we saw lions, giraffes, rhinos, impalas, zebras, and had a very close encounter with an elephant. Essentially, the elephant was so close to one of our trucks, some of the girls could have reached out their hands and touched it. After a few hours of exploring, we ate a wonderful meal with a campfire, the South African night sky, and traditional African entertainment. We even danced with another group of tourists!
This morning, everyone woke up around 4:30 AM to complete our 5:00 AM morning safari drive. This time, we were able to see a family of rhinos (2 parents and a baby), an eerie-looking giraffe, a herd of elephants with some babies, a lioness and her 3 cubs, and even 2 cheetahs. Considering there were only 6 total cheetahs in the entire national park (572 sq. km.), I believe we are an extremely fortunate group of travelers. We left Bakubung around 8:00 AM and began making our way to the elephant sanctuary.
At 10:00 AM, we arrived at the elephant sanctuary. Our guide, Simba, did a great job introducing us to the gorgeous elephants and to the sanctuary’s mission: to provide assistance in giving these elephants a second chance at life.
The sanctuary rescues elephants that are either hurt or mistreated, and attempts to rehabilitate them in a way with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. This mission is very powerful and many of the girls were highly touched by it. We got to walk with the elephants, interact with them, feed them, and even ride them! At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a nice lunch inside the sanctuary.
Below are reflections on our safari and elephant experiences from Kate Jones and Aurorah Arndt:
Kate: Hi everyone! My name is Kate Jones and I am a sophomore. Today, we had the opportunity to visit the monkey and elephant sanctuary. Our tour guide’s name was Simba. We first entered the monkey section of the sanctuary and we were surrounded by so many different monkeys. I got see a mamma monkey carrying her baby on her back as she hopped from branch to branch. We then crossed through a small fence to the elephant area. Simba guided us through the sanctuary and brought us to a small section in the woods where we were able to get up close and personal with two of their five elephants. We got to feel their ears, bellies, knees, elbows, trunks, and we got to feed them. We even got kisses from one of them! Our final two adventures, with the elephants, were walking them and riding them. I loved getting to ride them! This sanctuary was particularly amazing because it gave all of the animals a second chance at life. It is a place where they protect and rehabilitate these precious animals. This was a truly unique and once in a lifetime experience.
Aurorah: Hello! My name is Aurorah Arndt and I am a junior. Several friends and I decided that Pilanesberg South Africa must have altered by CGI because it looked as breathtaking as scenes from Lord of the Rings (I suggested staff receive cloaks and longswords to extenuate the ambiance but unfortunately they just didn’t see it my way). From the stifling heat of the afternoon to the frigid African morning we experienced every degree in between throughout the game drive experience. Such diversity wasn’t only present in the weather, but also within the diversity of the animals we saw! We viewed what was expertly defined as “deer-like creatures” such as; Impalas, Wildebeest, Giraffe and Zebra as well as other animals like cheetahs, lions, jackals, elephants, hippos, rhinos, and even crocodile! Although I am proud to report that our journey did not end in Mordor, but a lovely meal with other travelers illumined by fire intensified by live African performers in the evening!
As our trip is coming to a close, we want to thank all of our blog readers and followers. We have all had an incredible experience on the trip and will update you tomorrow on our travels back home.
-Bea and Meranda