South Africa Vacation

I got back today from my week-long trip to South Africa with a circle of friends.  It was my first time in Africa (My first time off of the continent, actually).  The trip itself went off without a hitch and the experience was amazing.

Our first two days were at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve with several game drives and we saw the Big Five (Leopard, Lion, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, Elephant) + Two (Hippopotamus and crocodile).  We actually saw a leopard, regarded as the most difficult of the Big Five to find, ten minutes into our first game drive not even thirty feet from us.

We managed to find road crossings for almost every animal as well.

We were also…excreted at…by an elephant; let me tell you, they excrete proportional to their size.  Another elephant gave us a mock charge and put a frighten into our group.  At the very end of our very last game drive we got some absolutely beautiful up-close lion encounters with a pride right up against the road.

After the game drives we went to the Cradle of Humankind, a paleoanthropological cave system that is the source of many early hominid fossils and information about early human evolution.

We went into Lesotho for a day and visited the Katse Dam, which is absolutely massive and something to behold.  Lesotho is known as the “Kingdom in the Sky”, and the mountain road to get up there passed 3 km high (nearly two miles) and was perilously twisty.  The poverty in Lesotho was also something to behold; South Africa has problems of its own, but even still the difference was striking.  Our tour guide emphatically warned us not to give any money to children begging, so we collected all of our uneaten food from breakfast/lunch and passed it out to the shepherds on the roadside.

Before we went to the airport yesterday we stopped by a craft store for all the obligatory touristy kitschy souvenirs, and I have to say that I have never been subjected to a hard-sell like I got there.  They had tricks I had honestly never encountered before, nor even considered; when you bought something from one person he passed the purchases to somebody else to wrap for you, and it’s only then that you realize this is a separate salesman who starts offering his own wares as he packs your stuff, not a wrapper from the same booth.  They would ask your name and begin engraving it on a statue while you were standing there before you had even agreed to buy it yet, they would overhear our conversations and pick up names and then begin calling you directly, and they deliberately split us up so we couldn’t herd together.  If you think the old cliche about used car salesmen being pushy is true, you haven’t seen anything; every single one of us was fleeced almost dry.

It was a heck of an experience.

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Elsa’s Kopje Meru - Kenya

Nestled within the untamed wilderness of Kenya’s Meru National Park, Elsa’s Kopje Meru is a marvelous safari lodge offering superb accommodation, sumptuous dining, and a plethora of activities and excursions. Carved into the rocky walls of Mughwango Hill, its individually designed open-fronted cottages boasts sprawling private decks and stunning views of the open plains.

The honeymoon suites come with romantic outdoor baths, while the Private House has its own gorgeous infinity swimming pool. Meals are prepared with the freshest ingredients and served under the stars, and activities range from guided walks and game drives to exciting day excursions.

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Zarafa Dhow Suites

Located on the far eastern end of Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, the Zarafa Dhow Suites combine lavish tented accommodation with five-star services and unparalleled game viewing to offer guests the ultimate African safari experience.

Part of Great Plains Conservation, the units accommodate four adults and one children in two opulent bedrooms, complete with fireplaces, freestanding copper bathtubs, alfresco showers, and breathtaking views over the Zibadianja Lagoon.

Both the bedrooms as well as the wonderfully styled living area have a distinct African flavor, with rich, classically inspired furnishings and colors borrowed from the surrounding landscapes. A stay here includes exquisite meals, guided walks, and game viewing in a private open 4×4 vehicle, to name but a few.

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Now here’s a shot I can’t say I’ve seen before.