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First Safari: South Africa


hannahcat

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It seems that there has been a rash of first timers contributing their new-found enthusiasm to the South Africa forum, and I am very happy to be contributing my voice to that chorus.

 

Like many people, it has been my dream since childhood to go on safari. Like far fewer of those people, I found out last fall that I would be attending a conference in Cape Town in August, 2015, and the moment I heard that, I knew I had to grab my chance to go on safari. I talked my husband into flying out to Cape Town to join me after the conference (it didn't require too much talking, though he was hesitant about the length of the flight), we spent a couple of days there, and then we flew to Dulini lodge (via Joburg and then Federal Air) for five nights of safari. (I wish it could have been much longer, but neither of us get much vacation time.)

 

I'm a librarian by training, so once I knew I was going on safari, I started my research: I bought a DSLR (Nikon 3300), signed up for classes, bought field guides, and found SafariTalk. I began lurking here, but my lurking was of the fairly normal, garden variety.

 

Then, things took an unexpected turn this spring. I won't go into all the details on a public forum, but suffice it to say that my father, with whom I had always been very close and who all his life had been the picture of health, fell suddenly ill, went into the hospital, and died a few weeks later. It was an absolute crashing shock.

 

While in the hospital, and then in the weeks after, this safari took on some other meaning for me. While in the hospital in those interminable waiting rooms, I was constantly reading trip reports, or on the Trip Advisor forum. I started dreaming about animals. I went on, I think, a sort of safari of the mind -- a pre-safari of a kind, and a bit of a separation from reality.

 

By the time I actually went on safari, I was terrified of it. Could it possibly, in any way, live up to the safari I had been living in my head for months? It seemed impossible, and yet I felt I just couldn't stand another disappointment.

 

Suffice it to say, with the exception of my wedding day, those were the best d*** five days of my life. Honestly, they breathed the life back into me. We just got back a couple of weeks ago (the safari was from August 24th - August 29th), and I'm already planning to bring my widowed mother back there.

 

We did get very lucky though. Here are a few shots from the leopard and cub we saw on our first game drive ever -- we were with a lovely British couple who had been on eight or so safaris before, and they couldn't believe this was our first sighting.

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It seems that there has been a rash of first timers contributing their new-found enthusiasm to the South Africa forum, and I am very happy to be contributing my voice to that chorus.   Like many peo

First of all, let me say thanks to everyone who recommended, either explicitly or implicitly through their trip report writing, that it's important to take notes. At the time, of course, I thought "th

So, I suppose I should be a bit more methodical about this, and go back a bit to Cape Town.   Michael, my husband, arrived, and within 24 hours had broken his toe in the shower. We did not realize,

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Welcome to ST! So sorry to hear of your father's passing. It seems as though being surrounded by nature has a definite healing quality; I think bringing your mother on your next safari is an excellent idea.

 

Marvelous photos so far. That first sighting would be very hard to beat.

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fictionauthor

I'm a librarian by training, so once I knew I was going on safari, I started my research

 

I love librarians (and ex-librarians), so a special welcome to ST!

 

I went on, I think, a sort of safari of the mind -- a pre-safari of a kind, and a bit of a separation from reality.

 

We all do that, for various reasons, and you've phrased it so well.

 

I'm already planning to bring my widowed mother back there.

 

That is a fabulous idea. Thank you for posting these delightful photos of the mother and cub on the limb. I haven't seen anything quite like that before.

 

 

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Beautiful photos That is a very, very speical sighting. You could go on safari for 50 years and not see that, out in the open like that.

 

Welcome!

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Game Warden

@@hannahcat What a stunning first drive you must have had.

 

Sorry to hear about your father - my condolences.

 

Matt

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Towlersonsafari

What stunning photo's-seeing the leopards must have been quite a profound experience. forgive me if it sounds crass, but my father, who passed away suddenly some time ago, was mad keen on kestrels, and whenever we were going to africa, was not bothered about the lions etc, but wanted to know if we had seen Dickenson's Kestrel. the first time we saw one, after he had passed away alas, was a very moving time!

hope you have many more safari's!

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michael-ibk

Welcome! Sorry to hear about your father but glad your Safari expectations were not only met but surpassed on your very first drive. What an incredible sighting! :)

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Kitsafari

So sorry to hear about your dad.

 

But What a welcome the bush had for you!such great photos of the exchange between the mum and cub. The photography lessons certainly helped and makes think that I should go for lessons as well! Look forward to reading more of your trip and seeing the photos.

 

.

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Beautiful photos That is a very, very speical sighting. You could go on safari for 50 years and not see that, out in the open like that.

 

Welcome!

 

Thanks so much. I do feel very lucky. Maybe even a little blessed -- particularly seeing a parent and child together was very meaningful to me. So glad I get to contribute to this forum that has meant so much to me.

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What stunning photo's-seeing the leopards must have been quite a profound experience. forgive me if it sounds crass, but my father, who passed away suddenly some time ago, was mad keen on kestrels, and whenever we were going to africa, was not bothered about the lions etc, but wanted to know if we had seen Dickenson's Kestrel. the first time we saw one, after he had passed away alas, was a very moving time!

hope you have many more safari's!

Not crass at all! It is those little things that do get to you. And I think it's great that he was so interested in kestrals, even to the point of ignoring lions. That's someone with a unique way of going about the world, and I'm sure he's strongly missed.

 

I'm really enjoying your trip report too, by the way!

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So sorry to hear about your dad.

 

But What a welcome the bush had for you!such great photos of the exchange between the mum and cub. The photography lessons certainly helped and makes think that I should go for lessons as well! Look forward to reading more of your trip and seeing the photos.

 

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The classes helped tons! So did watching a DVD Intro to Photography class, offered by the "Great Courses" series. This one was taught by Joel Sartore, a contributing editor for National Geographic, and one of his basic points was that photography is work: you have to think about it and then take a ton of pictures to get what you want. It was nice hearing such an esteemed photographer say that it doesn't "just happen" for him, either.

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So, I suppose I should be a bit more methodical about this, and go back a bit to Cape Town.

 

Michael, my husband, arrived, and within 24 hours had broken his toe in the shower. We did not realize, however, that he had broken his toe -- we just thought he was wounded and that I didn't seem to be able to bandage him properly in the hotel room. Thank goodness we had hired a private tour operator for the day -- Clive, from The Cape Town Tour Guide Co. He was terrific -- took one look, declared we needed to get to a hospital, took us there, and stayed with us until the decision was made to have surgery. I won't go through all the details of the day, but suffice it to say we were very impressed with the South African private system of health care (though we understand that the public system isn't nearly as good): Michael was evaluated, x-rayed, in surgery, in recovery, through physical therapy, and back in his hotel bed, all in about 10.5 hours. To top it all off, Clive had booked us on a group tour of the Cape for the next day (as Clive was already booked), and we were able to go. Clive was, clearly, absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend him for any tour or other project you might have in mind while in Cape Town.

 

I thought it was neat seeing the ostriches by the ocean.

 

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And Seal Island (even though they're really sea lions, aren't they?)

 

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And of course, who doesn't like penguins.

 

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The next day, with Michael still very much a trooper, we flew to Joberg, then took Federal Air to the airstrip near Dulini Lodge in the Sabi Sands.

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Dulini was just a wonderful lodge. I felt instant rapport with the manager who greeted us, Jesse, who I later learned had conducted some very interesting research on the elephants in the sand forests of the Phinda reserve. And the moment we sat in ranger Fred's and tracker Martin's vehicle and Fred explained that his philosophy was all about quality over quantity and really spending time with the animals, I knew I was in just the right place with just the right people.

 

I have already given away the stars of the show for the first game drive, of course, but there were other wonderful sightings. We saw mongoose (I didn't get pictures then, but did later on), an old bull elephant (picture below), hornbills, baboons, and even, in the dark on the way home, a baby genet in a tree. A very, very lucky start indeed.

 

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SafariChick

@@hannahcat a big welcome to Safaritalk! So sorry about your Dad - I lost my Dad after an accident that led to a long illness and no matter how you lose them, it is so difficult. But so glad your safari was so wonderful. I am SO jealous of your leopard mama and cub sighting! I saw my first leopard cub on my fourth safari this past February and it was adorable - but quite a bit bigger than this one. Your photography is great! I might have to watch that DVD you mentioned. I'm still using a bridge camera but got to play with a DSLR at Mara Plains and it was quite fun, I have to admit!

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Welcome Hannah!

 

I can so relate to thoughts of a safari giving respite from reality. ?

 

Quite an incredible first couple of outings for you!

 

The photography lessons definitely paid off. Looking forward to more!

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Tom Kellie

~ @@hannahcat

 

I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your father.

That your wonderful safari was a solace is very good to know.

Welcome to Safaritalk!

What SPLENDID photographs!

Penguins, seals, ostriches beside the sea and leopard parenting — delightful!

Thank you for joining us and sharing both lovely images and interesting commentary.

Tom K.

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The ostriches against the ocean is a very cool photo and a fun juxtaposition.

 

Fred explained that his philosophy was all about quality over quantity and really spending time with the animals

 

That's such a good philosophy and seems to lead to the best moments on safari.

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Alexander33

@@hannahcat

 

We took our first safari to South Africa two years ago, and did the Cape tour as well. The ostriches by the ocean caught my attention, too -- wasn't expecting that at all!

 

You've set the bar high with a leopard and cub as your very first sighting. Sounds like it was meant to be! I'm very much looking forward to this report. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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First of all, let me say thanks to everyone who recommended, either explicitly or implicitly through their trip report writing, that it's important to take notes. At the time, of course, I thought "this is so amazing I will remember it forever," and now looking back, it was so compressed that there's no way I could remember what happened on which game drive if I had not written down some notes at least once a day. For those of you who do take notes, is that how you usually do it, by writing down a narrative once a day or so? Or do you just keep a species list? Or check marks and dates in a field guide? I'd love to hear any advice you may have for the next go-round.

 

So, looking back at my notes, here's what happened on our first morning: first, we had hardly left the premises of the lodge when we happened upon the local territorial white rhino. I have pictures of him, but I haven't attached them, since I take it that might endanger the animal.

 

We spent some time with him, watching the morning mist lift in the background and altogether admiring his majesty, and then moved on to see some zebra. I think we got particularly lucky to see some zebra interaction, as I take it that they usually just face away from you and call it a day. This morning, though, two females were fighting a bit for dominance -- it didn't feel like a real out-and-out fight, but there definitely was some action.

 

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The zebras had clearly not gotten the memo, because all the other animals we visited that morning all seemed very chill: the wild dogs (wild dogs!) who were denning on Dulini property had finished their hunt and were having a well-deserved lie-down. We couldn't see the pups very well -- they were mostly in the den -- but I was able to get some nice group shots of the adults.

 

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We even saw a cheetah who had taken up residence near the airstrip (a perfect open space for him) and who didn't seem to see much profit in ever moving again, except maybe to hunt every few days.

 

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By that time, the chill atmosphere was catching, and we headed back to the lodge well satisfied with the morning. Fred, the ranger, joked that apparently his bosses track his movements using GPS and are always asking him "why don't you take game drives?" but he does, he says, there's just so much to look at on the Dulini property that often it's hard to get off of it.

 

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Towlersonsafari

The zebra photo's and the 3 wilddog heads are splendid!

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By that time, the chill atmosphere was catching, and we headed back to the lodge well satisfied with the morning. Fred, the ranger, joked that apparently his bosses track his movements using GPS and are always asking him "why don't you take game drives?" but he does, he says, there's just so much to look at on the Dulini property that often it's hard to get off of it.

 

 

I can believe this...if I saw cheetah and wild dog, I sure wouldn't want to go anywhere else, either.

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michael-ibk

No wonder you got safari hooked si quickly - fantastic sightings. About notes: Too lazy for that personally but tend to take quite a lot of "memory jog" photos.

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Wow, a cheetah in Sabi Sand is a very special sighting! And dogs on the the same drive!

 

I am pretty lazy so I am taking notes once a day (just a few short comments on special moments so that I can remember what happened a few weeks later :))

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SafariChick

Love the zebra and wild dog photos! You're right, that zebra interaction is unusual to capture.

 

I usually start out the trip taking notes on my iphone but really brief like "blah blah pride, 9 lions with 3 3-month old cubs" "wildebeest with newborn babies" and then the photos I have will also help. Sometimes towards the end of the trip though I give up taking any notes! The queen of note-taking is @@Atravelynn - you should talk to her about her system!

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Love the zebra and wild dog photos! You're right, that zebra interaction is unusual to capture.

 

I usually start out the trip taking notes on my iphone but really brief like "blah blah pride, 9 lions with 3 3-month old cubs" "wildebeest with newborn babies" and then the photos I have will also help. Sometimes towards the end of the trip though I give up taking any notes! The queen of note-taking is @@Atravelynn - you should talk to her about her system!

 

That's a good idea about taking notes on the iPhone while you're out there. I found I would be about ready to pass out in the middle of the day, and then would inwardly groan as I remembered I needed to write notes as well as download pics, etc.

 

I will definitely ask @@Atravelynn about her system -- thank you for the tip.

 

And thanks to everyone for their very helpful and supportive comments! I really appreciate them.

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