Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lions, Leopards, and Penguins!

Where can you go to see lions, leopards, and penguins... all in one country (and not in a zoo)? South Africa! Husband and I spent two weeks in Africa-- visiting friends, relaxing in the bush, and seeing the sights of the Cape. We lived in South Africa for about a year at one point... and this was our first trip back since we moved back to the States. It was really great to see all of the friends that we made while we lived in Pretoria. We didn't quite see EVERYONE, but we did see a lot! It was fun to get to visit them and catch up on what's been happening in their lives since we last saw them. Turns out one of our friends was recently in the States-- of all crazy things-- going to Oshkosh! We actually considered going this year, but didn't because we had just been to Sun-n-Fun. Wouldn't that have been funny... running into a friend from South Africa at Oshkosh!

After a few days in Pretoria, we headed north to a private game reserve that is open to the Kruger National Park. To get there, we took this:

A Beech 1900. I think it's like what Teller flies ( It was pretty cool. We were hoping for a Caravan... but this was still cool. JIA was completely socked in the morning of our departure (as you can see in the picture above). We were pretty glad when the weather cleared enough to take off. The cool thing about flying here... no closed cockpit rule! So you can see everything the pilots are doing. And they did a great shortfield landing into Skukuza (and a nice shortfield take off, too!).

The game reserve was pretty awesome. We went to a place called Lion Sands. For those who have never been to one, basically, you get up really early (like around 5-- not my typical idea of a good vacation!) in the morning to go on "game drives" where you look for different animals. You stop after a few hours and have some tea and coffee. Then when you get back around 9am, you get a big breakfast. After a few hours of relaxing in your room, by the pool, or at the river side bar (where you can see things like monkeys, buffalo, hippos, etc.), you have lunch. Then another nap and tea. Then you leave for afternoon game drive... stop for sundowners half way through, and then return for a full, gourmet dinner around 8:30. As you can tell, it's a lot of eating, relaxing, and seeing some really cool animals!

Our tracker, Ray, is taunting the buffalo behind him!

Stopping for sundowners! Note the landrover in the background. Those are our "wheels"!

Hungry, hungry hippos!

Lots of elephants!

Great view of a hyena.
We had a special "treehouse" breakfast one morning.

Lion Sands had lots of lions.

And lots of leopards!

After our time in the bush, we headed to Cape Town for Husband's conference. Isn't the coast beautiful?!
A little whale watching in Hermannus.

We went to Boulders Beach... where the penguins hang out!
Husband went on a helicopter ride after I left to come back to the states. he got some really nice pics of the helicopter-- and from the helicopter.Oh-- and one last flying thing. We flew over on South African Airways on an A-340. Definitely a step up in comfort from their old 747s. The in-flight entertainment was really great-- especially for the 16 hour flight (non-stop) over from IAD to JIA. The return trip is even crazier-- 18 hours... but JIA is at a high enough elevation that they can't take on enough fuel to go non-stop, so there's a stopover in Dakar. Actually, the agent told me that they always do the IAD-JIA flight with empty seats because otherwise, they have to stop for fuel. Of course, she went into great detail. I tried to tell her I understood weight and balance... but she didn't get it.


Teller said...

That's the "C" model, where I fly the "D" model of the 1900, but it's almost exactly the same plane. These planes are speed demons, and I've heard that the folks down in SA can make them do some pretty incredible things. Sounds like a heckofa trip overall!

Head in the Clouds said...

Teller-- What are the differences between the C and D? Is it a capacity/number of seats thing? Or is it more of a performance thing?
The aviation community in Africa seems to be similar in spirit to here in the States-- but as many things there, much more intimate because of the small size of the community.