Loxodonta africana

Africa—July, 2019

One of my bucket list items is to set foot in every continent. So when my friend Dan asked if we wanted to join him on a trip to Africa, I was all in. We, including our friend Deb and her friend Jeanne, booked a private journey with Wilderness Travel and essentially beta tested a new itinerary for them to Cape Town, Timbavati Private Reserve, Victoria Falls, and Hwange National Park.

After enjoying the captions below, you can view larger versions of the photos by clicking on them. This will open a new tab in Google Photos. Use its menu to start a slideshow, or select a photo and press the Info button to view captions and maps.

If you want to see pictures of me, you can view Dan's photos:

My videos are below. The primary movie is first. To keep the length reasonable, I pulled out a few segments and made them their own movie. They are a bush walk in Timbavati Private Reserve, South Africa, Ngamo school children starting their day near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and a joke told somewhere in South Africa.

Preamble (Monday, 2019-07-08)

We got a great rate on Emirates to Cape Town via Dubai. We settled into our 15-hour flight on my first A380 on Teton Sports cushions and are we glad we got these! Great investment!

Dan was able to swing the business class fare, so Emirates picked him up from his house and took him to SFO. They then sent a private limo to take him to his hotel in Dubai, rather than a shared shuttle bus that we took to the Copthorne Airport Hotel.

Dubai is hot. Weather Underground said it was 99, but feels like 130. I started sweating through my shirt in a few minutes just standing there waiting for the shuttle. And it was night.

Dan and Lori went downtown, while I had dinner at the hotel and went to bed.

Cape Town, South Africa (Wednesday, 2019-07-10)

After a relatively short 9-hour flight from Dubai to Cape Town, our guide Edlein Filton, picked us up at the airport and brought us to the Victoria & Alfred Hotel. We had dinner at good South African restaurant nearby called Karibu.

The next morning we departed for our tour of the Cape Peninsula. We stopped at Camps Bay, and drove up to the Table Mountain and Signal Hill overlooks where we saw the first of many Proteas, South Africa's national flower. We visited the Kristenbosch National Botanical Garden and then continued on to Hout Bay. We had lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point. From there, we took a short hike to the Cape of Good Hope. On the drive back, we visited African penguins at the Boulders Penguin Colony.

We finished up the night with dinner at Mitchell's Ale House.

South African Wine Country (Friday, 2019-07-12)

We began the day at the Fairview Wine Farm, where we had wine and cheese. We discovered pinotage, a grape developed in South Africa. Their shiraz and tempranillo varietals were also stand-outs.

Next, we visited the Mullineux & Leeu winery whose syrah was the star for me.

We had an excellent lunch with a superlative view at Le Petite Ferme and stopped in Stellenbosch on the way back to Cape Town.

We had dinner at Villa 47 with an astronomer named Maria with whom I flew aboard SOFIA. She invited a couple of her astronomy friends Lee and Jacinta. Jacinta started a podcast called The Cosmic Savannah. Do check it out.

Timbavati Private Reserve, South Africa (Saturday, 2019-07-13)

We flew to Hoedspruit Airport, where we saw baboons on the runway. We saw our first animals on the short ride to the Kambaku Lodge.

We settled into our room (Room 5), where everything in the mini bar is included. There aren't any locks on the doors! We later learned that the reason is that one should be able to run into any building if an animal is menacing.

After a light snack, we boarded a Range Rover for our first game drive. Our guide for our stay was Palance and his tracker was named Kenny. We saw the Big 5, including lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, on this first drive! This was followed by the first of many excellent meals.

We were featured on their Facebook page.

Timbavati Private Reserve, South Africa (Sunday, 2019-07-14)

Up early for a game drive. Stopped for tea, then headed back for brunch and a nap. And then we took off for an evening game drive. Stopped for a sundowner, and then headed back for a scrumptious meal.

A nearby lion roared all night.

Timbavati Private Reserve, South Africa (Monday, 2019-07-15)

This morning we took a game walk during the morning game drive, where we learned about animal tracks and droppings, as well as a variety of plants that are used as food for elephants as well as used by humans for medicinal purposes.

After brunch, elephants came into the property and we watched them for a spell. Lori said that a few of the elephants drank from the lodge's pool while I was taking a great bath. We again took naps before the evening game drive.

Victoria Falls, Zambia (Tuesday, 2019-07-16)

A driver took us to the Hoedspruit Aerodrome, an even smaller airport than the last. We walked through a gate onto the tarmac. No security! Yay. A small single-prop plane landed, and two woman pilots loaded our luggage into the tiny hold. This is why there are luggage restrictions!

They flew us to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit where we shortly boarded another plane to Livingstone Airport.

There we were taken to a water taxi (Victoria Falls River Safaris) for a nice ride down the Zambezi River to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. We received a hand massage while we checked in. That's a first. And we had a butler named Betty. Pity we didn't know what to do with a butler, having no experience in this.

We had some time before dinner, so we walked to the Victoria Falls. Very impressive.

While walking to the hotel restaurant, I saw a giraffe and impala outside our room. I then saw a zebra, who then attacked another zebra and then the two ran right by me on the patio, shoes clicking on the pavers. Dinner in the hotel was lovely.

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe (Wednesday, 2019-07-17)

Lori, Dan, and I hiked down to the falls again. I walked down to the Boiling Pot by myself. Lovely spot. Watched bungee jumpers dive from the Victoria Bridge. We then hiked back to the hotel for lunch and ate on the patio by the river.

We then hiked to the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls going through customs on either side of the Victoria bridge. Meanwhile, Deb and Jeanne took a tour to Livingstone Island. We saw some folks precipitously close to the edge and thought they were nuts. We later learned that this was the Devil's Pool, and that Deb and Jeanne also partook. Apparently, no one has died, as long as they are with a legitimate guide. There are a lot of illegitimate guides. Beware!

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (Thursday, 2019-07-18)

We were driven across the Victoria Falls Bridge into Zimbabwe and cleared customs like yesterday. A bus driver by the name of Kennedy picked us up for our three hour tour.

We first stopped a moment at the shop where Lori bought her fabrics yesterday.

We then visited a very large baobab tree, maybe 1000 - 1500 years old, and the Victoria Hotel, which was supposed to be our hotel, but it was full. Although the Victoria Hotel is very nice (see the video on the home page, which also shows the falls when they are really flowing), we were so much happier with the location of the Royal Livingstone as we were able to walk to the falls.

We then began our two and half hour drive to the Elephant Express in Dete. During the two hour train ride, we enjoyed lunch, gin and tonics, zebra, giraffe, springbok, warthog, antelope, impala, wildebeest, as well as a lion feasting on a dead elephant.

We finally arrived at the Camelthorne Lodge, named after the camel thorne tree by the lodge. It's relatively rustic. It's powered by generators that go off an hour after dinner. The rooms are heated by fireplace. When we were there, the nights and mornings were bitterly cold. We were glad to have had our wool tights and slippers.

During dinner, our guide Vusa told us stories of the financial woes in Zimbabwe. Inflation is rampant due to government corruption and there is no currency, which is why dollars are accepted although it is illegal to do so. He also spoke of the local animals. It turns out that the lion that the American dentist killed was the local Cecil the Lion.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (Friday, 2019-07-19)

This morning, we started with a drive to the Ngamo school and township and market. Vusa's father Johnson Ncube is the headman there. The kids first jumped into the truck on the way to school. In class we interacted with them as the children practiced their English by asking our name, where we were from and what our favorite color and animal and food was. None had heard about NASA. One knew California was in the US.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (Saturday, 2019-07-20)

This was a magic day. The highlight was bunkering down in a hide, which was an old shipping container, and watching elephants come to the water hole located just a couple of meters away.

And if that wasn't enough, we emerged from the hide--while the elephants were still there--to find a table for our lunch set up nearby.

We then had a relatively quiet afternoon drive, enjoyed a campfire, and had dinner with some Aussies that had just arrived.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (Sunday, 2019-07-21)

Vusa drove us to the dirt airstrip at Bomani where we watched hippos while we waited.

This time we flew on a--still small--twin engine airplane flown by another woman from Zimbabwe named Lindsey to the Victoria Falls Airport where we caught an Airbus 330 to Johannesburg where we caught an Airbus 380 to Dubai. We then hung out in the Dubai airport for 3 hours. It's getting familiar! We then caught another Airbus 380 to SFO. I watched all four Hunger Games movies during the flight. This was a great way to make the 16 hours go by quickly.

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