Why does anyone go to Africa? To see the animals—ah yes, the animals!

  A safari in Africa has been on my list for a long, long time; but I have this thing about bugs, and spiders, and snakes. And I'm not really into camping and hiking and leeches. So I waited until I could find a trip that would minimize the fears I had; and as it turned out, the things I knew about were not the things that distressed me.

  Overseas Adventure Travel is a branch of Grand Circle Travel—both are well-known and respected companies that have been around for a good long time. OAT specializes in travel to uncommon and/or difficult destinations, offering comfortable accomodations, virtually all meals, transportation, and guiding, with guaranteed departures for small groups, and 'adventures' geared to the, shall we say, mature traveler. And did I mention, most of their tours have no single supplement? But that wasn't a problem for me on this trip, as my frequent traveling companion, Chicago Judy, went with me.

  Getting to South Africa from the east coast of the USA involves one of the longest flights available: 15.5 hours from Atlanta to Johannesburg on Delta. Since there is no way that my old body could stand that, we instead booked two 9-10 hour flights on Turkish Airlines from Washington DC to Istanbul and Istanbul to Johannesburg. Longer, yes, but with the break in between, not nearly so debilitating. And Turkish Airlines treats its customers very well.

  All of our accomodations were in 'tented camps': permanent structures with a wooden floor raised from ground level, heavy canvas walls, screened windows which could be zipped closed, a double roof of canvas inside and sheet metal outside, a full Western-style bathroom, real beds (not hammocks or cots), electricity for minimal lighting and battery charging, and no air conditioning. Each 'cabin' slept two people, and another larger structure, open to breezes and thunderstorms, served as dining hall and lounge. Perfectly safe and adequate for my needs. Each camp was either inside or just outside of a National Park and therefore was unfenced—animals could come and go as they pleased. Most animals had learned to avoid the camps, but baboons and wart hogs commonly snuffled around the pathways, and a troupe of monkeys enjoyed an afternoon's fun sliding down the roof of our cabin. We were not allowed out of the cabins after dark for safety reasons, and once the lights were out, it was DARK! A few times, we were treated to a sensational view of the stars and the Milky Way.

  The beauty of these camps is that one doesn't just sit around drinking martinis while waiting for the animals to show up. Twice each day we went out into the wild looking for the animals. We traveled in specially-equipped 4WD open Land Rovers with three rows of bench seats across the back: no walls, no doors, no windows, nothing between us and the animals except fresh air. The landscape around us was essentially savannah, with grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and lightly-wooded patches; a few water holes here and there, termite mounds scattered around, and the occasional muddy or sandy stretch that we slithered through. The drivers and guides were unbelieveably skilled at spotting animals, especially birds, and they seemed to know where the animals would be. By the third 'game drive' we had checked off sightings of the 'Big Five': elephant, cape buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhinocerus; eventually, we had multiple sightings of all those, plus hippos, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, numerous varieties of antelopes, baboons and various monkeys, lots of birds, and an assortment of smaller critters like frogs and mongoose (mongeese?). This really is a remarkable experience, to be out in the animals' territory watching them go about their lives; nothing really scary about it, even when a male lion sauntered by just five feet from the vehicle. We also had several boat rides, one of them in a canoe in the marshes of the Okavango Delta, and another, a dinner cruise, on the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls. The weather was almost ideal, being between the wet and dry seasons; only twice did the temperature reach 90° F (32° C) and the nights were cool enough for blankets on the beds.

  My fears of being bitten and stung were unwarrented (except for one day of tsetse flies); what WAS difficult to endure was riding in the vehicles. In addition to being thrown in every direction and slapped with leaves and branches, the seats were not well padded and at the end of it all, my backside and hips were screaming "Enough!". But this truly was a trip of a lifetime and I'm glad I finally did it.

  On our way back to the USA, we had a lengthy layover in Istanbul and I arranged for a tour of the major sights of the historic center of the city for Judy and me; we enjoyed a walk around Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar...great way to spend an otherwise tedious time in between planes.


Back to Ships'n'Trips Page

23-24 Mar .......Pittsburgh  PIT — Washington DC Dulles IAD — Istanbul Ataturk  IST

25 Mar ...........Istanbul Ataturk  IST — Johannesburg O.R. Tambo  JNB

25 Mar ...........Johannesburg, South Africa

26-28 Mar .......Chapungu Tented Camp, Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa

29 Mar ...........Johannesburg

30 Mar ...........Johannesburg  JNB — Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe  VFA

30 Mar-1 Apr ...Baobab Lodge, Chobe National Park, Botswana

2-4 Apr ............Banoka Camp, Moremi National Park, Botswana

5-7 Apr ............Lufupa Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia

8-10 Apr ..........Kashawe Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

11-12 Apr ........Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

13 Apr ............Victoria Falls  VFA — Johannesburg O.R. Tambo JNB

14-15 Apr ........Johannesburg O.R. Tambo  JNB — Istanbul Ataturk  IST

                               — Washington DC Dulles  IAD — Pittsburgh  PIT

Photos are coming soon...


Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Historic Center of Istanbul