7.31.2011

South Africa Part 2: The SAFARI!

Let me preface this post by telling you that when Sabrina asked me if there was anything that took me by surprise during our trip, I told her that I just couldn't believe that our safari had surpassed every single one of my high expectations. 
Because to me, this wasn't a trip~ it was the trip. 
and I will be forever thankful to have had this experience.

 On Monday, July 11th, we flew east from Cape Town and arrived in Port Elizabeth around 12:30 p.m. We were greeted at the airport by a driver, retrieved our 18,000 pieces of luggage from the carousel ( :) ), and hopped in the car headed for Pumba Private Game Reserve
I was a ball of nerves on our way there. What would it be like? How soon would we see animals? What if it didn't live up to my list of decade long expectations? What if it did?!

When we pulled onto the Pumba premises, the gate attendant handed us a personalized welcome letter and that was it~ I was in love!
We were taken to the Pumba Water Lodge and given hot towels, hot chocolate and a tour of the beautiful accommodations. 
The Water Lodge is located on the edge of Lake Kariega, and the views from the lodge are just astounding. At any given time while eating lunch or relaxing by the pool, we could watch a family of hippos sunbathing by the water or a herd of wildebeest and impala grazing the plains.  
The accommodations alone were out of this world.
We were escorted to our bungalow and couldn't believe our eyes. 
Private veranda. Swimming pool. 
Now this is how to go on Safari!



Two hours after we arrived, we headed out on our first of seven game drives (more on these later!) with our awesome ranger, Gladman. Gladman has been a ranger for over 3 years, and can literally spot wildlife 100 yards away (animal whisperer!) 
He was 'our guy'. 
He took us on our game drives, taught us about each animal we saw, and escorted us to and from our room after dark.
Midway through each drive, he even stopped our jeep and set up a table full of wine and snacks in the evenings, and hot chocolate and muffins in the mornings. 
We returned from each drive to hot towels, gluvine, and hot chocolate, and on super cold nights the maids placed hot water bottles between our sheets to keep our beds warm. 
I mean really.
When we weren't on a drive, we were at the lodge eating delicious food, relaxing by the pool, and talking to our new friends from around the world. 
We also went on a bush walk with another guide named Justin.
Justin carried a gun, and for good reason: we came within 20 feet of an elephant and a family of hippos!
It was awesome and exhilarating.
We also found footprints of large game animals, smaller creatures like the poisonous grasshopper, and South Africa's beautiful protea flower.

And then there were the game drives, and the animals that we found.
This is the part I waited 10 years for.
and let me tell you- it was worth the wait.
One night, around 10 pm, we were out on a night drive and found the Kalahari Lion brothers. 
The stars were bright, the moon was full, and suddenly the Kalahari and White Lions started having a roaring contest. 
And all I could think was, "is this really happening?"
On Thursday afternoon when it was time for us to leave, a herd of elephants banned together and started strutting their stuff in unison across the plains. 
It was a sight to behold.
A final memory engrained on our hearts.
Our send off.  
There's something for me about being close to nature, and this was as natural as it gets.
The untamed, exquisite animal kingdom on display, for what feels like is just for me.
Watching the interactions among animals~ an impala's warning breath-a lion's roar-a hippo's grunt-
All coexisting in wild, beautiful, Africa.
I can only describe it as an alternate universe
And what I felt in being among it all was pure, organic, good-for-the-soul happiness.

Thank You, staff of Pumba, and especially Gladman, for making this dream come true.
I will never forget it.
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