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Hakuna Matata in South Africa

Our agents travel to some pretty awesome destinations. When they return, our excitement to hear about their adventures is almost as great as their excitement is to share them. In ON LOCATION, they talk about the little nuances that make each place special. From Peru to South Africa, Switzerland, and Croatia, experience a fantastic second-hand journey and maybe take away some travel inspiration while you’re at it


Tristin blesses the rains down in Africa.

Africa is quite a bit different than your typical vacation destination isn’t it? It was an incredible trip. I haven’t seen all there is in the world, but I can’t imagine anywhere better.

I’ll get to the point, what was your favorite part? Hard to say, it was all so different. We stayed at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge and that’s probably how most people would picture Africa. Cape Town is modern and urban – feels a bit like San Francisco.

Tell me about Sabi Sabi. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is a smaller all-inclusive resort next to Krugers National Park. They wake you up at 5 in the morning for a game drive, which are about three hours, and you do two or three a day. We traveled off-road in a big jeep, eventually stopping just a foot or two from a pride of lions. We also saw wild giraffes, elephants, and zebra; you know what they call a group of Zebra? A dazzle!

Did you see any lions go dazzle hunting? No, but we did see a cheetah take down an impala then drag the whole thing up a tree to eat it.

Tasty, what about the hotel itself? Every hotel in South Africa has a tea time, either in the morning, afternoon, or whenever. So, we sat for tea in their lounge, which has an open panoramic view of the landscape, and right in front of us was a watering hole where animals would stop and drink. It’s very immersive.

You mentioned that Cape Town was a lot like California, explain? After Sabi Sabi, we took a plane to Cape Town and stayed at The Belmont, an ole’ English hotel and where John Lennon stayed just before he died.

The city is right on the coast, but behind it is Table Mountain and Lion’s head. Both are just minutes from the city and you can hike either of them. The city has the best of both worlds; you can snorkel in the morning (there are shipwrecks you can explore) and hike a mountain in the afternoon.

At sunset, our tour guide surprised us with a Harley ride down the coastline, so a bunch of these old biker dudes showed up and we rode with them. The coast might possibly be the most beautiful piece of scenery I’ve ever seen. The biker I rode with said the scenery was a big reason why people come to Cape Town and, of course, the best way to experience it was on a motorcycle.

After that, we traveled to Boulder Beach, which is a couple of hours outside of the city and where a huge group of penguins migrate.

Sounds like Africa has every animal ever accounted for. 30 years ago the penguins showed up and never left. You do have to pay to visit the nesting area, but the penguins roam wherever they want, in town, the streets, people’s gardens, so it’s easy to see them, and they’re super friendly. One let me scratch him.

It was December when you went, how was the weather? It’s just the start of their summer, so it was warm to hot. The sun can really beat you down though, so lather on the sunscreen. But it was the best time of year to visit because after Cape Town, we went to Victoria Falls and most any other part of the year, the falls are either dried up or raging.

I’ve not heard of Victoria Falls. It’s one of the biggest water falls in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders. We stayed at the Royal Livingston Hotel, which is close to the falls, and we could hear the water roar and see the mist from our decks. In the morning they took us to an island that would normally be completely submerged, then to the Devil’s Pool, which looks right over the falls.

Devil’s Pool doesn’t sound ominous or anything.

You can feel the current pushing you and there are no ropes holding you, but it’s actually a lot safer than it sounds. The pool is deep and its ledges keep you from being swept over the edge. Devil’s Pool even has fish that like to nibble on your feet.

It looks like Victoria Falls borders Zambia and Zimbabwe, so is it more jungle-y than the other places you visited? Nope, it was all plains and lots of animals, but it’s funny, of all these animals none were predators aside for the occasional crocodile, so most were pretty carefree. The hotel has all sorts of visitors, since they don’t have much to fear. I was out on the balcony of my ground floor room and up walks a Zebra doing his own thing. Just another day in Africa.

I imagine you still have to be careful about the animal life. As awesome as it is, you have to be respectful since wildlife can be unpredictable. Did you know that more animal-caused deaths come from hippos than from any other animal?

Not the lions or crocodiles? Hippos can be super aggressive in their waters, and they are swimming 90% of the time because their skin dries out. That’s not to say they aren’t amazing to look at. We were lucky to see them on land during a rainy day on tour, a really rare sight. Even saw a hippo fight, but we were far enough away from any danger.

I guess I knew animal sights would be common in Africa, but still, I’m amazed by the encounters you had. In Zambia they have an elephant sanctuary café that rescues elephants from all over Africa. They have 20, including the cutest mother and baby pair. I fed the baby, but I didn’t feed him fast enough, and he tried several times to reach into the bag of treats with his trunk.

And the mother was completely cool with all of this? Yeah, it was. Elephants in the wild don’t like people encroaching in their territory, so to get this close was something special. Elephants are very intelligent. You know, I thought it was an old wives tale, but they really can remember a face. They’ll never forget you. They can even recognize themselves in a mirror, which only humans, dolphins, and some monkeys can do. Each has distinct personalities too. Normally elephants keep their tusks small, but one male was really proud of his, grew them long, and keep them in really good condition.

When Lawrence Anthony (a renowned elephant activist) died, elephants from all over the region made the trek to the home of his widow to mourn with her. They stayed for three days. Elephants can sense those emotions. It’s mind blowing.

Anything you recommend to do to prepare for an African trip? South Africa doesn’t require vaccines, but they suggest ones like Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B. I also took a one-a-day pill for Malaria while I was there then a week after I returned home just to be safe.

Sounds like a small price to pay. Like I said, I really can’t think of some place better. Next time I go to Africa, I’m paying a visit to the Gorillas in Rwanda.

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