I recently made a journey to South Africa, the country where I was born. I moved to the United States when I was 11, so returning to South Africa gave me an opportunity to experience the country as an adult. For me personally it was an opportunity to know the country my family is from, and also an opportunity to reconcile with my father, whom I hadn’t seen in 18 years. He remarried and had 4 children with his new wife, so I was able to meet my half siblings, and experience a part of the trip through the eyes of children. It was wonderful. Saying that it was wonderful could never fully encapsulate the profoundness of the trip, the people, and the country. IT WAS AWESOME.
I traveled with my older brother and sister, whom I met in South Africa. My brother traveled from Atlanta, and my sister flew in from South Korea, where she has been teaching English for the past year. It was the first time back to South Africa for all 3 of us, and wonderful that we were able to make the journey together and share the many memories. My world, my heart, and my future doubled in size, and coming back to the States made me realize how blessed and full my life is. I am so lucky to have a far flung and diverse family, and a personal history rich in diversity, strife, triumph, and love. I am better able to understand who I am and where I want to go after the experience, and am overflowing with gratitude to the many people who make up my personal experience.
South Africa is known as the land of contrast, it is geographically diverse as well as a mecca of different cultures. It’s a truly magical place. If you ever have the opportunity to visit South Africa, I highly recommend jumping in with an open heart and open eyes. The food, the people, the history, the nature, everything is an adventure just waiting to be discovered. If you make it to South Africa, take an appetite for life. You will be satisfied beyond your wildest imagination.
I chose to travel without my work camera, all of the pictures in this blog were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS8. It’s a great little point and shoot, and also makes great videos. I asked Santa for this camera because I wanted a small camera with big bang, and was pleasantly surprised by how capable and diverse the camera turned out to be. It took some getting used to, after shooting with a DSLR for the past few years. My biggest struggles were running out of battery, not being able to select my focal point quickly, shutter lag, and lack of burst shooting. I was forced to focus on composition, and to maneuver myself for the best possible shots. All in all I am very pleased with the pictures, I am not expecting National Geographic to come calling, nor do the pictures have all the fine detail one can get with a professional DSLR, but the Lumix is still pretty bad a$$ for a compact fit in your pocket point and shoot for under $200. It’s a great camera, and I am thrilled to have it in my collection.
We spent the first few days in the North Eastern part of South Africa, in a small town called Hazy View. It is very close to the Kruger National Park. One early early morning we went on Safari, and went and waited in line to enter the park at dawn. These pictures of grass and the millipede were the only time I was not in the vehicle. Strict safety regulations require that you are in the vehicle at all times. I snapped these pictures while our guide filled out paperwork for our safari. These pictures are the closest I got to the “wild life”, and I say this to point out the awesome zoom capabilities of the Lumix, as will be demonstrated in the pictures to follow. The animals were sometimes close to the road, and at other times quite far off, so far that I had to use the camera to actually see them up close. That camera is seriously awesome.
The headliner shot of the leopard in the tree was the luckiest shot of the day. Right as we joined a group of cars on the side of the road, the leopard decided to get up and move out of the tree. I was so LUCKY to have the camera in hand, and get this beautiful photo.
Below is a photo of our open air safari vehicle. If you go on Safari I highly recommend going with a tour guide. They are very knowledgeable, and also work together via radio to make sure their guests get to see the more elusive animals such as leopards and lions. The photo on the right is of a male Springbok, the South Africa National animal.
There are monkeys all over the place, and I just loved how the mommy monkey is holding the baby, and then the baby decided to dash off and play in the neck of the tree. I was missing my own baby Shannon ALOT so I took note of all the mommy and baby animals. Besides, who doesn’t love baby cuddly anything, monkey or not. On the left is a small bird called the King Fisher, and on the right is a vulture and an African eagle.
This baby Zebra stayed close to it’s mom. It’s said that the babies memorize the mothers pattern, and that no 2 zebra’s are alike. You can see also that the mommy is heavily pregnant with another foal.
We heard lions, and saw a small traffic jam on the road long before we saw them. The lioness came out and looked at everybody, and soon after the male was spotted slinking towards her. They stayed behind the trees for privacy, and did their lion baby making thing. It was a bit startling to hear the lion roar, and realize, “Oh Em Gee that lion is 30 feet away!” Warthogs, our guide warned us that they are quite vicious and have been known to charge cars. I imagine those horns are not too good for the tires.
Female Springboks, they wander and graze with the young and are easily visible.
Wild buffalo were spotted in the distance multiple times, as were elephants. Kruger Park has an overabundance of elephants. It is a park that does not practice culling, so the population is getting too big for the park to support. They are huge animals, and eat an extraordinary amount of food. They are massive, on scale with standing next to an 18 wheeler compacted into an SUV type of big..or something like that. They also seem to be extraordinarily intelligent, you can see in their eyes how they watch and move.
For a New Years Day surprise my dad took all of us to ride elephants. It was a once in a life time experience, and the elephants seem intelligent and compassionate creatures. If you have the time I recommend checking out one of the local elephant sanctuary’s. The ride was a bit uhm, jolting, but being close to the magnificent creatures and getting to touch their remarkable skin was incredibly memorable. All in all our time in Hazy View was astounding. Join me next week for pictures from the Cape!