In to Africa

on Saturday, August 22, 2009

For a very, very long time, one of the things that Ive dreamed of doing is to go on safari amidst the huge animal herds and carnivores of the African plains. One such place that you might do that is at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Durban, South Africa and I had hoped to make this dream come through. However, as it turned out, a trip to Kruger was a little too costly for my means nor did I have sufficient free time to make the trip.

Instead, I went with some others to one of the many independent and privately owned safari parks. These were essentially large areas of relatively open habitats but which were basically fenced off private property. The animals in these safari parks are 'managed", not free ranging and are often bought from other parks.

So really, they are more like open air zoos rather than truly natural habitats. The number of animals are usually quite low and they are often not prime specimens due to excessive in-breeding. So though I am grateful to have had the chance of even visiting a safari park, I still hope to do a real safari experience in Kruger National Park one day.

This is the jeep that we used to make our way around the park.

Most people come to see the big five which are the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape Buffalo. Well, I saw no lions or leopards (often missing from these safari parks as the predators are much harder to manage and costly to feed). Nor did I see any elephants but I did get to see the following; Cape Buffalo and the rhinocerous.

I also saw the giraffe. Now that is a big animal! I wonder why it is not listed as one of the top five.

I also saw a rather scruffy pack of ostriches.

But for me, the real jewel for my visit, was the glimpse of the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). This bird was so named because it is said to resemble a pompous British Government Secretary from the late 18th Century. It is a diurnal raptor and is seen on the coat of arms of the Republic of South Africa.

The apparent fading stripes on the rump of this Zebra is a sign of excessive inbreeding within the Zebra herd in this particular safari park.


secret agent woman said...

We did something similar in 2006, but on the Serengeti, in Tanzania. It wasn't a group, though - the four of us just travelled for the week with our guide. We got to see some of the great migration, which was breath-taking. And the all of the "big five." I'll never forget that trip.

Dr.John said...

Never been to Africa but we went to Disney's animal park. Does that count for something?

Janice Thomson said...

At least you were able to see some.
It's sad these parks are privately owned hence resulting in poor 'managemen' of the various species as witnessed by the zebra's fading stripes. One wonders why man always has the urge to cage, in any form, wild free-spirited animals...

kat said...

Your observations were fascinating!

There is nothing like being in their Home... and not ours! so you are right- it is a different experience entirely.

A while back, I made the observation/objection to the use of the word "PARK" to denote our wild places... because that suggests perhaps that there are no dangers to you within... good gosh! ... there are Lions! and Tiger! and Bears! Oh My!

(and bears are the worse are they not?)

geewits said...

Cool pics! Speaking of vacations, I saw a resort show on The Travel Channel today and they had Genting. Have you been there?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Secret Agent Woman,
That's what I am talking about! I'd gladly trade my romp round the fenced "wilderness" for your independent traveling with guide in the Serengeti. Did you ever post on this? I have a problem though. My wife is completely freaked out about going about in an open vehicle surrounded by "shifty-eyed" wildlife which are obviously up to no good. What can I do?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
Kind of my point. What I experienced was not much more than an open zoo or a Disney animal park; not at all like the real Africa, or so I imagine.

I agree with you. Still, I guess these tourist traps are better than having all those animals killed.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for the kind words. Actually, I quite like bears and hope to see them (at a respectable and safe distance). It's the humans in bear clothing that I despise.

Genting Highlands? I've been there and is a place that I would avoid. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of attractions up there in the form of casinos, amusement parks, restaurants, golf courses etc. In fact, a whole entertainment complex.

However, all this was built in the middle of a beautiful equatorial montane forest which is naturally shrouded with mists. Today the forest has been replaced by gaudy colored buildings, the mist with tour buses' exhaust fumes and the whole place feels claustrophobic. Hey, but it remains the single most visited tourist destination in Malaysia; primarily with Asians and primarily for gambling.

Of course, if you ever do plan a trip out this way, i would be glad to give suggestions for your itinerary.

Joyce's Ramblings said...

We have lost and have hunted so many of those beautiful animals that if we didn't have the dreaded parks our children might only see pictures. As a child long long ago I lived near a zoo and saw all the animals as often as I liked.
As an adult(also long ago) I had monkey and marmoset as pets. The only "wild" animal I ever had to deal with is snakes. Yuk
I would love to see the animals in their home grounds but know I won't. Keep wishing and dreaming and maybe you will get the chance.

olivia said...

Oh, I agree w/ you re the giraffe. What a magnificent animal, in size, configuration, colouring. Your photos are really lovely.

kat said...


Cheryl said...

I went to a park like that in San Diego. It was huge and had many, many animals. I didn't like it at all. I hope you gt your Africa trip one day.

heiresschild said...

i've always liked the zoo because of the fascination with the different animals, but i hate that they're caged up and not free to roam in outside places like the safari atmosphere.

i've been trying to blog at least once a week, but it hasn't turned out like that, so i just blog whenever i can, which unfortunately, hasn't been too often. thanks for the birthday wishes. hope you get your safari soon.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I think the reality is that zoos and safari parks do fulfill an important role of making nature and animals accessible to the majority of the public. I know that many feel that we have no right caging animals and they are right. Yet without zoos there will be even less understanding and appreciation of nature and animals and our impact on the environment.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for the kind words on the photos. Can't hold a candle against your brilliant pictures though.

May you too have that opportunity, one day.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Unfortunately, zoos do play an important role of making these animals accessible to the majority of the public. But we should improve the zoos to give the animals larger and more natural areas and close down those which cause animals to suffer.

Jo said...

Omigosh, that is one of my dreams, to go on a safari to Africa. My mother was born and raised there, and she always talked about all those wonderful animals, and the beautiful countryside. But how sad that the animals are being so poorly managed. It's a sign of the times, isn't it?

(In answer to your question: The X-Files was filed in Vancouver, and the Academic Quadrangle at SFU served as a backdrop for shots of "headquarters".)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hope you get the chance to go to Africa one day. Thanks for the X-file info. Interesting.

the walking man said...

I suppose that when I am done seeing North America, Africa would be a good destination although I do believe Thailand would come first in order to visit the in laws.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Your in-laws are in Thailand? Have you ever been there?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have always wanted to visit Africa for the animals, too. Your photos are wonderful! What an immensely beautiful continent with strange and marvelous creatures and fabulous vegetation. I'm still hoping to take that trip someday.

the walking man said...

My oldest son married a beautiful young women who immigrated here. They made it through the first year in fine shape but I know she is kind of itching to get John to go for a visit. She is my favorite DiL. Of course since son number 2 just got his divorce, she's the only DiL.

Truth be told LGS I have traveled extensively through North America top to Bottom, East to West but I never have had the urge to see the rest of the world.

Now with all of the scrap metal I have in my body I really do not like the hassle of going through metal detectors and a 20 hour flight might be another cause for concern. But for her I would take the trip to meet the parents of such a fine person.

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