Lions, Kudu and Zebras and a Great Trip to South Africa


Photo by Ethan Herman

Ethan Herman, Reporter

I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to South Africa with my family. Most of my friends have never been anywhere exotic. Many have not even been on a plane.

South African Airways was the only direct flight to South Africa and the flight was 15 hours. Considering that I’m 6-feet 3-inches tall I struggled to be comfortable in my seat. I couldn’t sleep. After soggy food, I wanted nothing more than to get off of that plane. However, my mom, dad, sister and grandparents had an easier time with the flight.

The entire flight, I wondered what Africa would be like. I expected to land in a desert and sit in a Jeep for hours to get everywhere. This wasn’t the case. We landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. It reminded me of JFK Airport. I expected it to be very hot. After all we were in Africa. But it was freezing. There was so much wind. All I packed were shorts and T-shirts. While it was summer in New York it was winter in the southern hemisphere.

I had to go clothes shopping. We went to the mall and that was also not what I expected. Capetown was like a miniature San Francisco. In Capetown, right on the Atlantic Ocean,  there is a 3,500-foot mountain that is flat at the top, as a result its name is Table Mountain. We took a cable car up there for the beautiful views of the city. Again, it was freezing. At sea level it was decently warm. I was comfortable in some light sweats so I figured I would be okay at the top of the mountain. I wasn’t. Once again I was really cold in Africa. Luckily there was a small gift/coffee shop up there with heat.  

After Capetown we flew to the neighboring country of Botswana to go on a safari. The airport was an old house. Waiting for us at the small airport was our modified Toyota truck with no top and rows of seats in the back that were arranged like stadium seats. We drove for almost an hour through the middle of nowhere seeing hundreds of zebra and other animals.

We finally arrived at our resort. It was better than any other hotel I’ve ever stayed at. It was beautiful. Although, it wasn’t a conventional hotel. It consisted of a check in area which was an open building with with desks on one side and a gift shop on the other.  Our rooms were little huts. They were beautiful. Not mud huts but modern ones that had beautiful bathrooms and bedrooms. In the back there were sliding doors that opened up to the wilderness. There were all sorts of animals (monkeys and warthogs) that came right up to the door.

They warned us in advance that we would get a really early wake up call every day. Little did I know this wake up call was at 5:00 a.m. After the wake up call we had an hour to get ready and had to be at morning coffee and snacks. Right after that we went out on our morning safari drive. The drive was about 2 hours. Again it was cold. I wasn’t expecting it. I froze again. But it was only cold in the morning and at night. During the day it was very hot.  Once we got back from our morning drive we had breakfast. After breakfast we had most of the day to ourselves. Although, there weren’t many options. We were in the middle of nowhere. The only things that there really were to do were eat and swim. I was surprised to see that the resort had 2 pools and a gorgeous spa. At 4:00 p.m. we had a snack before our evening drive. We did a 2-hour evening drive.

The animals that we saw were unbelievable. It definitely was not like seeing animals at the zoo. Giraffes were everywhere, as were elephants, kudu, lions and tons more. One time we even saw two lions eating a big kudu. Then a cackle of hyenas approached the lions because they wanted to steal the kill. We sat there and watched the pride of lions chase off the hyenas so they could keep the kudu. It was very intense and were we were 15 feet away in the open Toyota truck.

We also elephants, hippos, and rhinos. They are much more majestic when they are in their natural habitat.

The hardest animal to find was the leopard. They blend in so well in the light colored brush and they are so quick. We were lucky enough to see one running across the road. Although it was only for a brief second or two we could see how beautiful this big cat was.

The long flights and the freezing cold were definitely worth the struggle. I enjoyed the trip and would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go. When I get older I’m going back with my family.