Laurie Barnard, one of our wonderful Zephyr guides, recently led her first trip to South Africa earlier this year for a private group. The trip left quite an impact on her. We asked her to share her thoughts below.
South Africa has always been a destination I longed to explore. So it was with great eagerness that I jumped at the opportunity to guide a Zephyr Adventure there.
I did not have high expectations going into the country given my only previous African experience being a humanitarian trip into rural Ethiopia. Arriving in Cape Town, I was delighted with the friendliness and the cosmopolitan atmosphere… the lovely accent of the South Africans’ speech, the parks and museums, the diverse architecture, the African shops, the rich history, and the delectable food, coffee, and wines.
A highlight and life-changing experience of many guests on our Zephyr trip was the Township Tour. In contrast to the high class urban and white suburbs of Cape Town, there exists the African townships and shantytown squatter camps. These areas had evolved through apartheid and are inhabited by millions of Africans and coloureds (a South African ethnic label for people of mixed ethnic origin who possess ancestry from Europe, Asia, and various Khoisan and Bantu ethnic groups of southern Africa) today.
Our guests were warmly greeted by the residents and overwhelmed by the positive attitude of the social and economic development projects ongoing in the township. Because of the high praise of this optional tour, it has now become a scheduled part of our trip.
The Cape Peninsula unveiled many unexpected delights. The views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and False Bay were incredibly breathtaking. And what were baboons, ostriches, and penguins doing in a place like this? Table Mountain, a dramatic icon of the Cape, was as spectacular to view from Cape Town as the views from the top overlooking the city and the water.
Since I had studied and taught African dance and drumming, I was eager to experience that part of the culture during my visit. An activity on our trip included an evening learning to play djembe drums, enjoying a colorful African dance and music performance and tasting flavors from all over Africa.
I thought that I was little Miss Smarty Pants about flowers and trees, but I soon realized that my knowledge was limited to flora in the Western US. In South Africa, I could not identify one familiar plant. What a treat to learn about and experience a whole new world of plants indigenous to South Africa. The first thing I am going to do on my next journey to Cape Town is to spend a day at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to learn about the fynbos, proteas and more of the Cape plant kingdom.
Saving the best for last was the safari experience at the Thornybush private game reserve. There are no words to describe the amazement of being so close to wild animals in their natural habitat and observing their behaviors . . . sitting in your open air Land Cruiser at dusk, with lions on either side of you, ROARING at each other; elephants sauntering within a few feet of you, allowing you to feel their enormous presence; the hilarious looking warthogs scampering along with their tails pointing straight towards the sky; and catching a glimpse of a rhino, who’s species is on the edge of extinction.
A safari is something that must be seen, felt, and heard in order to appreciate the wildness of South Africa.