Not your usual party animals
November 10, 2013 — file under TAWNY; for the lion we could barely see
We, the shipmates of Semester at Sea’s Fall 2013 voyage, are entering the third phase of our trip: we’ve been to two continents, and are only several days away from the third.
Europe’s iconic images are largely familiar to travelers — the ticketed type as well as the armchair and keyboard variety. Africa’s landmarks are less iconic, but its animals are not. Postcards and T-shirts in the souvenir shops of South Africa promote the “Big Five.” (Who among my readers know which “celebrities” make the list?)
One of the authors I had my writing students read early in the semester (Nelson H.H.Graburn on “Secular Ritual: A General Theory of Tourism”) pens that “tourism experiences are meaningful because of their difference from the ordinary” – that “tourism is best understood as a kind of ritual, one in which the special occasions of leisure and travel stand in opposition to everyday life at home and work” — reversals of of their “everyday home life.”
I think my signing up for a safari in South Africa fits this category.
I was conflicted originally about this kind of a side trip out of the port. I’m not fond of circuses based on my understanding of how the animals are treated. I’m okay with the mission of zoos, but really don’t like the ambience of cages, even for animals. And the long-term association of big game hunters and safaris appalls me. But. I was in Africa, and this was a day trip. I wouldn’t have to lie somewhere in the dark wondering about prowling lions at least.
So the compromise of a trip to a game reserve some three hours inland from Cape Town was booked. Because I suspect my blog audience is looking both for confirmation that their expectations of a place are accurate, and titillation by seeing things they don’t expect, I took pictures of animals we were told we were likely to see from the Jeep-like, multi-seated wagon.
You’ll notice I saw many stereotypical African animals, though fewer than some of my colleagues who traveled even farther. I asked one traveler who flew inland if she saw giraffes. (I didn’t, to my great disappointment, being more inclined to view a tall vegetarian than a fast-moving carnivore.)
“Oh, yeah,” she shrugged. “Giraffes were like squirrels, we saw so many of them.”
See, I told you I was conflicted about this. But none of us can do it, or see it, all. There’s a saying on board that though we are all on the same ship, we are all on a different voyage.
Now without further ado, let me introduce you to some of who and what I saw in Africa. Well, specifically on the Aquila game reserve, home of the Big Five and what I also like to call the Next Five.*
And then, also from Africa, including creatures seen during my stops in Morocco and Ghana, my Favorite Nine, seen truly living free in their environments. (Well, maybe not the burro, but surely the dung beetle, and believe or not, the baboons!)
And finally, in the mindset of saving the best for last, from Boulder’s Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa:
Disclaimer: the cheetahs and the leopard were rescue animals, in a healing sanctuary situation. Thus, in this case some cages. With wire openings large enough for my zoom lens. Still, I saw them.