(Article published in Rubs and Scrapes – Maryland Bowhunters Society publication)
I am not a hunter.
So why in the world would I want to go on a ten-day hunt in South Africa? How could I possibly enjoy such a trip?
Well, let me count the ways.
The first time I went to South Africa with my husband was in the summer of 2012. I was filled with anxiety and had no idea what to expect. It was Africa after all, and all I knew of that continent was what I’d seen in movies. I wasn’t sure this was for me.
Fortunately, my husband, Lee, and I were able to meet with Andries and Steffi van Wyjk of van Wijk Safaris prior to our trip there. All (well almost all) of my worries and concerns were put to rest as they answered my many questions about the accommodations and what to expect when we arrived. I was definitely reassured about our upcoming visit to this mysterious continent half a world away.
When we arrived, though exhausted from our travels, I was wide-eyed with wonder on the ride from the airport to the lodge. I was at once taken with this strange and beautiful land which was so different from anywhere else I’d ever been. I remember my excitement at seeing the first baboons running along the side of the road and the herds of impala and other animals whose names I did not yet know. I saw so much that first day but had no clue that it wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg of what was yet to come.
Then we arrived at the lodge. Wow! In spite of all the reassurance we had received, I must admit to still anticipating something rather primitive. Wrong! The suite in which we’ve stayed on each of our three ten-day trips to van Wijk Safaris is in no way primitive, and the hospitality and kindness of everyone there is beyond compare. I guess my only complaint is the great food. I am bound to gain weight on every visit. Each night the evening meals were fit for a king—and queen—and left me more than satisfied. It is almost impossible not to overeat when the food is that delicious. And I can’t even think about the desserts without drooling a little!
I think for me—other than the food—the highlight of our first trip was the day we enjoyed the Elephant Experience. After about an hour of learning about and interacting with the elephants, we actually got to take an elephant ride—and not just in a little circle—but across the African terrain. This was another WOW! I’m not sure how long we were astride our huge mounts, but I know it will live in my memory forever.
I saw so many animals in the wild for the first time that year, but that was nothing compared to what I saw on our second trip to South Africa in 2014. On this visit Andries and Steffi took us for a three-day trip to Kruger National Park. For three days, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. My advice to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Kruger is don’t forget your camera! You will probably never have a better opportunity to see so many wild and beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
I couldn’t begin to name all the animals I saw, but I most love the amazing pictures and the memories of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and yes, even lions running down the road. I can attest to the fact that when you suddenly see ten or eleven female lions run right by the vehicle you’re in, your heart will nearly beat out of your chest.
On our third trip to South Africa, I had the chance to get fairly close to lots hippopotamuses at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. There was a myriad of other animals and birds to see and photograph as well, but I especially enjoyed watching those hungry, hungry hippos.
Of course, on each of our three trips, Lee was there to hunt, so I often spent the day at the lodge while he was out with Andries. On those days, I found there was nothing more relaxing than sitting by the pool under the African afternoon sun with my Kindle. It is wonderful how the chill on a South African winter morning disappears in the warmth of the sun by ten or eleven o’clock—and just as quickly returns when the sunsets.
But by then it was always time to go inside, relax, and prepare for another wonderful evening listening to tales of the hunt and enjoying great food and wine with wonderful friends.