Our last night in Africa happened to coincide with a supermoon. The hosts at Bologonja Under Canvas had lit a campfire, and the full moon rose up out of the Serengeti, past a very old tree that may or may not have sheltered a family of leopards. In South Africa, they had referred to sitting around the fire as “bush TV”, and we were watching a really great episode that night.
It was an epic way to frame our last night on the African continent. But we still had to drive out to the Lobo airfield in the morning, before spending 20 or so hours in airports and flying a great circle route across the arctic north, back to the good old USA.
A once in a lifetime trip comes to an end and it is challenging to not feel a bit blue. How to process the data, to try and lock the memories up in a section of the brain that won’t fade or evaporate over time?
Our trip to the airstrip was the last chance to maybe stumble across the cheetah that I had so wanted to see, but it wasn’t to be. We passed by the largest herd of giraffe that we had seen so far, a dozen of them walking away from a stream after getting their morning water.
There were a few herds of topi antelope, one of the more stunning animals on the Serengeti. Their coats are a warm caramel tan, but shot through with bolts of black. The black band on their faces like warpaint. Butterscotch and Beelzebub, their horns are the very image of a demon come to visit. They look powerful and fast, not the ungulate that a lion wants to challenge.
One of the antelope that made an appearance on the last morning was the dik dik, the smallest of the African bovidae. They have cartoonishly big eyes and leopards seem to seek them out, a little snack, easily carried up into the tree, away from hyenas.
And then we were at the airstrip and it was time to go. I’ll wrap up with some logistics and links after the gallery.
(Click any image for larger versions and captions.)
We traveled very light, primarily because the small planes that brought us out into the wilds had limited luggage capacity. I had a small 18″/36 liter Osprey Ozone rolling bag and a backpack for a carry-on. I think I brought only 2 pairs of pants (including what I wore flying), a swim suit that doubled as shorts, and a few extra pairs of underwear and socks. A couple of t-shirts and a couple of long-sleeve sun shirts. Only the shoes on my feet, plus flip flops. We did laundry once or twice when we were at locations where the service was available, like the hotel at Victoria Falls. You could also rinse out underwear and a shirt in the wash basins at the tent camps, if need be.
On the topic of shoes, I knew we would be mostly riding in vehicles for the game drives. The most walking would be in airports, so I didn’t go for boots. I bought a pair of Vasque waterproof low-top hiking shoes that have lasted the five years since then, though they are near the end.
I chose my Fujifilm XP80 Finepix camera because it was rugged and waterproof, with an optical zoom, and not too expensive so that if I lost it or it was stolen… not the end of the world. I had three or four data cards to swap between.
Similarly, I bought an 80 dollar Android tablet to manage photos without carrying a laptop. I was usually able to upload the images at camp at night, most had at least some WiFi capability. All the locations had power to recharge batteries, through a universal travel adapter.
Binoculars are crucial on safari and I bought Nikon’s 10×25 Aculon A30 for the trip. Very compact, which was important due to our luggage limitations, and not expensive, but the image quality was fine.
I am a little embarrassed that the sunglasses I wore were the cheapest possible garbage, no-brand junk that I may have bought at a Walmart. I wish I’d invested in better sunglasses.
I got my shots for the trip at a Colorado local health clinic, in Greeley. It was mandatory to get vaccinated for typhoid, hepatitis A and TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis). There was also a series of medication to prevent malaria, and something I can’t recall about yellow fever. My South Dakota based health insurance didn’t cover it, so the shots and medication were a few hundred bucks out of pocket.
Mom did all of the planning for the trip and the company she chose, African Travel, was totally top notch. There were no logistical issues anywhere. Any time someone was supposed to meet us, they were there at the curb when we arrived, and universally professional, polite, generally just good people. The guides were incredible; deep knowledge and great story telling skills. Two Boy in Botswana and Astarick in Tanzania stood out as extraordinary people. I hope they are well today.
The flying is the worst part, but our time in the concourses and in the air was not intolerable. We departed Reno on a Delta flight at sunrise, through Salt Lake City and Atlanta, to Johannesburg, where we arrived the next day around sunset. Sunrise to sunrise, plus a day? It was goddamn long. But you know, that’s the price we pay to go to amazing adventures.
The flight back was Lobo airstrip to Kilimanjaro, to Amsterdam, to Seattle, to Reno. 10 AM to God knows when. But it was more direct than the flight out.
What to say as the last word?
I hope that this little bit of blogging results in a few people getting to share what I experienced in Africa. I never thought that I would get to experience it myself, but the world sometimes is surprisingly generous. My Mom certainly is.
Thanks, Mom. I love you.
Africa 5 Years Ago Blog Index
Five Years Ago: Revisiting an African Adventure
5 Years Ago: Monwana Lodge
5 Years Ago: Kadizora Camp
5 Years Ago: Ngoma Safari Lodge, Chobe National Park
5 Years Ago: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
5 Years Ago: Maramboi Camp, Tanzania
5 Years Ago: Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
5 Years Ago: Ngorongoro Crater
5 Years Ago: Bologonja, Serengeti National Park
5 Years Ago: Serengeti Part II
African Adventure Epilogue