Today will remain a real highlight of tour, although our wake-up call at 5 a.m. was an abrupt and early beginning to the day. Many of us boarded open-air Jeeps to tour the park while the rest road the coach on the asphalt and dirt roads. We entered the park at 6:30 when it opened, and spent the next 10½ hours having the incredible experience of seeing African wild animals up close and personal that we had only ever seen in zoos and wild animal parks. (Warning – lots of pictures ahead!)
From the first giraffe that was silhouetted against the sunrise to the last herd of mother elephants with their babies crossing the road ahead of us, it was a thrill to see these beautiful and powerful animals in their native habitat, roaming freely. We had a remarkable day and saw crocodiles, zebras, elephants, impalas, duikers, giraffes, African eagles, the kingfisher bird, buffaloes, vultures, warthogs, exotic lizards, the lilac breasted roller, steenboks, baboons, waterbuck, a water monitor snake, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, a tortoise, one lion hiding in the shade, and more that I cannot remember to list. Of the large animals, we missed only leopards and hyenas, so we felt very lucky. I particularly enjoyed the intrepid baby elephant (not even tusks growing yet) who trumpeted, mock charged the Jeep, then turned tail and ran off into the brush. The African landscape is so very beautiful—I’m including some photos just of it so you can share it with us. I took 400 some photos today, so the ones I am including are really just a small percentage. I will be glad to show the rest to any of you who feel cheated—just come to Provo! It was a day that none of us will ever forget—the rare chance to experience South Africa and its animals. We also will not forget the heat; it was 104 degrees in the open sun by afternoon, though we began the day chilly in our sweatshirts. So far South Africa’s winter is surely not the winter we had expected, but no one is really complaining.
All choir members remain healthy and happy and enjoying the tour. I hope that will still hold true after our daylong bus ride tomorrow that will take us through Swaziland and into Durban, South Africa for a South African barbecue, or braai, hosted by the Durban Mission. Our wake-up call tomorrow is 4:30 a.m., so this blog will not go up until we reach Durban. (note from editor – actually, I got it up by 3:45am your time. Yes, I have nothing else to do)