gmhTODAY 06 gmhToday Jan Feb 2016 - Page 91

M y lifelong dream was to go on an African safari and see the “big five” (African lion, African elephant, rhinoceros, African leopard and Cape buffalo) in the wild. I got my chance when a good friend and I booked a trip to South Africa with ORYX Wildlife Safaris. Our trip began in Johannesburg, South Africa, known from its early mining history as the City of Gold. We planned to spend the first half of our trip in Kruger National Park and the second half along the coast in Cape Town. We spent our first night at the Intercontinental Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport hotel where we enjoyed good food and South African pinotage wine. The next morning, we met our seasoned wildlife tour guide, Nelis Wolmarans, who thrilled us with stories from his previous career in big game preservation and anti- poaching enforcement. He explained that while endangered animals such as the rhinoceros don’t like being shot with tran- quilizers, transported in trucks across miles of dirt roads and released into new territory, they need protection from poachers. On day two we flew to tiny Hoedspruit Airport and drove to a private game reserve inside Kruger National Park, which stretches over more than 7,500 square miles. The park boasts 148 species of mammals, GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 from the dwarf mongoose to the African elephant. Kruger’s parklands reflect the true African bush, with thickets that hide antelope, lions, zebras and African elephants. Raptors nest in tall trees above sleeping leopards. We stayed at Kings Camp in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. Just inside the front gate were impalas, wart- hogs and civet monkeys. The staff gave us a cool drink and took us to our safari-style rooms, which were right out of a magazine with their beautiful net-covered beds, reed gabled ceilings, claw-foot tubs and Victorian furniture! Later we hopped into a Land Rover and 91