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Daniel's Trip to South Africa

Final Reflection: Our African Adventure

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Now that I am back in the States and have had an opportunity to relax and collect my thoughts, I think this is the perfect opportunity to recap my wonderful trip to South Africa. It’s funny to think that just three months ago I was chosen to go to South Africa with the Discovery Channel. The whole issue came as a a surprise. There wasn’t hat much prep time. We had one o the quickest application processes that I have ever witnessed, but all of that work that we crammed into a few short days to apply was definitely worth it. The memories and friends that I made in my two weeks aboard will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The first few day of our adventure were spent traveling to South Africa. It began with a nine hour flight from DFW to Frankfurt. Overall, the flight went well although there were some minor complications. After our arrival, we toured the city for eight hours. Needless to say my feet hurt. Although Frankfurt was loads of fun, I was eager to arrive at our final destination, South Africa. By Day Two, I was losing my sense of time. We traveled for so long, but after three flights, two layovers, and forty-two hours of traveling I'm finally sleeping in my bed in Cape Town. Africa was absolutely beautiful. We drove past Table Top Mountain on our way to our hotel and it is magnificent. While in the hotel I had the opportunity to watch some South African TV. It was very interesting to say the least.

By Day Four, I was getting into the swing of life in South Africa. That morning, after our briefing, we visited two of Cape Town's township. These townships provide Cape Town with racially segregated housing. The thing that really stuck out to me at the townships was the extremely poverty in which the African people lived. It almost made me cry. However, the South Africans were so happy with their lives and seemed not to care about their economic status. It really made me re-examine my priorities and value system. After our township experience, went to lunch at a church and then to scuba diving training. I really enjoyed the training. It was really fun and I never had the opportunity to do something like that before my trip.

Our next day was extremely taxing. First, we woke up at 5:00 in the morning. From that we took a 2 hour bus ride to the tip of the continent and prepared for our shark dive. The water was super cold and the boat ride made me kind of sick, but overall the experience was fantastic. After our shark dive adventure we took a scenic drive through the coast of South Africa. It was absolutely fantastic. The mountains and the coastline were so close together and so beautiful. For dinner we dined at a local home and participated in a drumming circle. The food and entertainment were unparalleled. I loved the drumming circle and the dinner of traditional African food. I somehow felt connected to the culture that we experienced that night.

Our last day in Cape Town, was completely jammed packed full of activities. Let’s run down the checklist. Went to the southwestern most point of the second largest continent in the world, scaled a 220 meter mountain, saw penguins at boulder's beach, ate pancakes with cheese for lunch, visited SANCCOB and held two penguins, and finally flew across a country. Today was a very full day! We started our day at 7:20 am and and traveled to the Cape of Good Hope. It was beautiful and we learned a lot about the history behind the cape. Next we traveled to Cape Point and scaled a 220 meter mountain. We were able to see for miles and miles. From Cape Point, we travels to boulder's beach and saw the African penguins that live on the rocks. After boulder's beach, we had lunch in Cape Town in the Water Front District. Our lunch was pancakes prepared several different ways. I had mine with cheese and tomatoes. Our group traveled to the SANCCOB rehabilitation center after lunch. At the center, I held to
different types of penguins, the Rockhopper penguin and the African penguin. It was so cool. We learn more about SANCCOB through an information video and a lecture by one of its associates. After our SANCCOB experience, we concluded our Cape Town adventure by traveling to the airport and flying to Johannesburg. It was a very full day and one that I will never forget.

Our second to last day in Johannesburg wasn't so much about adventure, but experiencing the historical and cultural side of South Africa. We began our day by traveling to a cave where an austrolopithicus africanus was found. It is believed that this creature was one of our early ancestors. After the caving experience, we met with Dr. Collin Mentor. He taught us about the history of man and how Africa is the cradle of human kind. After our lecture, we went to an open market to buy African goods. I did not like the market that much because the shop owners were overly persistent and I felt obligated to buy something. After the market we went to Ledesi, a culture theme exhibit. While there I ate an African grub, it was so weird. We also had a African feast with ostrich and crocodile. Overall it was an awesome day.

Our last day in Johannesburg was more somber than all others on our adventure. We were introduced to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the apartheid issue that plagued South Africa. We started our day by visiting the apartheid museum. The visit made me reflect upon my personal history as well as the history of my own nation and caused me to look at human nature in a whole new way. Visiting the museum made me realize that we as humans do not always treat each other as we should. It made me examine the entire history of humanity and notice that whether you are talking about the Egyptians and Hebrews, the Mongols and the Chinese, the Germans and Eastern Europe, or the US Civil Rights Movement, people have treated other people in derogatory manners because of simple culture or physical differences. Why is man so petty that is quarrels over simple things? Why can't we all live in a world were we are all accepted for who we are? These are the questions that have baffled man for millennia and have caused countless wars. When the day comes that people can just "be" we will have universal peace. Next we visited a center for children that have been effected by AIDS. Truly, I was a bit nervous to interact with people who were infected. I know it is silly, but I was just a little freaked. However, after I began to interact with the kids I forgot all about the illness and realized that they were just kids who need love. After all we are all technically decaying and dying, those kids just know what is doing it

We ended our visit to South Africa with a three day stay in Kruger Nation Park. Over the course of a few days petted an elephant, lion, cheetah, and leopard; seen a giraffe, zebra, rhino, buffalo, wildebeest, baboon, monkey, warthog, jackal, waterbuck, antelope, impala, wild dog, and caracal.

After our five hour drive from Johannesburg, we finally arrived at the Tshukudu Bush Camp. After the initial welcome, we went on our first adventure through the bush. It was on this trip that we had our first opportunity it to touch an elephant. After our safari experience, we had dinner and a final brief. Our accommodations were extremely appropriate for the scenery. We slept in thatch-roofed, above-ground, huts. This was a new experience because I have never slept in such a modest dwelling. The first night was pretty rough, but eventually I got used to it.The second day, we took a morning walk with lions and returned to camp an had an awesome breakfast. We went back out into the bush and examined the "droppings" of the various animals that live in the bush. At one point our group participate in a contest to see who could spit a piece of giraffe "dropping" the furthest. Although I spat it pretty far, a student from Iowa, Sean, won the challenge and even rivaled the South African record. After lunch, we went back out into the bush and to the cheetah enclosure. It was so cool to be able to play with animals that could kill you. We concluded the day with a drumming circle and a radiation of musical chairs. I almost won, but one of the Arkansas students beat me out in the last round.The next day we went on another morning walk with lions. It was great. After breakfast, we had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We darted and transported a leopard from an enclosure to the wild. It was so cool; we had to make sure the animal was completely asleep before we could transport it. After this, we had lunch and a bit of free time. We went back out into the bush after our free time. While there, we performed a unexpected catfish rescue. Myself and four other students stepped into the deep dark African mud and took the fish to a pond with hippos. After the catfish, we web to see the male lions. We made it growl by revving the engine of our off road vehicle. It was an awesome day.My last day we begin with an awesome breakfast. After we eat breakfast, we pack up and load the coach. Kruger was a great way to start a day and a great way to end my African adventure.

Prior to this trip I have never really considered traveling to South Africa. I never saw the hidden beauty that is contained in one of the world’s southern most countries. While there I have many life-changing experiences that I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. I am so thankful that had this experience and to visit a land of magic and wonder. My trip to South Africa has expanded my world-view and has forever changed the way that I look at myself and the other citizens of the world.


johan said...

Hi Thanks for the great article on South Africa. Hope you come back soon. If you have more news on the african penguin and you have a twitter account please start your tweets with @ispotpnguins

We collect all mentions of the african penguin at and at

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History