(You can read about the first part of my trip HERE.)
Teaching in South AfricaOur flight to Port Elizabeth was quick; although, filled with some turbulence. I found the drive from the airport out to Kichaka absolutely beautiful. I'm most astounded sometimes by the beauty in the world. My dad taught me at an early age to appreciate the world around me, so I'm always content to simply ride along and watch from a car window the beauty of the flora and fauna around me.
We arrived at Kichaka Game Lodge just short of a couple of hours after landing. We were greeted by the very gracious staff, and then we were transported by jeep to the main lodge. The lodge is surrounded by walls, electric fence, and an electronic gate which keeps the people in and the animals out. Right off the bat, we spotted a few animals as we drove to the lodge.
At the lodge we were divided into groups and taken to our individual lodging huts. Does this even qualify as a hut? This is the type of place you take your significant other to. It's romantic, beautiful, and secluded. It's also a great place to bond with a best friend. I had the lovely privilege of sharing a room with the amazing Rachel Grieg from Darkroom Door Stamps. She's a wonderful person, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to become her friend.
After settling in, we headed out on our first game drive. Now the whole part of coming to Africa for me has ALWAYS been about going on a Safari. So to finally be in a jeep heading out into the bush, was a beyond-exciting experience. Our Field Guide Ashley is incredibly knowledgeable and pointed out items all along the drive. The roads aren't paved, and sometimes you can't tell there is a road until he starts driving on it. He can spot animals for miles that our technology-filled eyes can't even see when we're nearly upon them.
I couldn't believe it when we pulled up near the giraffes, and he allowed us to get out and walk around as he served us drinks. While I sipped on some water, I tried to take in the fact that I was standing a few yards away from some of Heavenly Father's most beautiful creatures. While we watched, two males began fighting over a nearby female. They would swing their heads into each others necks, and you could hear the "thwack" as they hit one another. It was a National Geographic moment for sure. Stopping to observe the animals in their habitat is where you will get the most from a Safari. If you rush off, you'll completely miss how the move, what they eat, how they interact, and all that makes them majestic.
Ashley, our guide, is an avid and incredible photographer and knew just how to place us to get the best light and angle of the animals, the sunset, and the incredible views. It was all that I hoped it would be.
The following morning we were to head out at 6 a.m. in order to see all the animals before it became too hot. I was quite sick and realized that I wouldn't be able to be in a jeep for four hours feeling the way that I did. So I excused myself and went back to my room to rest. I admit that I cried a little bit. I was heartbroken that I might be missing out on some of the animals after waiting so long to experience my girlish dream. But I apparently needed it as I was sick for much of the trip to Africa and lost quite a bit of weight on the trip.
Thankfully that evening I was well enough to join them for the second drive of the day. Each day we took two drives. One early in the morning and one late in the evening. This is the best time to see the animals. And each time we experienced something new.
When we weren't on the drive, we were eating, chatting, and resting. The food was absolutely incredible, and I was sad that I was too sick to enjoy it. South African cuisine is some of the best I've ever had. And the Kichaka chef is top notch. You should have seen the spreads he put out each night. Just amazing!!
(photo courtesy of Rachel Grieg)
Over the next few days, our group began to bond as we chatted, laughed, shared, and befriended one another. I had the privilege of being with Laura Graff from Webster's Pages, Glenda Viljoen from South African Convention, Rachel Grieg from Darkroom Door, Stephanie Smokovich from Bella Blvd, and Trisha Ladoucer. There were also two very awesome guys on the grips. Stephanie's husband, Stephen, and Laura's husband Jonathan. They took care of us single gals and always made sure we were safe the entire trip. I appreciated them both for that as I wasn't able to take Brett on this trip.
This part of my trip was magical. The rolling hills, spotting lions in the dark with a spotlight (and then a red light), watching Springbok leap and chase one another, discovering Elephants in the bush and then outside of a property located on the preserve. Ashley was an incredible guide, and I learned so much about the animals from his tours. I cannot recommend Kichaka or Ashley as your guide enough. If you want to experience Africa, be sure to go there!
On our final morning, it was pouring. We were blessed in our timing as there had been rain before our arrival and rain as we left. As we headed to the main gate to check out, I discovered a few tears pooling in my eyes. It was then that I realized how much I had fallen in love with this place. It seeps into your soul and changes you. It makes you realize that there gracious and good people everywhere (the staff was amazing), and that life-long friends can be made in just a few days, and that God has created the most beautiful planet.
This place will always be a part of me, and I'm so grateful for the experience.