Location: Richards Bay, South Africa

The day dawned bright and early for Safari Crew Two as phone alarms went off throughout the Turtle Bay Lodge in St. Lucia for a 4:30 am wakeup. Sleepy-eyed and slow-moving, we gathered in the common area by 4:45 to fortify ourselves with coffee, tea, and a light breakfast. By 5 am the large, open-air safari vans had arrived to take us an hour north into the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Nature Park. This was the Big Five Safari Day, and we had high hopes for everything we would get to see.

Upon reaching the park, we had a few minutes to stretch our legs and watch weaver birds make (and destroy!) their complex nests in the trees surrounding the main complex. Soon enough, however, we loaded back into the vans and bundled up with warm clothes and warm blankets for our early morning drive. Paved and dirt roads looped around to the far reaches of the park, taking us through dried-out creeks and climbing past the rolling hills and valleys of the South African savanna. Everything was shades of green and gold except for the earth itself, which had the sort of ruddy brown cast that made it far too easy to mistake an Impala for a rock (or vice versa). Throughout the day, we saw a variety of amazing animals up-close: elephants, water buffalo, giraffes, zebra, monitor lizards, secretary birds, and more. Our photographers were thrilled with the chance to get the “money shot”; it was fun to watch the positions they’d contort themselves into in order to get the right angle coming out of the truck’s window. Their efforts proved more than worth it, however, and we enjoyed gathering around to check out the fruits of their labor during rest stops. Those of us who were less photographically inclined came away with plenty of pictures of zebra butts: the result of too-slow shutter fingers. Although the many animals were the highlight of the day, the landscape itself was captivating in its beauty; each van drove on in peaceful quiet between animal sightings as we stared out the van’s open windows and took everything in.

The safari came to an end around noon, at which point we were transported back to the small, sleepy town of St. Lucia for a leisurely lunch before our return to Richards Bay. We had our last coffees and tasty snacks, loaded into the van and returned to our floating home for dinner and squeeze. Now the whole crew is back together again, sharing stories about our respective days (Safari Crew One did an amazing job with their bilge-cleaning BA projects). Tonight we have a Marine Biology species ID quiz followed by a laid-back Leadership class.

Wishing our friends and families all the best as we move forward into the holiday season!