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Thirteen excited ASURA travelers, "the Gazelles", set off from Sky Harbor on March 23, 2013, to fly to Africa. The lucky travelers were: Gary and Marge Anderson, Carol Berg, Joann DeMassa, Larry Kentera, Barbara Hanigsberg, Leslie Hightower, Bob and Peggy Moroney, Uta Murchinson, Laura Sahlin, Ayn Semmens, and Hal White. We picked up a fourteenth Gazelle at Dulles International: a soon-to-retire Wolverine professor from the U of Michigan (Earl Werner).
It was a long flight across the Atlantic to Johannesburg, South Africa. A brief stopover in Dakar, Senegal did not really break up the flight much. Seventeen hours on board is a long time, but how else to do it? We were setting off on an adventure to visit four southern African countries, an adventure of a lifetime.
We arrived in Johannesburg in the evening and went right to our hotel for the night. The next morning, back to the Johannesburg airport for a brief two-hour flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. From there we drove by minibus into Botswana to Chobe National Park. Thus began our animal game drive viewing adventures that spanned four very isolated camps in preserves and national parks in three countries: Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. One of the parks is the size of New Jersey.
Each of the four camps consisted of about eight tented cabins and a main building that was the dining area and lounge room. Our tented cabins had hard floors, a bathroom and shower and electricity. Very comfortable but it was very common to hear the elephants and hippos during the night as they passed by, grunting and woofing and eating. We were cautioned not to go out at night but never felt endangered.
Each morning we would be awakened by a staff member and served breakfast in the main building. The main building had a large dining table and comfortable lounge furniture. No walls allowed animal viewing during breakfast!
We would then board lorries at about 7:00 AM for our early morning game drive. Our morning game drive would last 3-4 hours with a midmorning break for tea or coffee. Our guides were all excellent in their knowledge of animals, their likely whereabouts and their behavior. Every day was an incredible school day for the "Gazelles". Unbelievable.
We saw literally thousands of animals over our three-week adventure, many of them quite up close. The lorries we rode in did not seem to bother the animals. We were cautioned, however, not to speak out loud, only in whispers, nor stand up nor extend our hands or arms out from the lorry. When our driver/guide spotted animals of interest they would drive slowly closer and then stop so we could observe ... and, take a picture or fifty.
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