How can I summarize my experience in Southern Africa in 55 minutes?
This morning I spent a 55 minute block talking to students about my experience in Southern Africa, and I’m about to do it again with another group. I’ve been three times to this region — 1) in 2001 I spent 6 weeks in Cape Town while working as a private teacher, 2) in 2011 I traveled for 3 and a half weeks with a group of teachers on an overland camping trip, and 3) this past summer in 2018 I went back to Cape Town, and to see Namibia, which I didn’t get to see on my last trip.
It’s a daunting task — how can I explain my time traveling through 6 countries and miles of landscapes in a way that captures even a little bit of what I’ve learned? I use lots of photos and videos, but mostly, I try to tell stories and share the moments that tugged at my heart. I have to believe that if it meant a lot to me, it will resonate with the kids. So, here’s a taste of my favorite experiences in this gigantic corner of the world:
Walking with lions in Zimbabwe
Visiting Antelope Park was an unbelievable experience. I got to walk with lions who were raised with humans and pet lion cubs. I also got to watch a kill (well, our jeep arrived after the lions attacked but while the wildebeest was still alive). I know that there are ethical issues with keeping lions in captivity, but I do know that this center was very focused on conservation and protection. And it was truly something that I will never forget. Here’s a snazzy little video I made about the experience (back in 2011):
Riding on a mokoro through the Okavango Delta in Botswana
My guides really got me freaked out about camping in the back country in the Okavango Delta, without fences around our tents to protect us. It turned out to be a really peaceful experience, away from all the hustle and bustle. With stunning views of the moon. I loved getting to know our polers and learning about their lives too.
Experiencing Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls is one of the three biggest waterfalls in the world. Surprisingly, I haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet, one of the other big ones. I wasn’t planning to ride a microlight over the falls, but then at the last minute, I did it. And it was spectacular! But also great to get really close and get soaking wet from the spray.
Climbing Table Mountain in South Africa
There’s something magical about Cape Town, and a lot of that has to do with Table Mountain. Towering over the city, it’s just a gorgeous site.
On this recent trip, I got to hike it! It was such a beautiful day, and so much better than taking the cable car.
Snorkeling with a whale shark in Mozambique
I didn’t have an underwater camera when I snorkeled with a whale shark in the Indian Ocean. It lasted about 10 seconds, but it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I’ve searched online for videos which begin to show what it was like, and this is the closest I’ve found to my own experience.
Climbing the dunes in Namibia
I recently wrote about the dunes in Namibia, and the animals of the desert, but it was really special to show my students the photos and videos, and also to let them check out some of the sand that I brought back. When you hold a magnet to it, you can see the iron oxide in the sand!
Going on Safari at Kruger in South Africa, Chobe in Botswana, and Etosha in Namibia
There’s so much more to share, and I didn’t even begin to talk about my time in Mali, in West Africa. I’m saving that for another day. I do hope that students got a little bit of an idea of why I keep going back to this part of the world. And hopefully some day I’ll be reading their blog entries.