African Safari, a poem by Robbi DeVries

Africa, the dark  and wild continent…
And yet we summoned the courage to go:
12 Seattlites, 3 de Havilland Beavers,
And  two of our Aussie mates in tow.

For some, it was the promise of adventure
Which enticed us to travel so far.
For others the bucket-list loomed heavily,
Other life events setting the bar.

It is no easy feat shipping 3 airplanes
Half way round the world for ourselves to fly.
But with dreams of scenes from “Out of Africa”,
No price to pay was too high.

So with great expectation we left Cape Town
Eager to slip the bonds of controllers and fly…
Unhindered and free, o’er the Kalahari to see
Lions, Ellies, and zebra from on high.

While the books and movies had painted
The idyllic dream of the unemcombered flight,
The reality you see, was just not to be,
As the controller exclaimed with delight…

“5-1-0 Papa Whiskey, are you listening to me?”

The pilots and passengers were all experienced,
In listening to radio calls,
But the Afri-CANS was such, we just didn’t get much,
And sometimes nothing at all.

With the trials of communication soon forgotten,
To Tswalu at 90 knots we sped.
The vast African plains, the ever-changing terrain,
Excitement building for what lay ahead.

At the remote airstrip there they were waiting,
The safari guides and trackers and staff.
After drinks and a snack, into landrovers we packed.
Forge ahead! Let’s see lions and giraffe!

We bounced the rocky trails of the savannah,
The sight of impala eliciting a thrill.
Then the radio crackled signaling our tracker.
Some cheetahs and just made a kill!

The pace of our vehicles was heightened
As we sped toward the Predator Zone.
Abruptly we slowed,  a slight shiver of cold,
Only whispers heard ‘bove the landrover’s drone.

The tracker and guide exchanged silent signals
As through Acaia and bush brush we plowed.
And just when you thought, all had just been for naught
There they were… what this trip was about.

20 feet away- magnificent cheetah brothers
Lying there calmly munching their prey.
While a bit hard to view, realistically we knew…
It’s survival… we would not look away.

And so it went each day of the safaris,
With the 6 a.m. wake up calls.
Back to camp for a feast, a nap and then tea,
Another game drive before the night fall.

Evening drives were capped off with “sundowners”,
Having drinks by ponds where hippos lazed.
Vewing stars so amazing, Southern Cross brightly blazing,
Sharing pics and events of our day.

The night time brought dinners in bomas,
Entertained with native dancing and song.
Feasts fit for a king, prompting our own ladies to sing,
Even if our tune was all wrong.

In the daylight we were free to be mobile,
Wandering  through camp with wildlife among.
But with dark came the fear, of night predators near,
So on our escorts, the rifles were slung.

Each camp has its own special memories,
Like Ellie’s having drinks ’round the pool.
Or flying over Vumburra, in search of Mapula,
Found alive with a new baby. How cool!

We blogged video of lions doing a “take down”,
And of monkeys stealing apples and things,
A mama rhino and baby, just lazily grazing…
Beside the tarmac in front of our planes.

After seventeen days on safari
We’d checked off most on our multi-page plan.
The big five, the ugly three, the birds, plants, and trees,
The dunes of the great Phinda Sands.

Enchanted by the African people,
Intrigued by the African land,
Tswalu, Impodimo,Vumbura, Mashatu
Mala Mala and Phinda were grand.

Still, the original dream to fly Africa…
Unfettered and solo and free,…
Had not quite yet been accomplished,
So on we flew, the east coast to see.

What a glorious surprise was awaiting-
The spectacular African Coast.
Of a  more wild and unspoiled coastline
Very few other countries can boast.

As we rounded the tip of the continent…
The pilots their dreams finally fulfilled,
Soaring free as a bird, from the cockpits we heard
Clicks of cameras as SD cards  filled.

Many thanks to Mike, Doug , and David,
And the co-pilots who helped make the way.
And to Hanks Aero for the trip of a lifetime,
And amazing memories we’re taking away.

Each of the members of this incredible adventure will take away a unique perspective of the land, the animals, the people and the culture of the relatively small part of this vast continent which we explored. For me, it was to be reminded once again of the  sameness, not the differences, of humankind, as well as animals the world over,  and just how inter-dependent the systems are-each playing their own role in perpetuating the fragile circle we call life.

With the invention of the aeroplane, the world is, indeed, a smaller place and only though general aviation are we are able to experience adventures like The Great African Air Safari.

May you always have a “tailwind”,

Robbi DeVries

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