Tag Archives: Tsuwalu

Day 1, Part II Cape Town to Tswalu –Robbi’s view

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[Full communication with the safari crew is still spotty --but email is working! While we await further news from the field, here's more on that first day from Robbi DeVries]

_DSC3114I feel my hands grip the armrest a bit tighter and my senses becoming more alert as they always do just before a landing. We have just spent the better part of the day watching the changing patterns of the “ground art” as we have come to call the beautifully intricate and seemingly random colorful patterns of the terrain passing below us. On this leg, we are the lead plane in a flight of 3  and are traversing the Kalahari Dessert (most of us for the first time) from Capetown to our first destination on the Great African Air Safari. I am sitting behind Anne Simpson (acting co-pilot) and my husband, Doug DeVries (pilot), with Anne’s husband Charlie on my left. He has a chart in hand and continually looks from chart to terrain and back trying to correlate the two. Ann is rustling another chart and straining forward looking out the windscreen. “Can you see it? The GPS says it is right here”, queries Doug. “Not yet”, replies Anne. I feel my heart rate increase by a few beats per minute, as Charlie and I keep sitting “taller” in our seats trying to locate the illusive runway…

Maybe 10 seconds go by and it is quiet in the cockpit, as all eyes are trained on the ground. And then…there it is! …this huge paved runway obscured until now by a low rise in an otherwise flat terrain. We make a low pass to frighten off any four-legged interlopers from the runway and a few minutes later we are climbing from our trusty Beavers being greeted by the guides from Tswalu, our home for the next two nights. “Tswalu”, which means “new beginning”, is the perfect “beginning” for the first stop on our safari. As we have arrived a couple hours later than originally planned (late start, long fuel stop), we are given a quick snack and drink, then loaded into the safari vehicles for  the evening game drive.

On Safari - Tswalu game preserve

On Safari – Tswalu game preserve

As we jostle along, Richard, our guide, explains some of the history of Tswalu. After the untimely death of Stephen Boler, who originally created this 225,000 acre preserve, the Oppenheimers, who were offered the parcel at his behest, purchased the preserve and have redoubled his efforts and dedication to returning the Kalahari to “itself”. All existing farms were bought, structures torn down, and the entire property was fenced and cross-fenced allowing certain species to thrive without the threat of predators. As we approach the PREDATOR ZONE, our vehicle stops and the tracker, Ben, dismounts his perch on the front of the Land Rover to unlock and re- lock the gates.

Suddenly the radio crackles-Cheetahs have been spotted and we are on the hunt…

African trackers are tribesmen who have been taught by their fathers and grandfathers, and because of the safari industry, are in high demand. Their skills border on the mystical to us as they signal the guide to turn this way or that, speed up or slow down Just when you think there has been some mistake, Richard stops the vehicle and Ben leaves his perch and joins us INSIDE the vehicle.

Cheetah on the Kalahari

Cheetah on the Kalahari

The Land Rover slows to a crawl, everyone speaks in whispers and the cameras come into position. Within a few seconds…there they are!  20 feet away, looking straight  at us are two 120+ pound magnificent cheetahs!  There is just enough sunlight left  to accentuate their dramatic black marking and chiseled profiles. I take a deep breath and savor the moment. I am here… in Africa… in the presence of these wild amazing creatures. Doug clicks away with his D-800, and while I know these will be fantastic photographs, I know nothing can replace this moment. I am here. I saw them…

Robbi DeVries

Air Safari Update

–A brief update from the field–

Doug and the team are without internet for a couple days, but will be back soon with more updates and photos from the safari. Who knew it was going to get *this* rustic?

In the mean time, here is another photo from their ground-based explorations earlier this week:

Mr Cheetah - reminding us that he is a predator

Mr Cheetah – reminding us that he is a predator

Thanks for joining us on the Great Africa Air Safari!

Day 1 Cape Town to Tswalu

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DSC_1271Today you get to hear from me (Kay Lester) now that all of the airplane stuff is well taken care of. Yes, we made it successfully to our first destination despite the sometimes unpredictable landings aboard our Beavers. Those wind gusts tend to make us passengers count how many bounces we make before we finally get stopped.

On our first stop we have managed to find one of the most beautiful spots in the world known as Tswalu Private Desert Game Reserve. Oh my,

The Cheetah brothers, they do everything together - hunting, playing, and sleeping

there are not enough words in the English vocabulary to describe the beauty of this camp. (Maybe in Afrikaans but not in English.) Unfortunately, all are complaining politely that we should have stayed here for more than two nights.

The advantage to going on a safari in the winter months in Africa is that you don’t have to get up at some awful hour to see animals. The temperature – a little chilly at the beginning of the 8 a.m. game drive – is a bit shocking, but by noon you’re shedding layers of clothing. In just four hours we were able to see some of the most rare of God’s creation, namely the black rhinoceros, sable, and the red hartebeest, not to forget those beautiful cheetahs we saw last evening as we were coming from the airport.

Mike asked our guide how many black rhinos were on the reserve, but it was clear that they were not sharing that information. As sad as it sounds, poachers are still a problem and one black rhino horn can go for as much $120,000. I would be remiss if I did not mention those meerkats. Just

On Safari - bouncing through the Kalahari Desert

remember the next time you see them on the Discovery Channel they are half their size in real life. I guess the camera lens has a way of making even animals look larger than life. The lodging, food, and animal sightings have more than met our expectations as we look forward to viewing the Aardvark. I’ll let you know in the next blog if we were successful. Mike and I are having a great time.