Several of the Canyon Lake travelers were brave enough to pet the orphaned lion cubs. Kneeling are Mike and Pat Spencer, Joan Proeschold and Phyllis Lippen. Standing are Ron Proeschold, Susan French, Joyce Dettling and Mike Harris. Credit: Provided by Pat Spencer

From :
26 February 2012

Lou DeYoung recounts a recent trip to South Africa and surrounding nations by members of the Canyon Lake Travel Club.

On January 17, 34 Travel Club members and guests, mostly residents of Canyon Lake, journeyed to South Africa for what many of them considered the trip of a lifetime. Two days later they arrived in Cape Town for their stay at the Protea President Hotel.

While in Cape Town, they toured streets of colorful houses, rode the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for a majestic view of the area, then wandered and dined at the Victoria and Albert Harbor, with the help of their knowledgeable tour guide.

The entire group opted for a tour to the Cape of Good Hope, which is the furthest southwest point of Africa, riding a funicular to the top of Cape Point for a view of where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. “The bays, fishing villages and mountain formations were spectacular,” says Lou De Young. “The adorable ‘jackass penguins’ entertained us as we strolled along the beach. What a memorable day in a beautiful country!”

The next day they drove through the wine country and visited a cheetah rescue preserve for a close encounter with the beautiful, endangered cats. Lou says, “They were fun to watch and even more fun to pet.” Wine tasting followed at the Spier Estate Winery.

Their next flight was to Victoria Falls, the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” From the deck of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge they viewed the watering hole and the lush, green beauty of Africa. They cruised the Zambezi River in a light rain and had their first sightings of impala, hippo, herds of elephant, crocodiles, baboons and exotic birds.

The area had a great deal of rain this year, so Victoria Falls were full. The travelers got a little damp from mist rising from the falls, but appreciated the lush green of the surrounding area as they stopped to view the falls from several vantage points. The visitors learned they are the highest falls in the world and no one has survived going over them.

“Awesome would be a good description,” says Lou. “In contrast to the beauty of the falls was the insanity of the craft village, with all the venders hacking their wares. Many bags of goodies were purchased while we helped the African economy.”

At the Safari Lodge the manager was quite clear: “Do not feed the monkeys and be sure to close your doors because the monkeys will come in and steal stuff from your room,” Pat Spencer recalls. “However, after 24 hours we had not seen a single monkey and how can a trip to Africa be complete without a monkey sighting?”

So, like true Canyon Lakers, they obeyed the rules by putting a banana on their balcony. “Lo and behold, we got to see about 20 monkeys jumping from balcony to balcony, stealing M&Ms out of one room and taking food right our of our hands,” says Pat. “Various Canyon Lakers in our area of the Lodge treated the monkeys to croissants, fruit and candy.”

On one of their days in Victoria Falls, the group had an opportunity to stroll through the bush with lion cubs from 3 to 17 months old – rescued under the care of a special program that would eventually release them back into the wild. In the afternoon, some of the group helicoptered over the falls, seeing them from a totally different perspective.

To top off the day, the travelers went on an elephant safari through the streams and brush – that is, they rode on elephants, one couple and guide per elephant. “We rode and the elephants ate constantly,” says Lou. “When a baby wanted to nurse, she would scream and the safari stopped while she nursed. It was amazing.”

As for the human diners, their meals during these excursions were outdoors and with entertainment, with a cuisine of impala, crocodile and warthog, to name a few.

Their next stop was Botswana where they stayed in the Chobe Safari Lodge and enjoyed more safaris. An afternoon cruise brought more elephants, fighting hippos, baboons and a sighting of their first giraffe from afar. While dining in the outdoor restaurant, Mother Nature provided them with an electrical storm and downpour of rain, adding to the dramatic beauty of their environs.

“An after-dinner libation of African Amerula completed a wonderful day,” says Lou. Amerula is a cream liqueur manufactured in South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African Marula tree.

The next morning, their jeep safari brought them to a new species – the painted dogs. “These guys are scary, but really interesting,” says Lou. “They had just finished a kill, so they looked pretty happy. We got a much closer look at the giraffe, saw tons of birds, baboons, elephant and impala, but had yet to see lions.”

The group also had an opportunity to meet the locals, which Susan French describes. “Our itinerary called for a visit to a village in Namibia,” she writes. “It was advertised as an easy half-mile walk from a riverboat entrance at the tiny border post from Botswana into Namibia. That might have been true had there not been a terrific thunderstorm the previous night. Our club found itself ankle deep in clay mud – some lost their shoes in the mud.”

Nevertheless, Canyon Lakers took gifts of berets, crayons, coloring books, pencils and puzzles to the children of the village, observing that the village was very poor, but neat and clean. And then it was back to the business of looking for animals.

“Our last safari in Chobe was incredible, beginning with two families of elephants fighting along the road,” says Lou. “We had to move the jeeps in order for the matriarch to lead her herd across the road –they were extremely careful and protective of the babies.”

While in search of lions, they found Cape buffalo, kudu, mongoose, herds of impala and giraffe and a pack of painted dogs. They also had an encounter with a young bull elephant.

Mary Craton explains, “We were driving along when we came upon a large elephant standing right in the middle of the road. He was shaking his head and flapping his ears – attack mode! Our driver said, ‘Don’t move!’ We didn’t. After a few minutes, the elephant ambled slowly past the side of our jeep. I could have reached out and touched him – I didn’t!”

Finally, chasing animals off the road, they raced to find lions. According to Susan, they heard that lions had been spotted far into Chobe National Park in Botswana. The drivers of the four open jeeps headed down the highway and back through the bush, the drivers maintaining radio contact while searching for the elusive beasts.

“Our driver took us back and forth along a dirt trail by the river,” says Susan. “He spotted a giraffe and told us he thought she was wary of something.” Following the giraffe’s gaze the driver headed off the trail and then spotted them – a lioness and her four almost grown cubs. After turning off the engine, he told his passengers to be still and silent.

“Suddenly, they came out of the bush and walked right in front of us. We were in an open jeep no more than 20 feet from these amazing animals,” says Susan.

“They were beautiful, swishing their tails and not a care in the world,” says Lou. “What a sight and what a great final day in Chobe.”

The next day the travelers took buses to Johannesburg for their farewell dinner and the departure of 12 members of the group, with the 22 remaining members heading off to Sun City, a luxury casino and resort about two hours’ drive from Johannesburg.

The resort has four hotels and two international-standard 18-hole golf courses. The travelers were especially impressed with the Cascades Hotel and the Palace of the Lost City hotel, along with the area’s waterfalls, pools, walking paths and wave pool.

“This was a super place to relax and have one more safari in totally different terrain,” says Lou. “Some of our brave souls played golf at the Lost City, a beautiful course with a moat of crocodiles surrounding one of the holes – looking for balls in the ruff was discouraged because of snakes.”

Their final safari was in search of rhino, zebra and lions. They were successful in finding several “crash” of white rhino, several herds of zebra and finally their lion – with floodlights, in the dark, with a super electrical storm and a little rain. “Quite a dramatic finish to the trip,” says Lou.

She calls the South African adventure a combination of Disneyland and Jurassic Park, only on a much larger scale, saying, “Our group was great, our guides were helpful when problems arose, the hotels were lovely and the itinerary well planned out. We thank the Travel Club and ACT Tours for a job well done. It’s a long way to go, but so worth the effort. We can now cross this off our bucket list. Farewell Africa!”

Travelers on the South Africa trip included Sonia Banish, Richard and Penelope Barclay, Randy and Sue Bonner, Roland and Melody Clark, Mary Craton, Joyce Dettling, John and Lou DeYoung, John Fashing, Gordon Fosberg, Susan French, Thomas and Virginia Harris, Fran and Donna Kuhlman, Phyllis Lippen, Bob and Gail McCall, Jill Nordskog, Donna Nunes, Ron and Joan Proeschold, Laverne Rosky, Jack and Gail Ruzicka, Mike and Pat Spencer, Dal and LaVonne Stucker, Boab and Joanie Sundstrom, John Thomasset and Maxine Whalen.