South Africa - we arrived in Johannesburg and stayed two nights the it was off on safari in the Kruger National Park. Not much time for blogging the first couple of days and as I suspected there was no wireless access in the park. So over the next few days I will be updating you with my safari adventure.
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It is divided into nine provinces and has 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline. To the north lie the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; South Africa is a multiethnic society and has diverse cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognised in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: English and Afrikaans. Population 53 million people.
South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank. It has the largest economy in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world. By purchasing power parity, South Africa has the 5th highest per capita income in Africa. It is considered a newly industrialised country. However, about a quarter of the population is unemployed and live on less than US $1.25 a day.
Johannesburg is one of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the world, and is also the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline. It claims to be the lightning capital of the world, though this title is also claimed by others. The population in the greater Johannesburg area is over 7 million. Johannesburg includes Soweto, which was a separate city from the late 1970s until the 1990s. Originally an acronym for "South-Western Townships", Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg populated mostly by native African workers in the gold mining industry. Eventually incorporated into Johannesburg, the apartheid regime (in power 1948–1994) separated Soweto from the rest of Johannesburg to make it a completely Black area.
First day in Johannesburg our flight attendant Sandy (friend of Jenny's) rented a van for our safari group and we were off to the Lion Park (voted one of the top 100 tourist destinations in the world by Newsweek Magazine). After stopping for directions several times (getting directions is quite interesting as everyone says your destination is 1/2 hour away - not always accurate - nor are the directions). However with sandy's perseverence we arrived safely at the Lion Park.
First we visited the lion cubs and were able to pet them. These were not the very young cubs as the young ones are kept in a separate area and only the park volunteers are allowed to pet them to get them use to humans.
Next it was off to feed the giraffes (bucket item - tick). What a thrill. These are the most gentle, elegant and beautiful animals - not all afraid of humans but I guess they know who will feed them.
Mag feeding the giraffes
After viewing the animals in the fenced off area we got back in the car to drive through the lion camps. We were unbelievable close to these anaminals and as you can see below they were not shy while we photographed them mating.
Lions mate throughout the year and they mate every 20 minutes for a 36 hour period. No wonder the female looks bored!
It was exciting to see white lions - these lions are white due to a regressive gene and do not survive long in the wild as they cannot camouflage well.
After the park it was off to the Hartbeespoort Dam and Aerial Cable Cars. The scenery was fabulous but unfortunately my camera battery ran out. Hint for all you travellers - purchase an extra battery for your camera and have both charged when you start your day of touring - this is especially important on a safari as you use lots of battery power while taking numerous shots using zoom lens.
Impressions of South Africa so far - much better road system than I expected (road works everywhere) and you are relatively safe as long as you stay on the main roads. Johannesburg has a small rail system but it is very expensive and therefore most people cannot afford it. There is a very poor public bus system - transportation is by car or mini-vans pick up locals at various points. This all leads to horrendous traffic jams especially at peak times - we saw one that must have been 25km long - thank goodness we were going in the opposite direction. There are still numerous townships, which look appalling - very sad that people live in these conditions. Lots of young black males hanging around with nothing to do. Domestic workers, jobs that require no education earn about 2500 RAN (about $270) per month. There is a great desparity in the wages and living conditions. Food and alcohol are relatively cheap here by our standards but not if you are earning $270 per month!!
Weather here is beautiful sunny every day - mornings are cool can be as low as 6 but by early morning the tempature has risen to the mid 20's. in Kruger Park the tempature got as high as 33 in the afternoons. There are a few breezes but barely any wind.