Safari Times in South Africa

From Cape Town, Chazen South Africa made its way to Kruger Park and its glorious five million acres of forest reserves last weekend. We went on not one, but two safari treks over two days.

IMG_2991.jpgThe more serious highlights were:

  • Witnessing four of the “Big Five” game animals, so called because if you attack them, they will attack back:
    • Wild buffalos, the most unpredictable of these five. Thankfully, we saw them from afar.
    • A lion, lazy and imperious.
    • Many elephants, one too close to our safari jeep for comfort.
    • And, despite all the species’s surreptitiousness, some of us managed two sightings of leopards. In one of these, the big cat was cooling itself on the branch of a tree.
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  • The only one of the Big Five we didn’t get to see: the rhino.
    • That’s no surprise given the horrific increase in rhino poaching that’s occurred across the continent since 2008. The reason? Chinese and Vietnamese households either desire the powder of the rhino horn (for bizarre medical reasons) or the horn itself as a symbol of wealth and status. The rhino is now shockingly endangered in South Africa.
    • We attended an excellent lecture on rhino conservation, where we heard all the myriad ways South Africa has tried to stave off poachers but failed. I personally came away with the conclusion that the one path South Africa hasn’t taken may be the best shot—and that is, to legalize the trade of rhino horns. This might paradoxically help save the rhino. It will help officials flood the market with their own stockpile of rhino horns, thereby driving the global price down, and also allow them to tightly regulate activities.

The less serious highlights were:

  • Our spot-on safari wear, some of it hastily acquired in Cape Town to fit the occasion. Shout-outs to Patrick Yee ’19 and Ankit Chadha ’19 for being especially spot on.

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  • Dinner in the bush—in a small enclosure in the forest—where we ate some finger-licking sausages made from the kudu (an antelope), and rang in a trip member’s 30th
  • Those few occasions when we witnessed the, ahem, “fifth leg” of these quadrupeds.
  • That one time one of us (who will go unnamed) thought that the leopard the rest of us spotted on a tree was lying on the ground. Alas, he was looking at a rock.
  • All those times some of us (including this writer) squealed on seeing a game animal.
  • All the times the men of Chazen South Africa ’18 flirted with the stunning female safari tour guide, but never managed to get her number.

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All in all, it was an epic safari trip. In fact, to borrow a phrase from one of the most vivacious members of our entourage, nothing Chazen South Africa ’18 did wasn’t epic.

~Abheek Bhattacharya ’18

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