South Africa’s massive safari industry is one of the biggest draws for tourists.
With just a few days to go before the launch of the official Chazen GIP Trip to South Africa, about two dozen CBS students arrived in the country early for a chance to witness the nation’s sprawling landscapes and spot their favorite wildlife.
We drove out before dawn on Friday morning to begin our nearly 12-hour safari adventure in Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Our early departure paid off almost immediately when managed to see all the animals known as “The Big Five” before we even sat down for breakfast.
The Big Five — a list that includes the elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, lion and the leopard – became known as the most dangerous animals to hunt because of their tendency to charge toward humans when they see them on foot instead of running away. Now that many of these animals are protected from hunting, the Big Five are the most popular animals to catch on camera. But some of them are much easier to find than others.
Within minutes of entering the park we came across a majestic herd of elephants grazing. We were also in awe when we approached three white rhinos eating near the road. The rhinoceros is one of the creatures most sought after by poachers who want to sell their horns for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. Kruger loses about one rhino a day to poachers, according to our guide.
The most elusive animal was the leopard, which is hard to see because they tend to travel by themselves and are most active at night.
We received a tip from another guide about an impala “acting kind of crazy,” a sign that a predator might be lurking near. Sure enough, some people in our group saw a leopard slinking around in the tall grass while the impala squealed in fear. Sadly, the sightings were almost too fleeting to count for some of us who witnessed only a tail or a silhouette.
We will get a second chance to spot a leopard on Saturday morning when we participate in half a day of safari before boarding our flights to meet the rest of our classmates in Johannesburg.
The tourism sector overall contributed 2.9 percent to South Africa’s gross domestic product and employed 687,000 people in 2016, according to the most recent data available from Statistics South Africa. In an economy with a 25 percent unemployment rate, every job counts.
Bangu Masisi, the South African tourism official who spoke to our class earlier in the semester said that the government is currently running a campaign to inform tourists about the other attractions that South Africa has to offer, such as surfing and wine tasting. We will get to experience the wine industry firsthand when we visit the Stellenbosch region near Cape Town on Friday to see a vineyard owned by a CBS alum. Stay tuned to learn about more of our adventures between now and then!
— Jonnelle Marte ’19