We woke up just a few minutes shy of the sun. Back in the states this would have angered me, but still wanting to take Africa all of in, I was excited and filled with energy. We had planned on going on a safari. I was itching to see a lion and an elephant up close as I’ve only seen them in caged areas in the city zoos., two of my favorites. We had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. Even though I didn’t drive, I was hoping that it would be a scenic one. And it definitely was.
There were panoramic views of hills and mountains everywhere and my camera and I went into overdrive. Every second was absolutely breathtaking — every last bit of it.
After driving through the valley, and through the small town of Ceres, we made it to Inverndoorn Nature Reserve. We were pretty early, so we spent some time taking in what we could and stretching our legs before I tour began. We shared van with a group of Asian New Yorkers. If I’m not mistaken, I could swear I stumbled upon this guy’s Youtube channel before, but I didn’t want to ask. Our tour’s mission was to spot most, if not all, of The Big Five — elephants, leopards, lions, rhinos, and buffalo, the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt. We found 4 of the 5.
Since Inverdoorn is a sanctuary, our guide shared these animals’ stories with us. Not that I’m an extreme animal activist or anything, but their stories were a bit heartwrenching. Robby, the lion, was rescued from a canned hunting operation. He is HUGE in person, but apparently, he was supposed to be much larger. And in order cases, you get animals that are much, much, larger than Robby because when they are caged animals, they are pumped with hormones so that they can appear bigger. Just to be shot in a cage. He, and two female lions that were resting under a tree, were rescued from those conditions. And since they are too old to be taught any type of hunting instincts, they’ll have to spend the rest of their days on the reserve.
We happened upon two elephants right as they were stealing food from the hippos’ food pile. And as big as they were, they were trying to hide what they were doing. These two were both rescued from horrible conditions. They were a part of a group of elephants that were trained to perform for entertainment purposes. They experienced extreme trauma and were subjected to horrible means of training to get them to comply. When one of their family members/friends died, they were going to be killed before they were saved. This is because elephants have an excellent memory. It’s almost unmatched. They also have the capacity experience trauma and mourn a loved one just like you and I would if we were to experience a loss. And when they experience this trauma, they don’t comply easily. So they kill the entire family. The. entire. family.
It took us a minute to find the cheetahs. But when we did, they were resting under a small bush in their area. Inverdoorn has a rehabilitation program for cheetahs that allows them to be released back into the wild. A few of these cheetahs were rescued from their prison as household pets being fed cat food. CAT. FOOD. Domicile, domesticated, cat food. Humans. Like, I honestly don’t get the whole wanting a wild ass animal that can run 60mph in your house, but whatever floats those individuals’ boats I guess. Even with the rehabilitation program in place, there are still a few cheetahs that will have to live out the rest of their lives on the reserve.
We also saw buffalo, ostriches, Springboks, zebras, and kudus. We even happened upon an abandoned ostrich nest right after we saw the butts of giraffes.
We headed back to the reserve for one of the best lunches that I had compared to Mama Africa. But it disturbed me that all of the servicemen and servicewoman looked like me, while all of the tour guides and front counter workers didn’t. There could have been numerous reasons why — language barriers, choice, perhaps the others were off, etc. — but it still bothered me nonetheless. Maybe it was because parts of Cape Town are so blatantly segregated. But that’s probably because I’m hypersensitive to those types of things and I’m over-analytical.
We left Iverndoorn with filled stomachs and filled hearts. We traveled back towards Ceres and noticed so many people walking toward’s the town’s center. I wish I could have spent more time wandering around Ceres and mingling with the people. The center of town seemed to be where all the excitement was because there were so many people out congregating and hanging out. But we were exhausted, extremely exhausted, and were ready to get back to the house.
On the way out of the town, we noticed a waterfall from the road. If you know me, you know we had to stop to view it. I wish I could have gotten closer, but I love life so I silenced the adventurer within me and looked on from the safety of a ledge far, far away.
Leaving the waterfall, I had this feeling of pure satisfaction. My day was absolutely made and couldn’t get any better. I was just about ready to tilt my head against the window and take a quick nap without my fiance knowing and then I saw the one animal that everyone had warned us about — a BABOON! An entire Congress. They were all in the middle of the road. There’s a funny story behind our baboon sighting. I still find myself chuckling about it. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those stories that I’ll always attempt to tell, but can’t because I’ll be laughing through it the entire time.
I laughed for at least 20 minutes before realizing we were low on gas. Shit stop being funny real fast. We weren’t too far from a small town called Gouda. We pulled over to the gas station, I grabbed drinks, and headed back outside to see Athan talking to a gentleman. I walked upon a conversation where he mentioned that he was also engaged and called for his fiance to come over to meet us. He asked us to take his picture and of course we did. And then he welcomed us to the Motherland.
If I thought everything before this exact moment was the highlight of my trip, I was entirely wrong. This moment right here.. this was it. And it’s a moment that I will always treasure. It’s the reason why I travel. It’s the reason why travelling and diving deep in other cultures is my form of self-care. It’s everything to me.