By Wendy Browder, choir and board member
South Africa–never in a million years! And yet, that is exactly where I found myself on July 1st of this year. Thanks to the mission of Singing City Choir to bring people together through music, I found myself on the adventure of a lifetime. We shared amazing magical musical moments with choirs from places like Soweto and Thembalethu, and we had the golden opportunity to see animals of South Africa in their natural habitat. I literally kept pinching myself with the realization that I was really there, in a special vehicle, driving around looking for wild animals. And, we found them! The Philly Zoo, the oldest in the US, is wonderful, but it will never be the same as seeing zebras, rhinos, hippos, etc. in the wild.
Our rooms at the Bakubung Lodge in Pilanesburg were exceptional. We arrived late afternoon on July 4 and woke up early the next morning to head out on a game drive in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The lodge where we had our meals was elegant, yet rustic. And, the food was delicious. There were signs on the fence just yards from my room saying elephants come up to the fence, stay back (or words to that effect). While we didn’t see elephants that close, we did see African Sacred Ibis, wart hogs, monkeys, go away birds, water buck, and others very close to our rooms.
Once we were out on the Reserve, there were beautiful scenes everywhere we turned. Views of hazy low clouds, rich red rocks, and almost barren scrubby landscapes in front of mountains in the distance kept changing. As we headed out we first saw wildebeests and impalas. I loved it when a small herd of elephants crossed the road directly in front of us–a welcomed traffic jam! We saw two female lions near the water’s edge, but just far enough away that we couldn’t see them up close and personal. On the afternoon ride, we saw a male lion, but again even my telephoto lens didn’t quite capture his majesty. However, his roar could be clearly heard at a distance, and his presence was well established and respected. The zebras crossed the road in front of us at least twice. Amazing!
The list of animals sighted included: wildebeest, zebra, elephant wart hog, impala lions, hippos, rhinos, springbok, kudu, baboons, African Sacred Ibis, jackal, hartebeest, giraffes, guinea fowl, spotted eagle owl, go away bird, Egyptian goose, and rock rabbits. We saw baby elephants and rhinos with their mamas. While personally, I would have loved to see lions and tigers up close, I was thrilled with my slice of life in the South African bush. We ended the day in an enclosed area on the reserve with a roaring campfire and delicious food. After dinner we ended the evening singing songs around the fire–just like my high school days on church youth group retreats. The star-studded sky was glorious and bright and the Southern Cross was a reminder that we were, in fact, in the southern hemisphere. It was a very special day shared with a very special community of singers and friends.