As many of you know, my family recently traveled to Africa to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my husband’s parents. There was a total of 10 family members in our group as we embarked on this journey with my brother-in-law, who has a family of 4, in addition to my parents-in-law. Judy and Dan, our travel guides, were also part of our group to help us prepare for the trip, answer any questions, and make sure everything went smoothly. My children were super excited because they love spending time with their cousins. I was also excited (and a bit nervous) as this was my first international trip outside of my home continent.
We left home on Sunday, January 19th in the afternoon on a short flight to Atlanta. After dinner, we left on our 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once we landed in South Africa, it was all of a sudden dinner time due to the time moving ahead by 7 hours. After an amazing meal at a Greek restaurant and a quick night sleep at the hotel, we embarked on our journey to Botswana.
Dinner at hotel
Breakfast in Johannesburg
Cousins waiting patiently for plane
In Botswana, we went to 4 safari camps in the middle of the wilderness and traveled to each camp via prop plane. After we landed on dirt air strips, our guides greeted us and drove us to camp. We spent most of our time during this trip on game drives. On these excursions, our guides, who are now among the most amazing men I met, drove us through very challenging terrain to find as many cool animals and birds as possible. I was so impressed about their levels of expertise about every animal, bird, plant, fish, frog, and insect. Zee, at our final camp, did some fantastic photography with my cell phone and his binoculars. I definitely bonded with all of the guides on this trip as we spent many hours together in a short amount of time.
My favorite photobomb with Mwamo and the lion
Two six was my guide (and poler) on the Makura (boat)
Chris volunteered to take the kids with no adults 😉
Zee and I being silly
On most days, we were able to enjoy some down time at the camp prior to having “high tea” at 4:00 p.m. and then off to our afternoon and sunset game drives. At the end of each day, we had family dinner at one huge table. The guides joined us for many of these meals and it truly was a highlight getting to know them. Promptly after dessert, it was time for us to go to bed so we would be ready for our 5:00 a.m. wake up call.
Drinks and snacks for sunset
After we completed our stay at the 4th safari camp on Wednesday, March 1st, we went back to the same hotel in Johannesburg to start our long journey back home. We were so happy we had all day Thursday to relax by the pool and rest until it was time to get to the airport for our Thursday night flight. By Friday morning, after an almost 16 hour flight, we were back in Atlanta. By lunch time, we were back home. By Monday morning, we were back at work and school. I was thrilled we had no major travel delays.
Swimming and lunch in Johannesburg
What an amazing trip we had! My experience in witnessing this level of nature reminded me to appreciate the following life lessons:
- Nature is absolutely amazing. It felt exhilarating to experience raw wilderness with all of my senses. The vast beauty in this world outside of the United States is completely overwhelming and surreal. We had 360 degrees of horizons around us all of the time. The clouds were so vivid. The stars were exponential. The trees appeared to look different. The blue in the African sky seemed brighter than the sky at home. The sounds of the birds and the trees had a very calming cadence. The smell of sage felt as if it was cleansing my systems. The sight of all the different animals I saw close up was terrifying and awesome at the same time.
Baby lion cub
Black mane lion
Mother and daughter lions
That elephant got so close!
- Technology is not that important. One great aspect of this trip was that we were completely unplugged from all technology for 8 days. We had no TV, internet, or phones available to us (outside emergencies). That was an awesome thing. We had no idea what was happening in the world at home. As my mother-in-law said, “No news is good news!” We honestly loved the freedom in our ignorance.
- Sleep is important This has been no news to me, but I want to share that this trip has caused my children to appreciate their need for sleep. Nothing could make me happier. Because of the schedule, my children lost about 4 hours of sleep per night. By the time we arrived to our 3rd camp, we were beaming after our children asked to take a nap. Since we have been home, I noticed our children do not like to go to bed too late.
My daughter loves those pillows!
The most creative towel display. Plus, the welcome messages (made from beads) were awesome.
- Family time is precious. One of the best parts of this trip was the family time as we went through this adventure. It was great to see brothers reconnect and cousins play with each other. With life being as hectic as it is, we typically don’t get this type of opportunity to give one another undivided attention.
I truly feel grateful for this experience. I did not realize how much I needed to have this escape from reality. It felt great to experience a whole different culture and to see the other half of this world. Most importantly, I feel so honored to have been part of the most spectacular celebration of an amazing couple!
My brother-in-law Pete wrote amazing blogs about this trip! Click here to check them out!