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Traveler’s Corner: Safari Soiree Winners Explore Southern Africa

October 6, 2017  By: Beth

Safari Soiree Winners Explore Southern Africa

Marilyn Erickson had dreamed her whole life of returning to Africa and taking her children after growing up in Burundi. Her dream came true in 2016 when she traveled to Rwanda and Tanzania with five of her family members. The group spent six days in Tanzania and then went to Rwanda to see the gorillas. Their driver also took them to Lake Kivu where Marilyn had spent time as a child.

“I felt like I had come home.” – Marilyn

After returning home, Marilyn’s daughter Debbie hosted a safari soiree on Elephant Day to share her experience with others. At the time of their Safari Soiree, Africa Adventure Consultants was running a drawing for a free trip with partners Wilderness Safaris and South African Airways. Marilyn never thought she’d win and was absolutely floored when she received the call that she did! Luckily for Debbie, Marilyn’s husband was unable to travel so she joined her mother for a 2017 safari to Botswana, South Africa, and Victoria Falls.

Marilyn and Debbie were surprised to see the difference between traveling as a large family group and a duo. As a duo, they met more people outside of their group and are still connected to people they met at the camps. They also found that people were drawn to the mother/daughter duo and thought it was so neat they were traveling together. They felt locals especially were loving to the elderly and thought Marilyn was “so cute.”

“It was incredible to go back. I never thought I’d get to go again after our 2016 trip.” – Marilyn

Marilyn and Debbie’s winning trip was to go on safari in South Africa and Botswana. They extended to go to more places in South Africa, and added a visit to Victoria Falls.

“It’s so hard to pick a favorite place, but I really can’t say enough about Vumbura Plains. It was such a wonderful camp. They just bent over backwards for us. Our guide Go was a pro!”

Once, Go heard baboons calling so they went over to where the noise was coming from. They spotted a baby baboon in a tree, cornered by two lions who had climbed up as well. The baboon was throwing sticks down at the lions. Marilyn, Debbie, and the others in the vehicle we were all watching and cheering on the baboon. He finally jumped down and ran over to the parents and got away.

Go also saved the day after Debbie’s backpack bounced out of the vehicle as they were driving through the bush in search of a mother cheetah and her babies. Debbie hadn’t even realized it was gone, but Go was able to locate it on the road.
In addition to marveling at the African wildlife, Marilyn and Debbie couldn’t say enough about the sunsets.

“There’s just something about the sunsets in Africa,” remarked Debbie. “Every night we would have sundowners and a fire unless we were out on the Okavango Delta. But we had sundowners out on the Delta while there.”

Marilyn added, “There’s something about the African sunsets that I’ve loved all my life. The light there is different. It’s just beautiful.”

After Botswana, Marilyn and Debbie headed to Cape Town.

“Cape Town surprised us,” said Debbie. “It was such a wonderful town. Every night we went to a small restaurant nearby and our guide there was wonderful. He took us all around the city and across the peninsula and to the Cape of Good Hope. We saw breeching whales and the penguins.”

Although visiting the Winelands wasn’t on their itinerary, everyone kept telling them they had to go. They’re glad they did!

“We met this couple from Cape Town while traveling and they said when we got to Cape Town to call them,” Debbie said. “We couldn’t believe that they actually meant it! They arranged a day for us to go to their house in Paarl and we went to the nicest restaurant on a vineyard. It was such a lovely, authentic get together. We made lifelong friends and have been keeping in touch. The day was a highlight.”

After Cape Town, Marilyn and Debbie finished their trip in Victoria Falls. They hadn’t planned on taking a helicopter ride over the Falls, until the group they were talking to at their lodge encouraged them to join. They weren’t disappointed! Debbie is a river person and they both felt it was phenomenal.

“Mom (Marilyn) sat right up front so she could see everything 180 degrees,” described Debbie. “We were skimming over the water. It was just amazing. I think everyone should push themselves to do it.”

As travelers visiting Africa in back-to-back years, you might think they tired of the experience. But, that certainly wasn’t the case!“I could go every year and not get enough,” Debbie said. “It was pretty incredible to see the different camps and places. I walked out of our room one day and saw hippo chomping grass right below. We had seen a lot of animals on our first trip – elephants, lions, giraffes and others. But we saw them in different environments this time. In the (Okavango) Delta we saw elephants crossing the river right in front of us and we saw lions in trees. Just because you’ve seen the animals, go back and see them in a different place.”The duo also recommends savoring the food and wine Africa has to offer. They raved about the 4 and 5 course meals they had, the wine, and the atmosphere it was all served in.

“We didn’t have a bad wine when we were there. And the food was absolutely amazing!” Debbie raved.

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