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On safari…

We were fortunate enough to stay at the White Lion Lodge on the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa. The accommodations were really nice and once again the staff were extremely friendly and attentive. Everyone I meet here is very friendly – far nicer than anywhere I have ever been.

After a late night of work (up till midnight) we got up a little before 6:00 to grab a quick cup of coffee and head out on a 40 mile drive through the reserve to try and spot wildlife. It was fairly chilly in our open air Land Rover so our guide and driver, Israel, handed us some fleece ponchos to bundle up.

Nice hat, Israel!

Israel is awesome! He’s probably 5’4″ tall and MAYBE weighs 110 lbs. He has lived in South Africa all his life but has only worked on the Sanbona reserve for 9 months or so. Nonetheless he was able to tell us all about the various animals, their tendencies, where they hang out on the reserve, when they’re most active, what they eat… He also taught us a lot about the tectonic activity that formed the reserve millions of years ago. He is a great sport and was a lot of fun to hang out with for the day.

We bounced along rough roads in our safari car on the lookout for critters. It turns out that the original two white lions are held in a large natural-style pen because they were rescued from “hobbyists” who had kept them in very poor conditions from their youth. Those lions had lost all their natural hunting instincts and are unable to adequately hunt for their own food. So we did get to see them, albeit from afar. The camera on my iPad is not strong enough to get a good picture but I was able to spot them through binoculars. They are so regal! They’re about the color of a blond Labrador retriever and otherwise look for all the world like regular lions. There is a male and a female there, and they’re both about 16 years old. Israel said that normal life expectancy for lions is 12-14 years, so these two are quite senior.

They did have two litters over the years. The first litter of three all died when they drank water from puddles that had been contaminated by pesticides. Fortunately the second litter of two survived and they were immediately taken in to be adopted by the “Tony” lions that roam the reserve. They have tracking devices implanted so the folks on the reserve know they’re around, but unfortunately we couldn’t find them today. We did see a lot of other animals, though. Baboons, kudu, giraffe – even some elephants!

We headed back to Cape Town in the afternoon to do final preparations for some meetings over the weekend and into next week. It’s funny, but the time change over here allows me to explore a bit from morning to early afternoon, and then work from around 2:00 until 11:00-12:00 at night, which I’ve done every day.

So that’s it for right now. I can’t express how much I like this place. I have been so pleasantly surprised by so many things in South Africa. I would love to spend a whole lot more time here.

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