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posted on 5/12/2007 Day 9: South Africa This daily journal upload and all the attachments have been the courtesy of Matt Layne.  He is our webmaster and it is impressive how much he knows about computers, as well as how well he has been able to circumvent the rather cantankerous South African computers we have run across. With his lap top and flash drive, he has done a phenomenal job of uploads.  Unfortunately, we are finding that the pictures didn’t post last night.  They are totally out of this world and we want to share them.  Matt the guru will keep trying. Anyone needing a website in the states?  This is the man to contact.   We started our morning with chocolate croissants and hot coffee. We have definitely landed in the lap of luxury to finish off our trip. To continue our safari tales, we located Cape buffalo last night. The old bulls are chased out of the herd by the younger bulls and are called dagga boys. Dagga is a Zulu word meaning mud or cement.  These old bulls spend their day rolling in mud holes, so stay covered in mud  and hence the name. These are the very crafty dangerous ones.  Our vehicle spotted one walking down the road, he crashed into the brush finally and began to circle, and so off we continued.   The Rangers are naturalists, botanists, animal behaviorists, as well as trackers (and we hope good shots!).  Paul, our ranger, explained about weeping wattle trees.  They have soft leaves and make great toilet paper in the bush.  It was soft, but we think we prefer to stick to Charmin. We also located the toothbrush tree, Magic Guarri. The stems can be chewed to make soft bristles with which to clean your teeth.  The berries are yummy according to Paul, but the leaves are purgatives so don’t chew them unless you want or need that effect. There was also another medicinal tree called the Buffalo Thorn. This is a mystic tree important to Zulus. Some of the thorns are straight to point the way and for the future, and other thorns are curved like a hook to remember the past.  The leaves however make a yummy salad and most of us tried one. Not bad at all.   Matt and J.T. said to just drop them off in the bush because they now can have salad, brush their teeth, and wipe their hinies!!   A flap necked chameleon was located in a tree and demonstrated to us as well.  There were vultures perched high in the dead trees.  Paul stated they are very lazy and prefer to wait until the air thermals warm up so they can glide.  They are very important to the ecology here and quite specialized.  Without vultures, dead animals would just lay and rot (bugs and bacteria). The Lappet-faced vulture has a huge beak which is used to rip the hides and get into the big meat so it usually eats first. Then there are the White Backed Vulture and the Cape Griffon Vultures which have smaller beaks and eat most of the carcass. The Hooded Vulture gets the small sections and finishes up the job by eating just the eyes, cheeks, and between the vertebrae. Recycling at its finest.   There are two lion prides on this reserve, one with 7 members and the other with 4.  They have been scarce this last few days having made a big kill and been sleeping it off.  Old man lion was out pacing his territory today.  Paul said, “Look how grumpy his face is today. He is in a hurry and on a mission, so we’ll just stay out of his way.”  Lions prefer to walk the roads and paths, then cut through the bush when necessary.  This BIG old man is in his prime at 9 years old.  It takes 6 years to grow the mane. They only live to 12 to 13 years in the wild depending on how many young males are beating them up.  We had to keep backing up the road, and the lion kept pacing towards us.  It was great.  The lion would stop, back into a tree to mark his territory, and then continue down the road. This went on for over a mile!  We spotted an immature Dark Chanting Goshawk that had just scooped up his breakfast, and watched it eat the lizard. Patience paid off when two female rhinoceros sauntered out onto the road.  They snorted and were very suspicious of us, and then headed back into the brush to keep grazing.   Quinton, the other Ranger who is helping drive us around, met the people scheduled for hot air balloon at a chilly 5 am.  They saw a number of creatures on the way there and had to keep stopping for Perfect Shot to do her magic. They saw a Bush baby. We met the hot air balloon crew back at the lodge.  THEY CRASHED THE BALLOON!! Everyone had loaded into the basket, but didn’t even get off the ground. The incident happened during take-off from a wind gust.  It snapped the guide ropes, and tipped the truck. No injuries but some excitement. Jeremy was cooperative enough to fall toward the camera and Kim snapped his picture! Some of the hardy souls are still going to try again tomorrow.    Another part of the group did the Elephant bush walk.  We learned about elephants.  The African elephant is not known to be very trainable, but they have done a tremendous job at Jubali Lodge with these elephants.  Only one of the elephants is actually from South Africa, and that is Jubali.  He was a hand raised orphan.  The other elephants came from Zimbabwe and were also rescues or culls.  Some of the elephant handlers have been with their elephants for 16 years.  There were even two baby elephants that were very cute. The Ranger cautioned us that the elephants were trained and not tamed.  He reminded us to treat them with respect, and to just relax once we were mounted.  These elephants had saddles and stirrups, and you still sat behind the handler.   The walk was over one hour through the brush.  We passed Blue Wildebeest, Giraffes, Wart Hogs, and a Crocodile near a watering hole AWESOME cannot begin to describe how cool it is to sit on an elephant with their very rocking gait and watch part of Africa go by.  Some of the elephants were naughty and kept sneaking branches and leafs of trees as they walked by.   We thought we were going to be a Big 4 instead of the Big 5 because the female leopard that roams this area had gone under the fence to the next game reserve a few days earlier.  Of course, our luck has been tremendous because the lions had been hiding for the past three days, but were cooperative to put on quite the show today.  Tonight one of the Rangers spotted a Leopard and all the crew headed to that area.  We are now officially all Big 5 Spotters!!  WE DID IT!  The Leopard was stalking an Impala and we nearly got to see the Leopard catch it, but the wind changed and off the Impala dashed. The Impala have three black lines on their rump and tail.  Paul said it forms a letter M because this animal is the McDonald’s of the bush.   Although the Lodge has the electric fence around its perimeter, the vervet monkeys and some of the antelope can get over the fence.  There are lots of Nyala around the grounds. They are brown with white stripes over their back as well as white spots.  Very beautiful and you can get very close to take their picture.  Perfect shot was nearly nose to nose with some of them. A troop of vervet monkeys was jumping around. Jeremy also found a mongoose. We finished with a five course dinner.  Many of us had the venison.  It was Kudo and very tasty. Tomorrow morning will be our last game viewing safari. Everyone’s camera is charging and ready for the morning.
posted on 5/11/2007 Day 8: South Africa Goeie Mo’re!  Check day 4 if you can’t remember what that means.  It was a very early morning with cold cereal and bran muffins so we could make it to the airport in time for the next leg of our trip.  Gosh, we already miss Annie’s toast!  We made it to Johannesburg airport and hunted up the storage lockers for our luggage at the international terminal.  These terminals are big and the storage department was tucked away in the basement.  Everyone is taking only one bag to fly on the domestic connections because the planes are much smaller.  The Johannesburg airport is an interesting trip in itself.  People are coming at you from every angle trying to get your Rand.  Lots of languages and lots of commotion.  Most of us elected to have our luggage that we were checking on the domestic airline wrapped in shrink wrap.  This is pretty cool, because they wrap your bag up like a spider wraps a bug.  Round and around, and your luggage is cocooned in plastic.  The guy then cuts spaces for the wheels and handles.  This method seems to be a great deterent for thieves.  Johannesburg is rampant with crime and there have been instances of luggage pilfering, especially on domestic connections.  There are many areas of Johannesburg that are just not safe.  People are mugged all the time.  One tour guide told us that when a black guy robs a white person, they call it affirmative shopping!  Sadly, two of the biggest downtown hotels had to close due to the crime in the area.  That put lots of people out of work, because the hotels had over 800 rooms.  It was a big impact on the economy.  The situation has improved greatly, and the tour guide said they may even reopen one of the hotels.    We were scheduled on South African Express airlines.  That means we had to make the trek to the domestic terminal after we finished storing and wrapping our luggage.  Fearless leader Baboon Bill took off without checking to see if all his ducklings were following.  Gary and Pam were really nervous because they didn’t even know what town we were going to!  One of the luggage porters came with us as a guide, or actually in hopes of collecting some Rand from us.  Rand is the local currency and trades around 7R to $1 US.  The check-in site was located after walking the length of two parking lots, asking directions twice, and going down two escalators.  A bunch more guys jumped in to help us and started moving our luggage around and being “helpful”.  There was only 8 pieces of small check-in bags, and we had them all wrapped up.  Although careful to keep a close eye on these guys, we weren’t exactly sure what they were doing.  They seemed to know our guide from the luggage department.  We were planning on tipping him, but then one of the new guys was going around and trying to collect 100R from each one of us.  They apparently took the money from our guide as well.  The airline people didn’t seem bothered.  There was some conversation among them, and our guide kept hanging around but the new guys had all the money.  As we were walking towards the security, they all three came with us.  One of them told Bill he owed more money.  Bill pulled out his money, and this guy starts taking money out of Bill’s hand.  Some of us others told Bill, “No, we already paid them plenty.”  Patti pointed out that these guys didn’t have official badges or uniforms, although one of them had a suit on.  She told them “NO” and was looking for a real security guard.  Well that got rid of those guys, but we’re afraid our poor little guide never got his money.  We just looked like easy tourist targets, but it was a lesson as well.  We may seem real rich to them in this country with so many have-nots, but some of us will be scrimping and saving for a long time to pay off this trip.  We made it through security.  You don’t have to take off your shoes here!  Hurry up and wait   while some of us went airport shop browsing.  There is a Mango airline that is painted bright orange.  The South African airplane has its tail painted like the African flag.  We were headed to Hoedspruit airport.  Boarding consists of them collecting your boarding pass, then loading up on a big yellow bus that will then drive you out to the proper airplane.  There are lots of buses and crew transports zipping everywhere.  The buses are bright yellow and advertise a cell phone saying, “Y’ello, come connect with us”.  It’s very cute.  Our puddle jumper had propellors.  We lined up on the tarmac, and most carry-on bags had to be handed to the crew because there is no room in overhead.  Actually, it was an enjoyable flight.  They served us juice, snacks, and a choice of beverages for the one hour flight.  This sure beats Southwest Airlines coke and peanuts.    The Hoedspruit Airport is a short runway, then walk up to the building.  It is beautifully decorated with lots of African art and décor.  We changed more money, then loaded into our safari vehicles.  These transports consists of three rows of three seats mounted on top of a heavy duty truck base.  It is all open and excellent for viewing game.  The Kapama Lodge gate was just across the street from the airport.   Zip, and we’re there.  There was a long winding dirt road to make it to the actual lodge building, but our ranger had warned us to get our cameras ready.  It was unbelievable!  Just getting to the lodge, we passed Impala, wart hogs, hippos, giraffes, and lots of birds.  A group of wart hogs are called sounders.   We pulled up into this luxurious drive, tastefully landscaped, and gorgeous on the inside.  No wonder it has a five star rating.  We are thinking about the crew we left behind holding down the fort, but are really forward to being warm tonight.  J.T. said that he was just getting good at getting dressed under the covers, but he won’t miss it.  We will miss Annie’s cooking and all the great people there.  The rooms are little separate duplex huts all decorated African style.  The veranda where we meet for afternoon tea overlooks a huge body of water.  The swimming pool has a rock waterfall feeding it.  All we can say is, “Bloody good show!”    The three hour afternoon safari was scheduled for 4:00 pm, and sets off after afternoon tea and snacks.  It ends after dark with a picnic break scheduled halfway through the drive.  The rangers explained the orientation, and cautioned us not to stand up in the vehicles because that would change the profile of the vehicles.  The animals were used to the vehicles, but if the silhouette changed then they could come investigate and be a potentially dangerous situation.  They also explained that this was a Big Five Game Reserve.  That means that the Lodge is surrounded with electrified fencing and it is safe to walk around, but definitely not ouside the Lodge without a ranger.  They load this huge rifle with bullets the size of our hands, place it up on the open dash, and off we go.  There are lots of roads, and the rangers are connected via radio if any other vehicle spots something cool.  We learned these safari vehicles “don’t need no stinking road.”  When something was spotted, they just took off cross country over trees and everything else.  It was a blast!  Check out our pictures!!!   Unbelievable what we have already spotted.  It has been such an adrenaline rush for all of us to see how close they can come to these very wild animals.  One of our vehicles got an even better rush when they got charged by the bull elephant.  We don’t think poor Matt will be able to go to the bathroom again!  Gary captured the charge on video.  Way to go Gary!  If the vehicle gets dumped over, fall towards the camera.     Morning safari wake up call is at 5:00 am.  We are so revved up about what other animals we can find.  Some of us will be up in hot air balloons spotting the game.  In the afternoon, others of us will be taking an elephant ride through the bushveld.  Awesome cannot begin to describe this day.  We have been worried about the other crew, but are still having fun, and their story follows.   Meanwhile back at the Cheetah Foundation...   On the walk down to wake up the boys, Amy and Sam saw Vervet monkeys swinging from the trees, just minutes after the bus carrying those going to Kruger pulled away.   Since the "tourists" left, the "hardcores" had to get down to business.  As we know from working at Tiger Safari, there is always lots to do.  Today was no exception.  Poles had to be set and concrete footings had to be laid.  Since there were less hands for the shovels to be passed on to, each of the hands had to work harder to get the same amount done.  Rocks needed to be collected, concrete needed to be mixed, and the most disheartening thing ever: we had to fill in some of the holes.  Some of the holes were simply dug too deep.    After the best lunch ever (the other half should be VERY jealous) we went up to add concrete footings to the bleachers we set up yesterday.  When we were just about finished, one of the African crew came to get Pieter to see about a snake.  It turned out to be a young Rinkholtz Cobra trying to swallow a brown Whip Snake almost twice it's size.  Pieter actually caught the Cobra, after the Cobra regurgitated the other snake.  He put it in a water jug for us to look at.  He gave us the dead whip snake to look at and identify.  If only the girls were still here, think of all the pranks we could play with this.  Pieter will relocate the cobra tomorrow morning.  According to Ryan, this is the coolest thing that happened on the trip.    The African crew thought most of us were crazy for keeping snakes in our houses and having giant ones at the park.  We learned a lot from our African crew today.  Ryan and Cameron brought out their music, and some of the crew knew some of the words to the songs.  The crew brought out some traditional African music, and taught the crazy American Rednecks to dance.  It was quite a site.    Kurt helped Estelle feed the cheetahs.  He called it an enjoyable experience.  He said he was looking forward to that all week.  He now wants to get up the hill before the cheetah breakfast starts tomorrow.    We had another delicious Annie style meal (hope the other half is reading this and becoming more envious by the minute) and are getting to bed early tonight.  We will be leaving early tomorrow to go in to town.  The boys need cokes, Kurt needs over the counter medicine, and Amy needs souveniers
posted on 5/10/2007 Day 7: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa! Perfect Shot is slacking!  She didn’t want to get out of her warm toasty bed.  She said putting on her clothes makes her feel like the clothes had been in a freezer.  Well, if you were a scout like J. T. and Patti it wouldn’t be a problem. They have been taking their next day’s clothes to bed with them so are already warmed up!! SMART. Today is the last full day for most of the group.  Juice de jour was passion fruit and quite yummy.  Lunch was peach and tonight was mango. The juice here is much thicker than what we are used to.  None of us drinks that much juice at home, but we will be missing these exotic flavours.   The critter under the walkway last night sounded rather scary.  Patti was trying to decide if the noise was two legged or four legged. Turned out to be an African porcupine that is the same type that Tiger Safari has there in Tuttle. We started our morning with breakfast rather than work, then breakfast, because we are so far ahead of schedule. We built bleachers African style. Pieter had three huge tree trunks that he planned on setting up for seats which people would watch the cheetahs run on the new Savannah Speedway. He planned on making a rock base, then building it up higher in the back in a bleacher formation.  Guess what? We had to move all those rocks and line them up for a base.  Why didn’t we just put those rocks there first?!  However, it turned out beautifully and is very comfortable as well. We made an assembly line passing down the rocks and went fairly fast. The tree trunks were so big that a tractor was used to move them.  The tractor kept going up on two wheels.  We got all three seats in place, and then filled in all the gaps with sand. Yes, that means another truckload done by hand. We actually had to go out in the field and GET MORE ROCKS! Big heavy ones, but the final product was worth it.  Supervisor ostrich was hanging around again, and even the giraffes wandered by for a quick by pass. All three of them were together which is pretty neat looking.   Lunch, and then back out to building again.  Started setting the poles.  Pieter expected us to only get two poles, but we managed to get all six set.  That was quite an accomplishment, considering the hand mixing concrete technique.  It was quite an education.  The bags actually have the recipe on them with measurements by the wheelbarrow!  We used six wheelbarrows of sand to one bag of cement and  add water to effect. Don’t need a mixer, because it is mixed on the ground.  Bill loaded the first wheelbarrow of sand, and then wheeled it over to where the African crew told him to take it.  Then one of the guys dumped the wheelbarrow on the ground.  Bill just looked at him like “WHY?”  They piled six wheelbarrows worth of sand on the ground, then made a central hole and added the bag of cement. Everyone lines up with shovels and mixes the sand and cement together so appears uniform.  Then another central crater hole and add water.  Mix from outside to inside and keep repeating until all is wet and uniform.  In the meantime, collect a wheelbarrow of the small rocks and head to the hole.  Add rocks into the hole, then a couple shovelfuls of cement, then more rocks, and fill up the hole.  Used a level on the poles so got them set very straight. We got really good at this.  We were tossing the little rocks in at the same time as the cement.  Who needs a mixer?!  Sorry, J. T. and the others we hit with the rocks!  We really were aiming for the holes. Both Kurt and Matt managed to fall into one  of the holes today. The teenagers, Cameron, Joe, and Ryan, got a real workout because we let them do most of the sand. They had too much energy anyways. Gary is now called Rudolph, the Red Nosed Redneck because although he has been draping a shirt down from his hat to protect his neck from the sun, he apparently missed his nose with the sun block.  It is quite red and shiny from sunburn. We have all used lots of sun block and bug spray. We scraped up all the cement mix, then raked out our mixing site, and it was pretty neat how it all worked out. One batch fills two holes so we just moved the sand truck and the mixing site. Jimmy, one of the African crew, wrote “Redneck” on one of the pole bases.   These poles have to set for two weeks before any wire stretching can happen, so we got done all that could be done at this time. After finishing, we all gathered at the bleachers to assess all our work.  It gave us all such a great feeling to see what has been accomplished.  The African crew was sitting with us as well. They seem to really like the bleachers.  They also got a language lesson and can now all say, “ Hello Oklahoma Rednecks, Git R Done!” Yes, immortalized on tape. They even added a YEE HAW!  All of us have learned to say, “Mo’re is nog ‘n dag.” Don’t forget the gargle noise and pronounce it “more-rah es nockg ah dackg”.  It will sound sort of like “Morris is not a duck” but with a gargle. It translates from Afrikaans to mean, “Tomorrow is another day”.   Pieter and Estelle took us off for an afternoon/evening safari ride.  The male giraffe was very close in a bunch of trees eating leaves from the top of the trees. J. T. was having a conversation with a huge herd of wildebeest.  The big male stood alert and started snorting back at him, and J. T. kept snorting at him—was rather funny.  We went by the boma (like a corral with tall solid sides) where some of the cape buffalo are being kept.  These are known to be very aggressive and appeared quite wild.  Estelle told us they are known as “Black Death” by the hunters because if one is just wounded it will circle around and kill the hunter.  She stated, “ They are very crafty”.  One of the white rhinos was near the cheetah house at the end of the tour.  He snorted and posed for all the cameras.   Bill told me his tent had been ransacked. Payback time! Many of the “children” are out being naughty tonight. Tonight most of us have to clean up and pack.  We will only take one small suitcase to Kapama because of the little planes. Check out our new luxury accommodations at Kapama.co.za. Our booking is at their lodge.  The rest of luggage will be checked at the airport for us to pick up on Sunday after our next adventure. Five of our group will stay here and keep the place running.  Then we will all meet up on Sunday to head back to the US of A. Hopefully, there will be postings from both groups starting tomorrow.
posted on 5/9/2007 Day 6: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa BONFIRE!  There is nothing like a blazing fire and lots of bologna being tossed around.  Pieter and his daughter, Ilse, walked down to visit as well.  The permanent fire pit was dug down and lined with stones so was very nice.  The amount of dead wood collected was enough for a forest fire however.  The bonfire site is reached by walking down one of the raised wooden paths.  There is a covered hut with a refrigerator as well as a large outdoor grill. This would be great for a cookout which it is obviously used for.  Most of us, however, stood or sat around the fire, but then had to stand up and get the other side warm. It chills very quickly once the sun goes down.  The surrounding wood pole fence is strewn with various animal skulls.  Most of the skulls were collected out on the property.  We were able to identify hartebeest, eland, springbok, and a really cool rhino skull. Cameron showed off his grace by falling off his stump.  Remember, fall toward the camera!  Sam waxed poetic and regaled us with a long tale of plagiarism that he had written in his younger “cool” years.  He weaseled out and wouldn’t repeat it for the video camera, but we will continue to try and capture this for prosperity. Gail knows a phenomenal number of songs and commercials.  Did you know the chicken dance has lyrics?!  Amy can recite the entire McDonald’s menu, and nearly all of us still know the “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame seed bun!”   That’s right—a BIG MAC!  J.T. and Patti lasted till the end, and then covered the pit with dirt for safety before hitting their beds.   Perfect Shot was up before daylight to capture the meerkats.  She went around and woke up a bunch of us who wanted to see them.  Sam dashed out there because he knew this was the morning for meerkat manor!  Pieter had told us the meerkats like to get to the top of their burrows and sun bathe first thing in mornings.  Well, some of us slept in this am, and SO DID THE MEERKCATS!  We will have to keep trying.  It was really cold according to Perfect Shot Kim.  Sam’s nose was real red as well.  Pam was another frozen patient watcher. When the rest of the group moseyed out of bed, we gathered up at the cheetah pen because this was the time for a scheduled cheetah run.  This is great exercise for the cheetahs.  It builds up their endurance and keeps their interest.  The lure is a chewed up piece of rope that the cheetahs like to play with. Abraham, one of the African crew, carried out the car battery to hook up the lure box.  All the cheetahs wanted to help and kept grapping the lure!  It seemed they knew what was coming and were willing to play.  Pieter pulled the lure and its attached line to the other side of the pen.  He told us to get our cameras ready, but guess what!  They are unbelievably fast!  We did get other chances because they repeated this exercise four times.  It was awesome to see! Baboon Bill was speed shooting with his new fancy camera—200 shots! Patti kept her video running and can’t wait to see that.  We will post some of the best tonight.  The new area that we are constructing will be used for this exercise once it is finished. It will be an improvement because is a much longer runway.  We have voted on a name and it will be called the “Savannah Speedway”.  Off to breakfast after this and the juice de jour was guava.   After breakfast, back to the road crew.  The rocks were gone now, but the top covering which was mainly sand and dirt had a lot of rocks as well.  These have to be hand picked out.  In case your conception of spreading sand sounds easy, let us enlighten you.  This soil mixture is scooped up out of the ground from another site so is actually hard baked  African clumps. These must be busted up with shovels, then the road crushing crew (that would be our big feet!) would crush these.  The ones that don’t crush are the rocks!  The post hole crew stepped up their pace today.  Had the coffee can AND the cut off top of a liter coca cola bottle for scooping dirt.  Amy told us the top makes a real nice handle.  With that gwala and TWO scoops now, all the post holes got DONE!!   Pam forgot to watch for the holes in the ground (yep, no safety triangles) and fell into one, but stayed perfectly upright—just 3 feet shorter! Kyla, the dirt goes on the ground.  She was aiming for Sam, but got poor Matt instead.  He was standing with his pitchfork stabbing clumps, and it went all down his clothes.  Ugh.  The high altitude is very drying, as well as all the sweating everyone is doing. Cameron got a nose bleed but just kept working with tissue stuffed up his nose.  We had visitors again today.  One was a scorpion in the dirt, already dead fortunately.  The other was a cute little skink that took a ride on the truck full of dirt.  We all had to stop work to admire him which the Africans thought was really funny.  They are getting lots of laughs and education out of our group.  Have you ever heard “Git ‘R done” with a south African accent?  We have, and can’t stop laughing. Speaking of Git R Done, we finished the sand.  Unfortunately, the posts have to set in cement (not quickcrete, but hand mix) for a week before the wire can be stretched.  We are a little sad because we really wanted to finish this project, but apparently our Okie crew is way ahead of the schedule they had set for us.  We are hoping the Foundation crew is pleased with our work.  We have lots of blisters and sore muscles to take back with our memories and photos. Speaking of Git R Done, the veterinarians finished all their papers and research as well. In between assisting the road crew, they finished typing up the documentation.  Copies were emailed off for the next stage of input from the farm managers.  Another meeting with the South African vet, Dr. Johan Wessels, and the veterinary protocol was fleshed out.  As an extra, they also finalized and wrote up their observations and recommendations from the meeting at Lionsrock on Sunday.  That got emailed off to that farm manager and they ARE DONE.  J.T. really was getting the brain strain, and Patti’s fingers are typed off!  Perfect shot got the last picture of our meeting for the finale.   Tomorrow is our last full day for most of the group.  It seems to be zipping by so fast.  Before the night is through, Ryan and Cameron will have pulled off a few more pranks. They are scurrying around looking to cause trouble.  Gail has learned her lesson; her bathroom window is wired shut tonight!
posted on 5/8/2007 Day 5: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa! Bats in the Belfry!!  No, that would be a bat in Joe’s hut.  He sure can run barefoot on that dash to the main lodge because “something” was getting him. Nona nana nana nana, BATMAN!  That was after finding the croquet mallet against his door and another one snuggled in his bed.  Someone had propped a window open (for later mischievous  purposes, I’m sure) and part of Africa entered.  Gail had Leaping Lizards in her room.  We were told the walkways to the tents were elevated to help keep the animals out of the tents.  Well, tonight Rebecca heard some noises when she was walking down the path. She spotted a snake, which slithered under the walk. It had apparently been stalking a bird that took off flying. Got her adrenaline flowing.   We had an ostrich crew leader supervising our rock work this morning.  Sam tried to give him a pick, but he was just closely supervising.  Later a giraffe came to monitor our progress. It sauntered up to the edge of the road and just stood and watched.  We finished our rocks and started spreading sand today.  This part is a lot easier.  The post holes are nearly done.  Digging technique consists of getting down in the hole with a coffee can.  That’s after penetrating 2 feet of rock with the gwala and scooping that part out with hands.  We never thought we’d miss a manual posthole digger.  Visible progress is a good feeling.   Later after lunch, Bill learned butchery skills when he helped prepare the cheetah food.   Some of us walked down to the remnants of a local African village.  The group before us had plans to rebuild this village, but only managed to erect four mud walls.  Personally, we think mud pie making would be a lot more fun than rock picking.  Look, another future project!  We collected branches for our bon fire tonight. We are very excited because it will be in a big African pit near one of the huts.  One of the African crew noticed Pam’s tee-shirt with American Red Cross and its logo on it.  He laughed, and pointed, “Look, the tee-shirt has a mistake on it.  It’s supposed to say American Red Neck!!”  Obviously we are establishing a camaraderie, because we all got a big laugh. The vets got brain strain sitting in front of the computer most of the day compiling the proposals and protocols for the Savannah Cheetah Foundation. .  Anyone want to know how to treat a cheetah?!  Actually, they worked on standardizing health protocols, release techniques, monitoring parameters, as well as researching other organizations’ work in this field.   Only two more days here. On Friday, another bus ride to Johannesburg! Part of the group will be flying to Kapama Lodge that is part of or near Kruger National Park which is the big world-renowned natural reserve in South Africa. This park is 20,000 square kilometres. That is about the size of Israel. The accommodations appear very luxurious on their web site. “ The Big Five” is what most tourists will strive to see. Actually, it was the hunters coming on safari to get those animal trophies, but now most people are photo shooting.  They are five animals – lion, cape buffalo, rhino, elephant, and leopard.   Dinner was delicious as always.  They drink a lot of juices and water here instead of sodas.  There is always a juice de jour.  Often it is a mysterious juice but very delicious. We think tonight’s was apricot. There also seems to be a different type of bread for every meal.  The morning toast is fried and very yummy. Probably not very healthy, but everyone has been having extras of that toast. Perfect Shot strikes again because she captured a photo of a meerkat! They move burrows periodically, and this one has moved in not too far from the tents. Sam plans on staking out that burrow in the morning. Our other morning treat will be watching the cheetahs’ run. That is planned for 7 am. We are very excited, but now it is time to go light up that bonfire.  
posted on 5/7/2007 Day 4: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa! Goeie moré .  That is “Good Morning” and pronounced with a gargle –ghoo yah more rah. Ice on the walkway!!  Most people may not realize that summer in the US means winter here in Africa, but we are really feeling the chill. The elevation here is 6000 feet, quite a difference from Oklahoma. Folks are beginning to lock up the tents in creative ways. One tent tied the luggage stand to the zipper so if you tried to get in you would hit the luggage rack.  Not just for security which is very well here compared to the rest of South Africa, but because some Oklahoma prankster has been on the rampage. Half the group was snuggled up in toasty beds, but the other half had been “informed” that breakfast was again at 6 am.  Hah, Hah. Our fearless leader had scrounged up a space heater for his tent in anticipation of the cold front—serves him right that some unknown person made off with it! An Oklahoma City fireman is directing the pranks so those poor kids don’t have a chance.  Remember, age and treachery will outdo youth and skill every time.  Joe, the cellophane wrap on the toilet seat was not put there by the maids for sanitation purposes!   We left off the South African Factoid yesterday, so today we will add a few extra gems of knowledge. The eucalyptus trees have over 120 species here. It is planted because it grows so fast and is used as a windbreak as well as for shade. It is considered a nuisance tree because it sucks up so much water—nearly 500 gallons a day!  There are 9 provinces (or states) in South Africa and 11 official languages.  The major African tribes each have their own languages.  However five of the major ones are more dialect and understand each other well. Bantu, Zulu, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana are just some of the ones I can remember being told about. Afrikaans is a combination language consisting of 80% Dutch, 10% French, and 10% German, but everyone speaks English.   Our work assignments were given out right after breakfast.  When Pieter asked how many women would rather paint than pick rock, “Rhino Bait” Kurt raised his hand too!!  Nice try, Rhino Bait. This ground is growing rocks, all of which need to be removed from the 100 yard long cheetah run site before topsoil can be delivered.  Our heavy equipment consisted of two bent up rakes, two heavy metal picks (with dull ends), and a kafut, which is a heavy iron bar with a flat side and a point on the other end for breaking up rocks. We used a “shovel wannabe” which was very small and dinged up to scoop up the loose rocks.  Hands actually worked better. Our last piece of heavy machinery was the gwala, which is a heavy metal bar with a flat piece of iron welded to the end. This is used to dig the holes. (used like a one sided post hole digger!) Then, of course, all of our American muscle completed the array of equipment. The African crew of five guys helped as well. Abraham was the crew leader.  Meshak and Bontu didn’t say much but were hard workers. Jimmy seemed to be the one everyone was picking on. Isaac supervised the girls painting in the morning.  Someone (Sam) taught them about rednecks.  Now they call us “The Redneck Team!”  The Africans were cold with stocking caps and jackets and the Okies were hot! All of us together racked up an impressive pile of very heavy rock.  The rock got much heavier during the day!  We also accumulated plenty of blisters and tired muscles. Home Depot sounds really good about now. How about John Deere?!, Back hoe?!, Box Blade?!  However, we can look down at the mostly rock free ground and feel good. We have a very personal relationship with each one of those rocks. Check out the photos.  Gary stripped to his pants and plunged into the cold pool on the way back.   The three veterinarians started their morning going into Parys to meet with the South African veterinarians, a husband-wife team of Drs. Johan and Brigitta Wessels. A tour of their very nice facility (Parys Dierehospitaal) was provided, complete with a stock of Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba, and Royal Canin!  Parys was considered a retirement town, but is booming and growing now. It is located near the largest meteor impact site in the world, which has been declared a National Heritage site.  The biodiversity and climate here is also unique compared to the rest of Africa.  This region is near where the oldest human remains were discovered.  The veterinarians laid out the some of the work necessary to finish polishing the cheetah foundation proposal.  Health protocols, vaccination requirements, cheetah and human safety, stress factors, tracking and monitoring techniques, land impacts, food sources, local and national resources were just a few of the many topics that were discussed.  The Species Survival Plan was discussed and will be researched.  Overall, the vision is to train and release captive bred cheetahs in order to create a wild population of free roaming cheetahs from their offspring. There are currently no wild cheetah populations in the Free State or in many other provinces. This worthwhile project is unique, and hopefully, should contribute greatly to the survival of this species and the existing limited gene pool.  Our vets returned to a cold lunch, before going out to assist our team’s flagging energies.  Everyone helped with a big burst of rock moving and raking up all the little rocks to help protect the cheetahs’ paw pads. A very impressive amount of rock was moved! See the big rock pile in photos. Tomorrow we finish the last small section of rocks and then begin with the top covering of sand and soil.   Estelle, come on, you did get your frying pan back! It is too late to lock up your kitchen to deter the pranksters, afraid they have already raided that area for tonight!!
posted on 5/6/2007 Day 3: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa! Another Brrrr! morning at the Savannah. This morning breakfast began at an EARLY 6 am.  Then off for the day at 7 am for our three-hour bus ride. It was another fast warming day and the layers of clothing start getting peeled off.  It is amazing how cold it is at night, and then so hot during the day. A cold front is expected tomorrow.   We set off for our adventure to the Lionsrock Park in Bethlehem, South Africa. This is a conservation project funded by foreign investors that is for the rescue of non-breeding lions only. The facility used to be a hunting lodge, and is quite plush. The backdrop was two huge rock formations with vast grassland below. We started our visit at the lodge where we met with some of the staff. This organization just took over the facility in November 2006, is hoping the construction will be completed this summer, and plan for their grand opening this November.  We met with three veterinarians from Germany, Dr. Tom Schafhauser, Dr. Sabine Lentz, and  Dr. Andrea Grochowski. Dr. Grochowski is the facility veterinarian.  Our three veterinarians from Oklahoma, Dr. Patti Maness, Dr. Kimberly Weiss, and Dr. J.T. Walker, met with those vets and the farm manager, Annelie de Klerk.  Sam Stucky and Bill Meadows added their expertise from the planning and construction of Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK.  Pieter Kemp of The Savannah Cheetah Foundation had tons of practical daily information and protocols that he uses at his facility.  It was a fantastic brainstorming session, and lots of good ideas were thrown on the table by all involved.  This Lionsrock Park currently houses 25 lions, all of which have already been altered.  Their plans are to be the largest facility of this type in the world.  Some of the pens will be the size of 6 football fields when the project is completed.  The pens are oval to prevent fence-pacing behaviour and to facilitate exercise.  There are plans to include facilities for public visitation, and possibly catwalks extending over the lions’ pens for safe viewing in the lions’ natural habitat.  All of which will probably be handicap accessible.  These folks have a superb vision, and we wish them the best of luck in implementing their grand plans.   Everybody met for another delicious African meal, and then off for our safari tour of their 1250 acres. Check out the pictures of the lions and wildlife we spotted. Sam thought he saw meerkats and we backed up for better pictures, only to discover later they were actually ground squirrels. Sorry Sam, they did sort of look like meerkats at a distance. Sam was really bummed. Meerkats are still on the list to spot. Kimberly “Perfect Shot” Weiss got left by her safari vehicle because she was still waiting for that perfect shot. We did wave as we drove off. Luckily, she was picked up by the other truck. Okay, the pictures were worth it. The second driver convinced “Perfect Shot” that a pile of mud was a hippo in the pond.  She tried oh so hard to get that perfect shot of the mud hippo.  We all had a big laugh back at the lodge.  Six hours on that bus in one day created lots of opportunities for mischief and song making.  You should not fall asleep around this group!  These past few days have been the weekend here. Most of our activities have revolved around getting orientated and sharing information.  The morning will start our “real” work.  Everyone is anxious to begin construction!  Come back tomorrow to hear about our blisters.
posted on 5/5/2007 Day 2: Savannah Cheetah Foundation in South Africa! After our posting last night, a few of our intrepid explorers returned from their night walk, i.e. ground safari.  Kurt “Rhino Bait” discovered that the sign that said “Rhino Crossing” really means that!! The group was walking and shining their flashlights looking for eye reflections.  They found some eyes and kept their lights trained there trying to figure just what the critter was. The critter began stomping the ground and snorting. Guess what….. it was a rhino!!  Our fearless explorers, “Rhino Bait”, Kim, and Jeremy, scattered.  Actually Kim was walking briskly backwards trying to get a good photo shot!!  Kurt was dragging her by the arm and saying “HURRY!” They could hear the rhino walking through the brush. After reaching “safety” and no more rhino walking noises, Kurt “Rhino Bait” walked off the road and fell in a hole. His fellow explorers wanted to help but couldn’t stop laughing.   Another interesting night of animal noises.  Brrr, Brrr, Brr in the morning!! Thank goodness for the electric blankets, but you eventually have to get out of bed. We started out morning very early with a 5 am wake up call and breakfast at 6 am.  Everyone was prepared for a long road trip (2 hours), then our visit to the Elephant Sanctuary. Another loaded van, and off we went.  The drive through South Africa is very interesting.  Contrasts of housing and life styles were evident. Dix, our driver, gave us stories about the history as well as giving impromptu language lessons.  A McDonalds was spied!  The huge hills created by tailings from the gold mines ring the town of Johannesburg and its suburbs. They are yellow, very alkaline, and not much will grow on them. There are 88 gold mines in this region and the deepest is 4 km.  Only 32 mines are currently operating but the others may open again when the price of gold or technology to extract the gold improves. There are also huge coal factories, and all of this industry creates a brown haze hovering in the sky over Johannesburg. We didn’t expect to encounter this degree of pollution. It appeared worse than Los Angeles. The Elephant Sanctuary is near the Hartbeespoort Dam.  The lake and its feeding river, the Crocodile River, were very picturesque. The entrance to the Elephant Sanctuary was hidden but marked with a large elephant head with a wooden entryway. A meandering walk through the brushveld was shady and demonstrated just how dense the vegetation and short brushy trees could become.  Dix told us hunting in the brushveld wasn’t much fun, but great camouflage for the animals. We arrived at the reception area and met our guide, Andrew.  He was a riot.  His anecdotes, the accent and manner of speaking were colourful and entertaining. We could really envision an elephant making one of us a pancake with a little sushi on top!  The program consisting of another short walk through the brushveld, and three of the elephants (actually the handlers talked, and the elephants demo’d) gave us a class in elephantology. Most were natural behaviours from the wild that are just encouraged by the handlers’ to make the elephants easier to handle, treat, and keep healthy. The animals here are rescues that have been “naughty” in other areas by leaving their enclosures, uprooting local farmers’ trees, or even being removed from other animal parks due to mistreatment.  The wildlife in South Africa is very regulated in the parks.  There are protocols by species for feeding, care, and land/animal ratios.  The finale was an elephant kiss with lots of snot and dirt from Timba, the little two year old.  It feels like a wet Hoover vacuum on the cheek.  Most of the guys chickened out, but the girls all got branded.   The lunch consisted of African fare.  The butternut squash soup had a pumpkin flavor and some of us really liked it. A traditional African meat dish, Doma, was ground meat in seasoned sauce with a cornmeal type of topping. There were also chicken and beef dishes as well as salads and dessert. The second part of the program was an optional elephant ride (for an additional fee) and most of the group elected to participate.  Hey guys, no saddles and no saddle horn—just one very thin towel, and the waist of the little handlers.  Some of these guys may have cracked ribs!  The mount wasn’t bad, but the “get up” leans first one way and then waaaay the other way---hold on tight. The ride was cool but for such a wide platform (their back) they sure had bony backbones and prickly stiff hair. Check out Patti’s attached video—her elephant is still “naughty”!  Actually, the handler said the elephant was just being a teenager!  Kumba, the elephant, wouldn’t stay in formation – she kept stopping, backing up, and shook her head which nearly dislodged Patti.  That poor handler’s eyeballs must have been squeezed out!  The advice from her dear fellows, “Hey, could you fall toward the camera!”  Kumba then left formation to go check out a tree, but Patti was still on!  No Patti sushi on video today!  Group photos and feeding the elephants for their reward finished off this fantastic adventure. Thanks again to Andrew—his humor was a highlight! Last stop was a Coca Cola run for those of us on the trip having withdrawals, then most of us slept on the way back.  Hint, don’t sleep with your mouth open around this helpful group!  Kim has great pictures of “Baboon” Bill asleep, mouth agape, and an approaching banana. Stay tuned for tomorrow antics……
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Tiger Safari Hours & Prices!

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               Operating Hours Open Everyday During Spring break

        Monday  - Sunday 9am to 5:30 pm


        Your VIP Tour awaits request upon arrival - Space limited.

Special Pricing for School field trips, Churches, Day-Cares, and Nursing Homes! For pricing and booking call:
405-414-9365

Now Booking for School Field Trips

  • General Admission
  • Adults - $12.00
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Park Director: Bill Meadows
963 County St. 2930
Tuttle, Oklahoma 73089

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