Cape Town – Being tourists in White South Africa
Cape Town offers tourists a good number of attractions such as Table Mountain, the Waterfront, the Western Cape, a penguin colony and the city itself. Off-the-beaten-path activities include visits to townships where the majority of blacks still live (they were prohibited by apartheid from living in the cities in which they worked and now economic apartheid prohibits them from leaving the shanty towns bordering the cities).
The V&A Waterfront is a tourism development created out of an aging port facility that had pretty well fallen into disuse and disrepair for some 50 years. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is now a shopping and cultural center.
The penguin colony was visited during a day tour to the western cape where we also saw Kudu (a kind of deer), baboons and ostriches.
Travel with a Mission: Caring for Orphaned Baboons
The depth and breadth of the experience possible when caring for others is difficult to describe. Living with orphaned or abandoned baboon infants provides an opportunity to learn a lot from our fellow primates while learning more about ourselves.
C.A.R.E. (Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education) provides shelter and food – as well as medical attention when needed – to some 300 baboons. The numbers vary but there are approximately 65 immature baboons (1 day old to about 3 years old) with whom visitors have regular contact.
Two sub-adult groups, one of 17 members and another of 14 members, also get some attention from volunteers but are mostly cared for by staff. The rest of the baboons were in large cages away from human interaction (except for feeding) to ensure a de-humanizing process prior to their release into the wild – usually some 5 years after their arrival at C.A.R.E.
The majority of the primates are brought to the C.A.R.E. facility after farmers shoot the mothers but don’t have the heart to shoot the infants they carry. Others have been held in captivity either as pets, laboratory animals or as curiosities on private reserves. The majority showed signs of abuse: addiction to human food, broken limbs, skin burned by chemicals or cigarettes, alcoholism, severe sunburn, etc.
Over and above the 300 baboons that are the responsibility of the organization, there were two troupes of wild primates totaling approximately 150 members. They hung around because of the easy access to food (either from the baboon cages, from the food storage area or from our overloaded trucks when they arrived). C.A.R.E. feels that the wild troupes provide an important component of the captured members’ education as they teach the socially-wanting caged animals how to play, fight, copulate and everything else a young baboon would normally learn from his wild troupe.
You can always see the damage done by humans, but the psychological damage is apparent. Baboons who spent their early weeks, months or years caged up with no contact with other baboons have no social skills. They dodn’t know the language, nor the social ranking phenomena which decides who eats when and what, who gets to breed and who leads the troupe. Some were deathly afraid of humans while others did not fear them enough for their own survival.
All that is needed to learn from baboons is an observant eye and patience. You cannot force a baboon to come to you, to trust, obey or respect you, nor can you force it to accept and love you. It is always their choice, as individuals and as a group, to determine your ranking in their social order.
Each baboon has a distinct personality – just as humans – and they express themselves through a language we are just beginning to comprehend. It is only after we established ourselves within their hierarchy, developed relationships built on trust and respect and, finally, learned their language that the experience became a deep, holistic one. Volunteers who stay two or more months have the exceptional experience of caring for an infant baboon.
Amazing wildlife – Kruger National Park
One of Africa’s most renowned wildlife preserve offers the opportunity to see ‘the Big Five: elephant, giraffe, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros and hippopotamus. With a bit of luck, travelers might even see lions, cheetah and leopards – all of which are very infrequently seen as they are well camouflaged and move around mostly during the night.
Elephants and giraffes wander around feeding and doing what animals do naturally without giving a moment’s notice to travelers in their cars. Most of them just continued munching away completely oblivious to the effect they have on visitors.
We ran across a small herd of zebras crossing the road at mid day. Soon after the animals had crossed we noticed a female with a large belly and, as we wondered whether or not she was pregnant, we saw her foal moving around in her!
There are a good number of wildebeests, elephants and giraffes as well as antelope, white rhinos and birds. Watering holes are great places to observe wildlife such as antelopes, alligators and birds of all kinds as they warily share limited resources.
There are two good reasons that make winters the best time of year to spot animals: less water means they congregate in fewer places and deciduous trees have dropped their leaves so that it is easier to see through the bush. Two other good travel reasons are: it is off season so there are very few tourists and this makes everything cheaper.
Umhlanga Rocks Indian Ocean-side of South Africa
The east coast of South Africa provides stunning views of the Indian Ocean again, warmer weather and large wetlands preserves. The ones at St. Lucia have many hippos hiding in the tall reeds. Umhlanga Rocks, just north of Durban, is a pretty little town with all the services needed for banking, shopping and getting caught up with e-mail and blogs.