National Press Club

Participants have 'roaring' good time on Travel Committee trip to Africa

June 10, 2013 | By Kathie R. Scarrah |

Participants in NPC African trip enjoy a safari. Back: Diane Wood, Mimi Higgins (NPC member), Mary Tully. Middle: Kathie Scarrah (NPC), Fay Iudicello (NPC). Front: Guides

Participants in NPC African trip enjoy a safari. Back: Diane Wood, Mimi Higgins (NPC member), Mary Tully. Middle: Kathie Scarrah (NPC), Fay Iudicello (NPC). Front: Guides

Photo/Image: Submitted Photo

There's something about coming across a bachelor group of lions in the wild that makes you ask "What am I doing here and can I get closer for a better shot (with a camera, not a gun)?"

Fifteen feet separated participants on the recent National Press Club Travel Committee-sponsored trip to Africa from the lions. Shooting frames of photos from the open-top Land Rover, you rethink the stupidity of moving closer when you see the beasts' ferocious canine teeth.

There are two ways to describe the "kill shot" and the risk of being on the losing side is too high.

Thirteen days, 10 ten flights, seven safaris, four boat trips, three countries (South Africa, Zambia, Botswana), two bush camps and one spectacular waterfall (Victoria Falls), last month’s trip was a perfect adventure that covered history, politics, shopping, vineyards and the "Big Five" African animals.

Half of the 10 the participants were NPC members. Each of the seasoned travelers had participated in at least one previous NPC travel trip, but few had experienced the challenges and wilds of Africa.

Pre-trip yellow fever inoculations (required) and a prescription for antimalarial drugs (wise) were in order, but once on the continent, no official at five border crossings asked for evidence that everyone had complied. Fortunately, since it was early winter in the southern hemisphere, there were fewer mosquitoes.

Our journey began in Cape Town, South Africa, with a ride to the top of Table Mountain, voted in 2011 as one of the new seven wonders of nature by the international New7Wonders project, on the aerial cableway.

Then the Robben Island Ferry brought us to the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. A photo-op at the Cape of Good Hope (the southwestern-most point in Africa); a stop at the boulders to see the colony of African penguins (African penguins in Africa - who'd have thought?), and wine tasting in Stellenbosch rounded out our Cape Town-area agenda.

Next up: wildlife. Off to Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, 500 km east of Johannesburg, where we observed and photographed the Big Five (elephants, rhinos, Cape buffalo, lions and leopards) as well as giraffes, zebras, impala, kudu and warthogs on four three-hour safaris. Our rangers and trackers coached us to listen for clues as we scouted for nearby animals.

Downtime in Livingstone, Zambia, allowed us to explore Victoria Falls, one of the original Seven Natural Wonders of the World. We stayed in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Wildlife Park where the wildlife entertained, ignored and pestered the human visitors.
Our final destination was Chobe National Park, Botswana, home to tens of thousands of elephants and other wild game. It didn't disappoint. Three final safaris brought us close to hundreds of pachyderms.

As we left Africa, I noticed an African proverb inscribed on the airport wall that perfectly summarized the trip: "If you want to go fast; travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together."

The NPC Travel Committee meets the third Tuesday of each month; the next meeting is June 18. There are still a few spaces left on the August NPC Travel Committee-sponsored trip to Scotland. Bagpipes not included.