In March, 2009, Penn Alumni Travel traveled to South Africa with alumni from Brown University. It was a truly wonderful trip.
We began our journey in Cape Town, staying at the historic Mount Nelson Hotel with views of the amazing Table Mountain. We spotted the film crew for the film Invictus, but unfortunately saw no signs of director Clint Eastwood or stars Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman who were also staying there.
Our first day took us to Robben Island – site of the prison where Nelson Mandela spent many years in captivity. The guides were former prisoners and shared with us their experiences in the prison. I can still picture the limestone quarry where the men spent most of their day, picking and hauling the blindingly white stones in the heat of the sun.
We also spent some time outside of Cape Town, visiting wine country and Boulders Beach, home to South African penguins. Of course we stopped at the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-westerly point on the continent of Africa.
Our next stop was Zambia, where we stayed at the Livingstone Hotel, right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. We could sit at a bar deck along the river and see the mist from Victoria Falls, just a few hundred yards away. We walked to the falls from the hotel, sporting rain ponchos, and were amazed by the power of the water continually flowing over the falls. For many travelers, this was their favorite location. From here, some of us spent a day traveling across the border into Botswana, an experience itself, where we took a boat ride along the Chobe River where we saw bathing hippos and then visited Chobe National Park where we saw lots of elephants.
We next traveled to Johannesburg, where we toured the city and visited the moving Apartheid Museum. We were fortunate to have a special tour of the Court and Justice Chambers of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, thanks to Penn alumna Yvonne Mokgoro, GL’90, HON’09. While there we encountered Justice Albie Sachs, who was active in the anti-apartheid movement, losing an arm in a bomb attack. He graciously agreed to stand in our photo. Justice Mokgoro then met us at our hotel for dinner, and we all were fascinated by her life story, her experiences at Penn, and her insights into the problems South Africa faces.
Our trip ended with several days of safari in Kruger National Park. While I was excited to go on a safari, my first ever, I don’t think I realized how much I would enjoy it. We rose early every morning, to go on rides before the sun rose to spot the wildlife before the heat of the day set in. After a few hours, we returned for breakfast. Some of us then would go on safari walks with the guides, armed with rifles, as we tread through the bush. Our hearts really started racing when a rhinoceros was sniffing around right near us – to get out of his way we were instructed to stand behind a tree as they can’t turn quickly. After a restful afternoon, we would head out again in the late afternoon. What fun we had seeing many birds, giraffes, rhinos, wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, hippos, elephants, and lions. Our photos don’t quite capture the majest and beauty of these animals, nor of the country as a whole.
We are offering this program in October (Oct. 12 – 26), again partnering with Brown Travelers. Visit our website to see more details of this wonderful program.