Missionaries from across West Africa traveled to South Africa for an encouraging and refreshing conference last week. Three friends, Sharon, Judy, and Annette, and I decided to take advantage of the occasion to savor the spectacular Victoria Falls and a safari in Botswana before the conference, which was in picturesque Cape Town. God provided some amazing sightings of a wide variety of animals and beautiful sights during those memorable days! I love seeing God’s majesty and creativity in the things He has created! Just as fun was photographing it all, as I had gotten a new long lens just for this trip and learned a lot from my pro-photographer colleague, Judy.
Our adventures began in Victoria Falls. We enjoyed the beauty of the worlds largest waterfall from the air and from the ground. Fun fact: The local tribe’s name for the falls means “The Smoke That Thunders” because of the continual mist that fills the roaring waterfall and creates a constant rain, along with rainbows, along the falls.
Our safari started right on the hotel grounds, where monkeys played in the trees and baboons, warthogs, and even elephants wandered around the town.
From there it was on to Botswana!
We have hippos in Mango, but I’ve never seen them so close up!
Often found near water, these antelope called red lechwe ran like the wind and leapt unbelievably high in the air over the water.
Giraffes often dotted the landscape as we toured the bush.
Zebra were also plentiful. One day we stopped at a water hole and multiple dazzles of zebra showed up over at least a half hour. Even our guide was excited about seeing so many of them! Hundreds of animals just kept on coming, each group taking turns to drink and run or even fight in the water.
From the deck of our second camp, we could watch huge herds of elephants passing by. This one included a baby elephant that was likely less than two weeks old.
This young elephant is “putting on sunscreen,” as our guide liked to say.
The warthog is one of “The Ugly 5” (a list that’s a spin-off on the Big 5). But I think they’re kind of cute and so funny when they run!
Wildebeest are another of the Ugly 5. We actually saw all 5 on the list (the others are the hyena, marabou stork, and vulture).
We spotted (pun intended) this leopard crossing the road and followed him for a while. He was hunting impala and was trying to sneak around unseen.
Impala, a.k.a. lion snacks, gathering in the shade of a tree during a hotter time of day.
We saw many lions during our drives. This one was part of a pride of 7 or 8, including several adolescents. We watched the whole group playing in the grass just before sunset on our first day. It surprised me that we could drive up right next to lions in our open vehicle and they would not bother us. Apparently, they do not see six very vulnerable individual humans in a vehicle, but instead they see a large vehicle as one “animal” and think it’s too big for them to attack.
Later on, we came across this majestic male lion hunting a herd of cape buffalo. Three times he started racing after the beasts, but he couldn’t made a kill.
These are the cape buffalo our lion friend had his eye on. They were very aware of his presence and stayed alert but were a little stuck between him and a swamp.
This beautiful antelope is called a kudu. Each twist of his horns grows over two years, so this guy is six years old.
We came across this pack of wild dogs running along the road. They have intriguing markings and big round ears.
Each evening after sunset we would search for nocturnal animals as we made our way back to camp. One evening we spotted this, an animal I didn’t know existed until then. It’s called an aardwolf, and it is such a rare animal that the last time our guide saw one was 15 years ago.
This guy is called an eagle owl, which is the biggest owl in Africa.
There were so many beautiful birds along the way, but I won’t bore you with pictures of all of them. The multi-colored bird on the left is the Lilac-Breasted Roller, and they were so plentiful we just started calling them LBR’s for short. The one on the right is a bee-eater.
This is a red-billed hornbill. They were also very common, so we started calling them flying chili peppers!
Small wonders: a butterfly on a pretty flower.
We prayed for days to see a cheetah, but up until our last 24 hours it seemed like God wasn’t going to answer that prayer. Then we came across three of them on our last evening, a mom with two adolescents! The next day we saw the family again! They were searching for a meal but didn’t get close enough to an impala to make a run for one. Not 30 minutes later we stumbled upon three adolescent cheetahs laying on the side of the road!
From Botswana, we headed to Cape Town to join up with all the other ABWE missionaries from West Africa. This was the view from our hotel as we enjoyed time fellowshipping together away from our usual work, and growing in God’s Word.
We enjoyed opportunities during the week to get away together and enjoy God’s creation. A friend and I climbed up Table Mountain while our other colleagues took the easy way (cable cars). In this view from the top, you can see Cape Point off in the distance.
And this is Cape Point close-up.
Some of my friends and colleagues at Cape Point.
Just because we had left Botswana doesn’t mean we were done seeing animals! A short boat ride brought us to hundreds of seals sunning themselves and swimming on an island just off the coast.
South Africa is home to a large penguin colony, and we got to watch these cute birds waddling and swimming at the beach.