It’s 5 am and even although we are pushing toward the Equator and off the coast of Angola, it’s cold outside. Well, cold in Panama terms. The cold current of the southern Atlantic pushes up along the African coast meeting the warm air off the Kalahari Desert, so it is cool and foggy up on deck. This fog does give the coastal desert it’s only reliable source of moisture, but more on the desert and Namibia in a later post.
Today is an “off” day for me, a sea day, so I’ll wait to do my 3-4 mile walk around the upper deck until later today. “Off” however doesn’t just mean lounging around reading a book, although I will try and get an hour reading time in this morning. I’ve got to finish up my Togo & Ghana talk, which, given the fact that it can take 30 minutes to download as single image on the Internet, its much harder than it sounds, especially if, like me, you are an impatient fellow. I’ve got to write and record some voice-over material for the ship’s videographer and I’ve got three or four upcoming talks that need some additional work. Today they’re running my “Coffee” talk on TV. It was scheduled to be “live” but on a little ship with only one lounge, getting time in the lounge is a challenge, and the cast needs to rehearse, so they’ll run my old lecture on TV. There are guests who can’t get enough lectures, and others who can’t get enough bridge, or bingo, or stupid adult-day-care-center-summer-camp games. It’s the poor cruise director’s task to keep the passengers happy and the entertainers of all stripes, like me, all of whom want maximum exposure and “face time”, happy as well.
One of the great appeals of Africa is the opportunity to go on safari. The word “safari” originated from Arabic meaning “to make a journey” and originally referred to long distance travel with the purpose of trading. These caravans or safaris were large-scale operations with crews and supplies and weapons. Early naturalists and explorers came along and redefined the meaning of safari. Then along came hunters and the word became associated with killing and proving the hunters courage and virility, maybe they thought the bigger the gun, the bigger . . . . whatever. And today, for the most part, the term has morphed into a tourist trip into the wild in the back of an open air 4×4 vehicles to see and photograph wildlife.
Safaris don’t come cheap. Micato Safaris, owned by the Pinto family, is Africa’s premier safari operator. With Micato you can do everything from a standard safari [10 days from around $10,000 per person from New York] to a hot air balloon safari and even a 21-day safari across Africa by private jet starting at around $142,000 per person. Forget roughing it! Accommodations are designed to feel rustic but with Four Seasons-type amenities and service.
On a cruise the ship offers a variety of safari excursions from the ship. These range from day tours while we are in port, to overnight trips where you leave the ship for from one to three nights for your safari and then rejoin the ship at another port. The day tours start at around $250 per person, and the overnights can run up to over $5,000 per night, depending on the lodge and the number of flights involved.
Nikki and I both got to go on different day safaris and these are some of our pictures. It is an incredible experience, I think, to see animals in the wild that you had previously only seen in zoos. Most of the folks who went on the overnight safaris had an incredible experience. However, this being a world cruise with some folks who have been on anywhere from one to eight previous world cruises and are hopelessly jaded and have seen everything and been everywhere, there are some folks who say, “Oh, I’ve done that: once was enough.” OK . . . and so you’ve seen everything and you are on another world cruise . . . why?