The safari part of the trip will be broken into two blogs, since there are just so many animal fun facts to share. As you know I had my notepad at the ready on hikes and safaris, with still so many unanswered questions. Even after writing this post, my poop research continues its streak.
After a wonderful time in Cape Town, we headed out to Hoedspruit for our safari and African bush adventures (no “Lady Parts” puns intended). This included a flight to Johannesburg and then a puddle jumper to Hoedspruit. As soon as we got on the van to the airport in Cape Town, my roommate, Stacy, and I had our safari hats on. It was our new personality moving forward. It may be my personality for the rest of 2023.
The Hoedspruit airport was very small and the landing strip was right next to the bush. Below you can see the baggage claim, which was a wood counter where someone threw suitcases. It was at that moment it hit just how far away we were from home, especially as someone who currently lives in Manhattan. What are trees, am I right?
For anyone curious, I was given anti-malaria medication to take throughout my trip as a preventative. Luckily I did not experience any side effects, nor did I have any bug bites. While we were there it could well be over 100 degrees fahrenheit, since it was summer in South Africa. I don’t like taking chances on my health, so I tried my best to wear sunscreen and clothing that was covered, along with my safari hat of course. Not to mention the constant layer of bug spray. Why even bother showering, when you can just stay doused in layers of SPF 100 and DEET? Also the camping lodges all had mosquito nets around the beds. I never felt unsafe once in terms of bug bites.
We took a van ride (shoutout to our wonderful driver and first guide Mike) to our first camping site, Kum Kula. Even on our van ride over we were seeing animals such as baboons hanging next to the fenced off area from the road.
Kum Kula was a cabin/glamping situation and it was beyond magical. The center had a pool and next door was a watering hole, where animals would come take a sip. The cabins were all circling the main area. This would mean walking out with your coffee in the morning to 5 giraffes crossing past to get some morning water. We do love hydrated kings and queens, especially if they have long necks.
That first night we settled in with a home cooked meal and saw some scorpions in the trees. The ones we saw lit up green when shined with a UV light, but it was hard to capture from my phone. I may have scurried away indoors after the first sighting. Contrary to popular belief, I also have fears.
Also a shout out to Dave and his family who lived on site with their dog, Leila. She was such a joy to have running around camp. Apologizes in advance to any names I misspell here. Dave cooked us some of the most amazing meals. Below is a picture of Bobotie, a South African dish consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping. One of the best parts about this the trip was dessert with every meal including lunch. A very hard habit to break as I return back to my apartment with no groceries, rising inflation, and no money leftover.
Our first morning included a yoga class outside. It was so nice to be out in nature after filming in Los Angeles all summer and working in New York. If you have read prior blogs, you’d know it has been years since I traveled internationally or even took a full break from work, “Lady Parts,” and all my side hustles. Without internet/wifi for the majority of the last part of the trip, I was able to remember what it was like to live in the moment. In the hustle and bustle of New York and the entertainment industry I find myself getting so lost in goal setting and stress, that I sometimes don’t take in the magic that is happening around me. If I could go back a few months and just appreciate more time with my grandfather or really just take a second to soak in the filming of “Lady Parts.” Sometimes it takes flying around the world to get the kick in the ass you need.
We had a quick pause in yoga because Rebecca noticed a group of zebras, known as a dazzle, coming to grab some water. At this point we had not seen a zebra yet, and all immediately pulled out cameras and silently screamed. They were so close by and beautiful. It wasn’t long after when giraffes and monkeys were right there too.
After breakfast we headed out for our bush walk, led by the amazing Louis. He reminded me of Nigel Thornberry, and for some reason I would trust my life with this man. The property was in the middle of the bush, so all we had to do was walk right into it. To those who think we were just in some shrubbery, I’ll give you some imagery. I was told not to look down and to bug spray my shoes. Let me assure you I sprayed the living hell out of these sneakers. Since I never like being told what to do, I looked down to see the plethora of ants crossing in diagonals over my shoes then back onto the Earth. Yep, this was National Geographic, and way different than the usual New York roach or water bug. Don’t look down. Got it.
We focused a lot on poop in the bush walk. As some avid blog readers or TikTok followers may know, I have a dear spot in my heart for the topic. I’ve also written about the iconic toilets of Japan: Lost in Translation and Toilets. First of all, there are 3 types of droppings: dung, skat, and feces. Skat is the poop of predators, while dung is of prey. Feces is the poop of humans or monkeys.
Poop can tell you a lot about animals, especially their diets or physiology. Giraffe poop is a great example. If you were to see giraffe dung, you would see tiny pebbles. They are ruminants, just like sheep, goats, and deer, which means their bodies do not manufacture the enzymes necessary to break down cellulose. Like most ruminants, giraffes have a four chambered stomach where digestion occurs sequentially to squeeze out every last bit of nutrients. The small droppings are so tiny, because it is only pure waste left over. All of that can be deducted from a dropping of giraffe dung. Nature really is the shit.
Just as the giraffes are marvels of nature and digestive health, the trees that they feed off have marvels of their own. Once a giraffe starts chewing on acacia leaves, the injured tree emits a distress signal to nearby trees using gas. The neighboring acacia trees pick up on it and begin pumping tannins into their leaves, so the giraffes will not find the next tree palatable. The giraffes in turn will know which way the wind is blowing, thus which way the distress signal is flowing and start snacking in the opposite direction. Mind blowing if you ask me. Last giraffe fun fact for now, but giraffes standing still are called towers, and journeys when moving.
On the topic of poop again (it’s almost as if the blog title would give way for this theme), when you look at zebra dung, you’ll notice it is full of sticks and leaves. This would mean their digestive system is more on par with mine the morning after eating Taco Bell. The zebras are in fact the biggest eaters in the bush with not the best digestive systems, so this may be a hint. Also, I learned that baby zebras (and other animals) are born with full grown legs. This way when they are standing with the herd, predators won’t be able to single them out so easily. Evolution: think smarter, not harder.
Also in the great circle of life, we find the circle of poop. Not the “People Order Our Patties” type from the Krusty Krab training video, but instead how the circle of life in the bush and around the globe revolves around poop. The dung beetle is a great example. They lay their eggs in dung to make a bowl up to the size of a tennis ball. Dung is full of nutrients. Fun fact: the spider dung beetle is the only beetle to feed off skat. It has a taste for some big 5 one may say. There is also a grub worm, which lives inside the dung bowl that the dung beetle creates. Otherwise known as a shit worm, or that co-worker who puts fish in the shared microwave.
If we are talking poop, then we need to talk civets. The African civets will try to make their poop bigger by constipating themselves. Have they tried just eating a Chipotle burrito? This is because they want to attract mates, who will use the smells of their poop to choose the best sutor. It’s like tinder, but with poop. There is also coffee made from civet poop (Asian palm civet, not African civet though) that is the world’s most expensive coffee. Coffee makes you poop. Poop makes coffee. The circle of life.
I will wait till the next blog to talk about the big game animals, since that was what we saw on our later safari adventures. We did learn on this walk the classification differences between cats and dogs. It has to do with jaw structure and the retracting claws. Hyenas are actually neither and classified as their own thing.
Our last stop on the bush walk was along the electric and barbed wire fence to Kruger. It was truly a lucky day for us because we saw some buffalo just across the fence, which are one of the big 5. The big 5 consists of lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos. The term refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt. Spoiler alert – we did see all big five animals by the next day. We are kind of safari experts.
After cooling off from our bush walk by reading some Us Weekly’s next to the pool, it was time for a group cooking session. We were making Potjiekos, which is a dish traditionally prepared outdoors in a round cast iron, three legend cauldron. It’s giving witch. As an astrology bitch myself, this was right up my alley. The pot is heated using wood or charcoal and left to sit and soak in all the flavors for hours. Our pots started with oil, onion, and garlic, followed by chicken, root vegetables, vegetable stock, herbs, a splash (or maybe a glass) of red wine, and topped off with more vegetables. While we waited on our Potjiekos to simmer, we took in the sunset views of the bush and played some movie trivia.
That night we ate our Potjiekos with fresh bread and South African wines. We sat around the table for hours having really deep discussions and getting to know one another. It is rare these days in the busy hustle culture that we have time to simply be present. Society and capitalism tend to value the grind, telling us that any moment we spend relaxing is unproductive, thus we fill all our empty space with tasks. We deserve the space to relax and rejuvenate. We have to fill our cups, so that it can overflow to help others. I really valued this time away from it all and especially our amazing group for embracing this time together and being so open and vulnerable.
We left Kum Kula at 5am for our first game drive and then it was onto Shindzela. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me covered in coffee due to unexpected winds on the first game drive out.