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|December 2, 2012 - Tracy Camp|
|Today I had a day off from SANCCOB, so I decided to do my part to give back to the local community through tourism. Much like Mystic and many places in the U.S. that are supported through the tourism industry, I thought this would be a good chance to take in some sights and support the country at the same time. As an animal person, I couldn't help but be drawn to a long time item on my very own bucket list, an African safari! The day started out by being picked up at the hotel for a scenic drive through the countryside. We weaved in and out of the Stellenbousch mountains. Upon arriving to the reserve we were invited to a buffet breakfast before heading out on our safari. We took covered jeeps into the plains of Africa. Deep valleys nestled in between the scenic mountains, we drove through the first set of containment gates to the trip. The Aquila safari park is a reserve set up to protect animals of Africa from poaching. It is a contained and protected park, but still immense in size to give the animals enough space to roam free. Some of the animals are even brought there after having injuries or being saved from poachers. They are doing a amazing things here to help save many important species. On the journey we saw many animals, including springbok, plains zebra, ostrich, white rhinos, wildebeest, giraffe, elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards and eland. Within the confines of the reserve the animals are used to the jeeps coming through so you can get pretty close without scaring them. Even the lions! We were only about 20 feet away from four lions. It was slightly intimidating, but amazing at the same time! While on the journey, our tour guide Alex taught us many important facts about the animals we saw and what they try and do to protect them there. He had even told us that just a few weeks ago some poachers had found a way to enter the reserve and they killed one of their rhinos for his horn. It was so sad to hear him talk about it as he and the rest of the park rangers were clearly devastated. The saddest part about it is that the rhino horn is made solely of the same material that our fingernails and hair is made out of, keratin. Do you know what else is made of keratin? Penguin beaks! Could you imagine if the penguins were hunted and killed for their beaks? It felt good to learn about other animals and what actions people are taking to help protect them. I hope that my visit to the park will help them continue to do good work for all of those important species. There is no species too great or too small. They are all important and worth protecting. While I enjoyed my day off, I can't wait to get back to SANCCOB to continue to do my small part to help one of my favorite species of all time, the African penguin of course!|
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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