Michael Covey, garden coordinator and former chemistry teacher, went to Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, with his wife, former middle-school science teacher Jackie DeLu. It was a five-week trip beginning Sept. 15.
Q: Why did you go to Africa?
A: Animals. My wife used to teach seventh-grade life science here, and a lot of what she does has to do with animals.
Q: What did you do there?
A: We spent the first week at a lodge game preserve in South Africa. Every day we went on a morning and afternoon game drive, either at that game preserve or at a nearby one. In Botswana we went on a two-week safari, and did the same in Namibia.
Q: What were the people like?
A: In Botswana the people were wonderful. It varies across South Africa because there’s a lot of crime in some places, but the people who were in the rural places of Botswana were incredible and very welcoming.
Q: What did you notice about the culture?
A: We saw a lot of people in a lot of situations. A few of the guys were of Afrikaner descent, and some of the bigotry was still hanging on from that culture (Afrikaners are the descendants of Dutch and Germans who colonized South Africa, and who instituted apartheid, a former system of racial segregation in Africa).
On the other hand, almost all of the people who we met were of African descent.
Much of our time was on safari. We were mostly with guides and animals, so there wasn’t much cultural interaction. The guides and staff were amazing, though, and of African descent. They made us feel very welcome, and I think there was mutual respect.
Q: What was the weather like?
A: We went at the beginning of their spring, and it was hot already – especially in Namibia. At times it was very comfortable, in the low- to mid-70’s, but in the daytime it got to 100 degrees.
Q: What animals did you see?
A: It’s impossible to name them all. I think we saw something like 50 different animals. We saw the classic ones, like giraffes, lions, zebras, cape buffalo, rhinos, elephants and hippos.
There were also about two dozen different wild cats and packs of wild dogs, which were pretty special. People will go to Africa multiple times and never see wild dogs, but we saw them three times. We also saw cheetahs, caracals, crocodiles, Nile monitors, baboons and monkeys.
My wife is also an avid birder, and she saw over 150 new species of birds!
My favorite animal was probably the leopard.
(Photos used by permission of Covey; slideshow by Mohini Rye – hover over pictures to see captions)
Q: What’s your most memorable experience?
A: We get this question a lot: “What’s your favorite part? What was the best?” But how can you decide? It was all wonderful. After five weeks in South Africa, it was nice to be back home, but we were disappointed that we had to leave.
Q: Was it disorienting to be back in the United States?
A: No. Even after I lived in Taiwan for a year, coming back to the U.S. was not terribly disorienting for me.
Every so often you can connect to Wi-Fi in South Africa, so you don’t get as immersed as you would with Peace Corps or missionary work.
Q: Describe Africa in three words:
A: Wildlife, scenery…epic. That’s just describing what I’ve seen, which is a tiny part of Africa.
Three words are so difficult to come up with to describe a country. Even 50,000 words couldn’t do it all justice.
—By Mohini Rye