Blanketed by a starry morning sky, our group departed the team house with excitement for the upcoming adventure in the bush, but sad to say our goodbyes to all the friends at the team house who enriched our experiences in Cape Town. Stuffing our bags full of treasured souvenirs with fearful anticipation of meeting the baggage weight requirements, we all boarded the bus and raced against the clock on our ride to the airport. Waking 25 young adults at the five o’clock hour is no easy task and we are amazed that we made the flight. Luckily, we spent the rest of our travels catching up on sleep or journaling on the three hour drive to the Bakgatla reserve.
The Bakgatla reserve was formed by the Bakgatla tribe, who we visited earlier on our trip in Botswana at the Mochudi village. Colonization set traditional boundaries distinguishing South Africa from Botswana, but the history of the Bakgatla people led them to settle in areas of both countries. Upon British arrival, the Boers were pushed into northern South Africa and Botswana, which drove the Bakgatla tribe even further north out of the southern region of Africa. The tribe remained there until Botswana became a British protectorate (DATE). The history of the Bakgatla tribe is similar to what we learned about District 6, but the way they responded to their displacement through adaptation has had a positive impact on the tribe. In Cape Town, we discovered that the area where we were staying (Noerdhoek), had in fact been inhabited by the very townships for which we were volunteering our services before they were driven inward from the coveted beaches and coastline. These townships are not self-sufficient and are still seeking assistance from the government, whereas the Bakgatla tribe was able to recover their land and create the self-sustaining business that is now the Bakgatla reserve. Many of us wonder why was it that the Bakgatla tribe was able to reclaim and recover while the townships of Cape Town still face the repercussions of Apartheid injustices? In time, we hope that the townships can recover, like the Bakgatla tribe’s response to colonialism.
After a week of coastline city living, we are back out in the bush, living a rustic lifestyle surrounded by the wildest of life. Soon after arriving, we immediately boarded massive safari trucks in order to take a pleasant evening game drive through the reservation. Bundled up from head to toe, students eagerly searched for signs of “the big five”: leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo. After the first night, we could check the rhino off of our list. In addition, we saw many wildebeest, springbok, antelope, and bushes that looked a lot like lions. Our most exciting encounter was almost touching a giraffe who was snacking on an acacia tree that happened to be in the middle of our path. In the dark, the star gazing made up for the lack of animal sightings on the way back to the lodge. We tucked into our chalets, dreaming of all the wonderful animals we may get to see on another safari drive the next day.