Elephants and Ostriches and Views, Oh My!

Aida Mengistu
July 3, 2018
Elephant Sanctuary

The second weekend of my time in South Africa, I decided to go on the Garden Route tour with the program for a three-day excursion filled with various fun activities including amazingly delicious food, unforgettable views, memorable moments with friends, and appreciation. On Friday, we went canoeing at sunset. My roommate and I found ourselves floating along the way a lot, just trying to live in the moment and soak in our environment. What. an. experience! Watching the sun set from our canoe over the calm waters will be something I will not forget.

The next day, we traveled to the Eastern Cape of South Africa to a South African National Park called Tsitsikamma to hike to the Suspension Bridge over Storms River. Yes, it was a brief hike that I wasn’t too prepared for but, compared to the Peninsula Tour hike, I knew I could handle almost anything! “Adventures make memories” the tour guide told us. Once on the suspension bridge, I almost wanted to just lay on the bridge. It was magnificent! I can’t even put into words the pure beauty. I felt like I was in the middle of the Grand Canyon - but the water version of it all.

As the sun was peeking through the cliffs, the suspension bridge hung like a belt to the gradual ocean below. As I looked across the way, I just saw an infinite ocean. On the other side, Storms River crashes through the cliffs into another trail for kayaks and other adventurers who seek more. I felt like the Little Mermaid standing there! I could tell everyone around me felt the same burst of energy once we made it across. Listening to the waves crash over the rocks below became music to my ears. From there, our lunch consisted of a delicacy of fish and chips - or fries for my American friends.

After lunch, we had the choice of different animal experiences to attend for the afternoon. Along with many others, I chose to interact with the African elephants in the Elephant Sanctuary! I have been to Ethiopia twice before, but contrary to others (might I say, ridiculous) beliefs, I have never seen an elephant until now! Not only was I able to walk with one of the elephants - her name was Joba - but I was also able to later help feed her and her friends pieces of pumpkin. It was a beautiful experience that I don’t think I could’ve done anywhere else! Feeding elephants in South Africa? After doing so, we retired to the beautiful Queens Hotel, the third oldest hotel in all of South Africa.

The last day, we explored Cango Caves. While there, my friend and I were waiting for the less adventurous tour to begin and decided to explore the building and found a panoramic balcony. After greeting a lady who was working there, we asked her, “Do you ever get tired of this?”

She replied with, “No, how could I? Every day I come to work, I seem to find something new to appreciate that's around me. I love it here.”

Her attitude and energy say it all. I cannot express how impactful these two weekends have been already. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have traveled so far and interacted with the things I have done.

After Cave exploring, we travelled to an Ostrich Farm and met the beautiful, chromosomally challenged Stompy. A beautiful ostrich like herself had a chromosomal error affecting her growth, making her a dwarf ostrich (as seen below). After feeding them, receiving neck massages, and hugs from the other ostriches, we began our long journey back to the Western Cape towards Cape Town. Along the way, I captured some beautiful sunsets and good karaoke tunes in the bus. Once again, I am thankful to IES Abroad for providing us with the opportunity to experience so much of South Africa within a weekend. I found new friends from the different programs, grew closer to others, and learned something new each day.

Can you believe it? Suddenly I'm asking, when will I come back again to South Africa?

Aida Mengistu

<p>Hi there! My name is Aida Mengistu and I am from Sioux City, Iowa. I am currently in my fourth year at the University of&nbsp;Iowa pursuing a double major in Health &amp; Human Physiology - with a focus on Health Promotion - as well as a Global&nbsp;Health Studies major and an Anthropology minor. A bit about myself, I absolutely love to travel and experience new&nbsp;cultures and traditions! I tend to express myself through my photography, whether it be through the warmth of a&nbsp;morning sunrise or the interactions between people. I also enjoy music, movies, and the performing arts. Fun fact, I am&nbsp;originally from Ethiopia and have traveled twice before to visit my extended family members over the summer!</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Iowa
Sioux City, IA
Global Studies
Health Studies
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