ILSSO Gets Wild!

Editor’s Note: Our travels in recent days have taken us to areas where WiFi access didn’t allow for blog updates. Please enjoy the following post recapping our travels on January 10, 2014.

Imagine waking up in the mountains of South Africa with a beautiful sunrise and wild animals running about. That is just how this outstanding Friday started out! We enjoyed the breathtaking voices of the Hannah Lodge staff who sang to us in Zulu! On the way to our first stop of the day, we enjoyed the scenic route through the mountainous regions of South Africa. We were able to see a waterfall coming from deep within the mountains and cascading into the Elephant River near a small village.

The fun didn’t stop there; we went to a huge citrus farm with an impressive 1,100 acres of citrus, with 285 acres being dedicated to lemons. Gert (pronounced “hurt”) explained that South Africa is the tenth largest citrus producing country and the second largest exporter of citrus, second to Spain. Although South Africa is in another hemisphere, they struggle with some of the same pests as we do in the United States. These sometimes include thrips, mealie bugs, and even the spider mite. Although Gert’s lemon trees were only two years old, they were already producing fruit. An interesting part of our visit to this farm was the huge shade cloth that covered fields and fields of lemons and other citrus fruits. One shade cloth covered 280 acres of produce. We were shocked to find out that 66-68 percent of his citrus fruits are exported all over the world. We explored Gert’s packing plant where they were in the process of packing lemons.

After a two and a half hour drive to Eastern South Africa, we finally made it to our destination of Kruger National Park. Before even entering the gate, we were greeted with hippos taking a dip to keep to keep cool on this 92-degree day. On the way to catch a lunch in the park, we saw Impalas, Kudu, and a giraffe. After a quick lunch break and shopping spree, we continued our travels through this 5.3 million-acre nature park. Wildlife that we encountered included: baboons, monkeys, a lot of Impala, gnu (wildebeests), birds, Kudu, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, and a crocodile! We were most eager to search for the “Big 5”, which includes elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and water buffalo. After hours of searching, we encountered several water buffalo, a small pride of lions, and a few lonely elephants. We knew finding a leopard would be hard to spot because they tend to hang out in trees, and the rain made it even more difficult.

After driving through the park we headed to our last destination for the day, Hippo Hollow Country Estates. We got settled in to our chalets and met at 6:30 sharp for our cultural evening of food, song, and fun. The Shangaan River Club staff performed cultural dances prior to dinner. They even let us join in on the fun and invited us to dance.

Our daily small group meetings took place shortly after dinner was over. Today was filled with South African agriculture, wildlife, and culture. After resting up, we will be more than ready to start another day in the beautiful country of South Africa!

Yours truly,

Brooke Townsend
Louisiana FFA State Vice President

Bradley Glover
North Carolina FFA State Vice President




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