Another Successful South African Safari to Benefit San Miguel Animals
By Natalie Hardy
We come from San Miguel, San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio, and from the Big Apple. The participants are friends, friends of friends, and family. A handful of people converge on a Sunday, May 10, in the morning, at the Garden Court Tambo Hotel just outside of Johannesburg airport. All are excited about beginning a trip off the beaten track, into the South African bush, to see that country’s exotic animals in their natural habitat: lions, leopards, elephants, impalas, hyenas, giraffes, rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo; animals we have only seen in zoos. This is the trip made annually to South Africa to benefit the animals of San Miguel, the Sociedad Protectora de Animales, Amigos de Animales, and Lola Cortina’s feline sanctuary.
Rotary International, Polokwane South Africa Chapter, volunteers the manpower and superior planning of this trip. It is done totally for charity, for Rotary Polokwane, and for the San Miguel animals. The time is split among Rotarian projects in or near Polokwane, the Great Kruger National Park, and the Five Star Kings Camp on the Timbavati Reserve adjacent to Kruger. It is a totally non-commercial trip, with no middlemen, and therefore highly competitive in cost.
Participants from prior trips generate the future participants by word of mouth (the best advertising). Their enthusiasm is infectious, and somehow the groups are self-selecting and commit even before dates can be obtained for the following year.
Each day of the trip provides something new. Initial contact with the Rotarian hosts gives first-hand experience about life in this small city in South Africa. The Rotary projects involve such things as a school for the blind, a women’s center, and a child care facility. A bit like Mexico, one need not go far into the countryside to see what is needed for the disadvantaged. Tongue in cheek or not, the trip speaks for itself. The heart-centered Polokwane Rotarians make it the superior trip that it is, and the net result is win/win. Among the unexpected moments of this year’s safari, as organizer of the trip in San Miguel, I was recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow award “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among people of the world.” I have invited the participation of San Miguel residents in the safari since 2008.