South Africa is a long way away from the west coast of the United States.
In July 2001, my sister and I decided to visit this beautiful country after hearing so much about it from my friends. We bought our tickets 3 weeks prior to flying out. This was a few months before 9/11. We stayed at hostels everywhere we went except the one night camping at Kruger National Park and two nights on overnight long distance bus rides. The highlights had to be the safari drives and 5-day stay in Cape Town and surrounding areas. It was only after our visit we heard about the high rates in crimes, gun ownership, HIV and unemployment. Ignorance is a blessing!
In 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the country again. After the business portion was complete, I was able to go on safari with a colleague for two days after some last minute planning. South Africa has changed a lot in more than a decade just from my very limited interactions on this trip. Other than the long hotel stay and two days on a private game reserve, I can't say I have seen much of the country at all. The highlight of this trip has to be the sighting of a leopard - this completed my wish of seeing the Big Five during a single visit! And many sightings of white rhinos and elephants! With all the news on poaching and movement and measurement to safeguard these endangered animals, this visit reinforced my support of all the animal conversations programs out there. Soon after our visit, there was violence in South Africa townships against migrants. Again I felt lucky!