Sights and safaris in South Africa

Joshua Dawson


Joshua Dawson

Only one of the breathtaking views they experienced on the trip, the students witnessed a sunrise at the peak of Table Mountain right outside of Cape Town.

Joshua Dawson, Reporter, Photographer

34 NC students and five teachers departed from Atlanta this past summer on June 5th to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa. The tour group spent a total of ten days engulfed in a cultural experience.

“I heard about it [the trip] my freshmen year and I got excited because I knew it’d be a worthwhile experience that I could probably brag to my family about,” senior Malik Balogun said.

James Auld, magnet adviser and trip coordinator, planned the trip in tandem with EF Educational Tours,  an international tour and travel company. Students arrived at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Terminal around 6:30 P.M. on Monday, June 5th, with packed bags and excited family members in tow. After two connecting flights over the course of two days, the group finally arrived in their first destination: Johannesburg, South Africa.

“I’ve never really been on a plane before, so the long flights were a little much for me. I felt cramped up, but the movies and flight attendants made up for it a little,” senior Rylie Geraci said.   

They arrived with the sun, and many students awoke in the final hours of the flight and witnessed their first African sunrise. The group hit the ground running and after passing through customs, immediately departed from the airport for Soweto, a historic township outside of Johannesburg.

Joshua Dawson
Senior Jordan Sesan overlooks Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. “It was such a great experience that it’s kind of hard for me to put it into words. I don’t know what to say, other than the entire experience was beautiful; the people, the culture, the monuments, it was all amazing,” Sesan said.

After visiting the Hector Pieterson Museum, which chronicles the 1976 student protests, the group ventured on foot through Soweto making their way to the Mandela House, the restored dwelling of civil rights activist and former South African President, Nelson Mandela. The tour group spent one more day in the Johannesburg area before boarding a bus and venturing further north for Kruger National Park.

The next day, they spent sunrise to sundown in the bush taking in all the sights they could on a safari in the national park.

“The safari was really exciting, and it was cool to see such magnificent creatures with my close friends on the trip” senior Ruthie Southall said.

Joshua Dawson
Senior Ruthie Southall walked with local kids in the village. The kids in the village outside of Kruger National Park approached the tour group with smiles and open arms.

The students separated into small groups of eight to ten, and were led by local tribesmen on a “Bush Walk.” The following day, they walked through a nearby village on the border of Kruger National Park. Afterwards,the tour group went south for Capetown on the South African coast.

“Walking through that village was kind of enlightening because it showed me that people that don’t have access to the same things as us are still as happy with their lives as we are, and the sense of community in the area was amazing,” senior Jordan Watt said.

Joshua Dawson
Two local kids smile into the camera on the village walk. The group walked through the entire village, seeing churches, schools, and houses.

The tour group then spent three days in Capetown. On the first day, students and chaperones ventured to Cape Point, the most southwestern point on the African continent. Later in the day, they walked around the historic city and visited various sites and buildings, and some chose to attend a Lutheran church service.

On the second day, the group sailed for Robben Island, the infamous island that held Nelson Mandela for eighteen years. On the final day, the group rode to the top of Table Mountain, and before making their way to the airport, they spent their final hours in South Africa walking through a township on the edge of Cape Town.

Joshua Dawson
These shacks stacked together in the streets of Langa Township, a historic township located outside of Cape Town, house families in South Africa.

“Seeing all of Cape Town from the top of table mountain was such a surreal and awe-inspiring moment for me,” senior Christian Kulat said.

After ten days of travel, the tired tour group arrived back home in Atlanta, welcomed by happy faces and loving families.

“I was glad to be home, but I honestly didn’t want to leave. It was really cool just to be there and see what Africa had to offer,” senior Jackson Gallman said.