Out of Africa

On a Bryn Mawr trip to the continent, two Mawrters found common bonds and rare experiences.

Sixteen alumnae/i and friends traveled to the Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia during the Alumnae/i Travel Program Southern Africa Odyssey trip in October. Two of those travelers, Amy Baruch ’88 and Diana Wilkens ’68, reflect on their trip.

Amy Baruch

Amy Baruch ’88

I do not typically choose group travel, but I knew I’d have a good time if I was with Bryn Mawr alumnae, a curious and intelligent bunch.

At first, everyone was a bit reserved, just getting to know one another. The first big ice-breaker occurred on day three in Victoria Falls. My dear friend Zori, my neighbor in Boise and not a Bryn Mawr alum, was celebrating her 44th  birthday.  Our tour guide Tim, gifted with a great sense of humor and encyclopedic knowledge of all things, arranged for a native dance performance especially for her. Before long, we were all on stage  too, having a hilarious time.

We aged from 44 to 88. Trust me, getting in and out of a Jeep for game reserves and climbing Big Mama, a dune in the Namib desert, is not for the lighthearted. The image of Tim hiking up the dune, helping support two of the older gals was priceless. Then we all ran down the steep dune together, our  legs buried to the knees in the early morning, cool sand.

We had many more wonderful experiences on the trip, including seeing the Big Five at Kruger National Park. So many highlights and shared stories.

Diana Wilkins

Diana Wilkens ’68

I’ve been on 15 Bryn Mawr trips since my first in 2004, to China. After that, I went on one trip a year. I was so happy with the way the trips were organized I didn’t feel like going with any other group. My favorites were China—I went back two more times—and Burma, such a beautiful country. The Egypt trip was spectacular too, and the trip to Africa was wonderful.

Traveling with other Bryn Mawr alums, you know you’re going to find a special curiosity and readiness to learn about different countries and cultures. On the African trip the guide was a specialist in botany and birding. He pointed out a few birds and was struck by how interested everyone was. Bryn Mawr people are amazing.

The days we spent at Victoria Falls were wonderful. The falls are astounding, and I did something out of my comfort zone. I’m normally a chicken but I took a helicopter ride with a couple of other women around the falls. I thought I’d be terrified. I was imagining a helicopter like on Magnum P.I. with a glass bottom, but this one had a regular floor, and it wasn’t that scary.

One day we crossed the border into Botswana and traveled in jeeps to see the wildlife. You’d look up and see a giraffe’s head emerging above a tree. The highlight though was the lions. There were only eight of them in this enormous national park and we were lucky enough to see two adult males in a thicket about 10 feet away from us. One was sound asleep, and the other was licking himself just like my cat.