A decision has been made…Photos from our trail cam…A special visitor…

Look to the right of this tree in the center, and you’ll see our occasional visitor, a porcupine.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. We don’t want to be overly or foolishly cautious as we strive to continue our world journey, hopefully soon. There wasn’t a single factor that precipitated the decision to stay in South Africa, again, to get a visa extension, due by January 24, 2022.

Yesterday afternoon, I called my dear friend Karen and told her that sadly we wouldn’t be coming to her wedding in February. It was a huge disappointment for her and us and her fiance Rich, but they both fully understand our predicament with the world in an upheaval due to the latest Covid19 variant, Omicron.

The porcupine is easiest to see if you zoom in.

What was the most influential factor that resulted in making this decision? Most likely, more than any of the other factors we mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was due to uncertainty. With airports and borders preventing the entry of passengers from South Africa, we could be left in a precarious position if last-minute changes are made, giving us little time to make an alternate plan.

We know this from experience, not speculation. On March 20, 2020, we arrived at the Mumbai International Airport at 2:00 am to be turned away from our scheduled flight after waiting in line for over an hour. South Africa closed its borders from when we left our hotel for the airport until the moment we heard the bad news. From there, you all know what transpired over the next ten months.

We wish the camera got a better shot, but we are always excited to see these.

We can safely stay in South Africa to wait this out with the only obstacle, a mandatory renewal of our visas, every 90 days. From past experience, we feel confident we can work that out and come up with a solution by January 24, 2022, our visa expiration date.

Also, there is a possibility that President Ramaphosa will extend visas for foreign nationals if the pandemic worsens over the next few months. This has transpired several times since the onset of the pandemic and could easily happen again. If not, we’ll fly to another country in Africa for a short stay and return. In this situation, we may not be able to make plans until a week before our visas expire.

As we’ve mentioned, porcupines are nocturnal.

The process of applying for an extension is so labor-intensive, and invasive of our personal financial status deters us from choosing to apply for an extension. Plus, with fewer employees working at the immigration department now due to Covid-19, it’s possible, even if we did apply, it might never come through in time.

We had a fantastic time at Jabula last night, chatting with Dawn and Leon, Lyn, and other guests at the bar. By the end of the evening, we’d been invited to Christmas Day dinner at Sinndee and Bruce’s bush home, along with Dawn and Leon and others we may or may not know. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to have plans for Christmas Day!

The Christmas tree at Jabula was a delight to see.

Of course, this reminded us of Kathy and Don inviting us to their home on Christmas Eve when they had never even met us! But, this is Marloth Park, and people are so friendly and welcoming, it’s always been hard for us to believe! The beauty of the bush, the wildlife, and the easy lifestyle has been instrumental in locals being warm and friendly.  Then again, South Africans are known to be welcoming to foreign visitors.

As for today, Saturday, we’re staying in. It’s still sweltering and humid. At the moment, I have a floor fan blowing on me that helps. We were outside on the veranda all morning. But now, being indoors with the fan cooling our sticky skin feels a little better.

They never seem to get very close to the camera.

It usually cools down by evening, but the dew point remains high at 72. We best prepare ourselves since summer’s “real” heat and humidity in Africa is yet to come. December, January, February, and March are the hottest months. January is considered the hottest month, with an average temperature of 91F, 33C. Considering how much it cools off at night, you can easily imagine how it is during the day.

The record high temperature in Marloth Park was 118F, 48C, the date on which this occurred is not published. We sure hope it doesn’t get that hot this summer. In any case, whatever it will be, we’ll manage to get through it.

Every one of us, throughout the world, has ongoing challenges to face as the pandemic continues and impacts all of our lives. We pray for us all.

Photo from one year ago today, December 4, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #256. Here is an albatross chick shortly after hatching. The chick was hatched during the first week in February while in Princeville, Kauai, in 2015. For more photos, please click here.

Deciding what to do…CDC tagging South Africa travelers into USA…

Hippos aren’t necessarily the cutest of animals. Hippos cannot breathe underwater.

After spending ten months in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, in 2020, we may have become particularly cautious and sensitive about spending more time in quarantine, even if it’s in the US. After reading the following article a few days ago, we can’t help but ask ourselves if we’re prepared to travel to the US in 50 days.

United States

Exclusive: U.S. CDC to collect data on southern Africa passengers over COVID variant

WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) – U.S. officials ordered airlines to disclose passenger names and other information about those who have recently been in eight southern African countries and will give it to local and state public health agencies, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told airlines in a letter late Tuesday that they must turn over names and contact information for any travelers who within 14 days have been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, citing “the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19/

(The CDC) will provide the contact information of these passengers to jurisdictional state and local public health partners for public health follow-up. This follow-up may include recommendations for potential post-arrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation,” the agency told airlines.

Effective Nov. 8, the CDC required all airlines to collect contact tracing information from all international air passengers but had not required them to turn over those names.

The new directive, which took effect late Tuesday and was seen by Reuters, mandates airlines to turn over the information within 24 hours of passengers arriving in the United States who have been in one of the eight African countries.

The collected information includes full name, full address while in the United States, primary contact phone number, secondary or emergency contact phone number, and email address.

The United States effective Monday barred nearly all foreign nationals if they have been in one of the southern African countries.

Separately, the CDC confirmed late Tuesday it is moving to require that all air travelers entering the country show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure in response to concerns about a new coronavirus variant.

Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days from their point of departure. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. The unvaccinated must now get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.

The new one-day testing requirement would apply equally to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.

The Biden administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The administration could require international passengers to submit an “attestation” that would also require them to follow all state and local public health orders.”

Hippos often come up for air. We’re always trying to get that wide-open-mouth shot. No such luck this time. A hippo’s gestation period is 243 days.

So much can change in a day’s time that we may find ourselves feeling ostracized with weird restrictions that we may not know at this point. The day we moved into the hotel in Mumbai, we thought we’d be there for days, not ten months. We didn’t know at that point that we couldn’t have a glass of wine or cocktail for ten months, that the restaurant would close, that we wouldn’t be allowed to leave the fourth floor.

Also, we must ask ourselves if we’re willing to bear the expense of living in a hotel, with high room rates during peak season, expensive car rental rates, and the high cost of quality food, which is tricky for my way of eating. Fast food doesn’t work for me.

There is no way we can avoid spending 18 days in quarantine before the official wedding celebrations begin with fears of infecting the bride and groom and many seniors with precarious health conditions. After the 18 days, we’d move to yet another hotel for three more nights where the wedding is being held.

Hippos can live for 40 to 50 years.

This would be a choice we make, which at this point, is not required by the government. However, so much can change in the next 50 days, with cases of Omicron increasing worldwide. Perhaps, lots of testing and mandatory quarantine will be required, and who knows, what else?

Will those, like us, arriving from South Africa, have to stay in certain hotels? This is entirely possible. In the UK, mandatory quarantine required travelers to stay at specific hotels at exorbitant rates. The hotels were guarded and monitored to ensure no one left the building. How will we purchase clothing for the wedding? We’d anticipated heading out shopping without an issue. This may not be possible. Neither of us has a single wardrobe item appropriate for what we are sure will be an upscale wedding.

You may think we’re over-reacting. But, please, we may be the only people you know who spent ten months in confinement in a hotel during Covid-19 from March 2020 to January 2021. It isn’t easy to convince me we’re over-reacting. We’ve been through it.

Giraffes were munching on treetops.

On top of all of this is the fact that once again, we’ll be traveling for almost two days with massive exposure to other passengers. That fact in itself is concerning. Of course, if we decide against going, we’ll be disappointed to miss this special event for our dear friends.

What would you do if you were us?

Tonight, we’ll speak to our friends, Karen and Rich, and make a definitive decision, which we’ll share here in tomorrow’s post.

Be well. Be safe.

Photo from EIGHT years ago today, December 3, 2013

We decided to post this “eight-year ago photo” from December 3, 2013, when we arrived in Marloth Park for the first time. This giraffe didn’t seem to mind photo-bombing us. Readers wrote that it looked as if I was wearing a giraffe hat. This photo was taken in our neighborhood. Louise explained that the giraffes would soon come to our house, which they did. For more photos, please click here.

Living in limbo…Uncertaintly prevails in times of Covid-19…

Holey Moley and a warthog pose for a photo.

Last night during our second night in a row at Jabula for dinner, the conversation centered around what will happen with many of us foreigners currently living in the bush when we choose to leave the country. Flights to many countries are being canceled right and left.

Fritz, a local we’ve come to know at Jabula, is scheduled to fly back to his home country on Tuesday, to The Netherlands, to be with his family for the Christmas holiday. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to fly out. The country is refusing flights arriving from South Africa.

A female kudu grazing on greenery in the garden.

This headline was posted online yesterday at this link:

“61 travelers from South Africa in Netherlands positive for COVID-19 -authorities

AMSTERDAM, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Dutch health authorities said that 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for COVID-19, and they were conducting further testing early Saturday to see if any of the infections are with the recently discovered Omicron coronavirus variant.

Around 600 passengers arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on the two KLM flights on Friday and then faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns over the new virus variant.

The Dutch health ministry said early Saturday, 61 tests had come back positive.

“Travelers with a positive test result will be placed in isolation at a hotel at or near Schiphol,” health authorities said in a statement.

Of the positive test results, we are researching as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of concern, now named ‘Omicron.'”

Young Daddy and others.

The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa early on Friday. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge determined that passengers already en route to the Netherlands would have to undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.”

No doubt, this dilemma will impact travelers worldwide, including many of us currently in South Africa. We’ll likely fly to the US as planned, but we have to wait and see what transpires. From this article, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to continue with our plans to travel to the US with our booked flight on Delta Airlines on January 23, 2022:

“United and Delta say they aren’t cutting flights to South Africa as new travel restrictions throw a wrench in the recovery of international travel.

The US government will implement new international travel restrictions that will affect the two US airlines that fly between the US and southern Africa.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are currently the only American airlines serving South Africa, where travel will soon be restricted. Non-US travelers who have been to that country and seven others in Africa within the last 14 days will not be allowed into the US starting Monday due to new fears stemming from the COVID-19 Omicron “variant of concern.”

Both airlines currently fly to Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, and United plans to resume flights to Cape Town in December.

Delta confirmed to Insider that it is not currently planning any service changes in light of the new restrictions.”

Lori and Barbara checked out the pellet situation.

This is good news for us, but another aspect of this current scenario is that we’ll need to quarantine when we arrive in the USA. Staying in a decent hotel for 18 days in Florida, dining out for 18 days, paying almost US $100, ZAR 1627, a day for a rental car we won’t be able to use but need to get food.

Not only do we have to consider our dear friend’s safety for their wedding and their friends and family members, but we also have to consider who else we may come in contact with during those days; the hotel staff, staff in restaurants and the shops where we’ll need to go to purchase clothing for the wedding and the three days we booked for the wedding at the golf resort.

Mom and three piglets often stop by.

I don’t think either of us is prepared for all of this, especially after the restrictions we faced in lockdown in Mumbai, India, for ten months.

Based on what President Ramphosa says in his next “family meeting,” usually conducted on Sunday nights at 8:00 pm, 2000 hrs, we may begin soon to make some decisions. At this point, there’s no announcement that such a meeting will transpire tonight.

A couple of young kudus and a Young Daddy.

We realize we wrote about this in yesterday’s post, and we apologize for the redundancy. But, we’ve always promised to be “real” and share our concerns as they appear in our lives of world travel. This is on our minds right now. It’s not realistic to avoid sharing our views and concerns. As we advance, we’ll share what we’ve decided to do about the upcoming trip to the US on January 23, 2022, but also attempt to avoid rehashing it over and over. Thank you.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #250. Many beaches in Maui are left in a natural state, with vegetation growing along the shoreline. For more photos, please click here.