Cory Payton

  • Exploring African Wildlife and Culture

    I can still remember my first time flying from the craziness of an African city out onto safari in those small propeller planes. With the hustle and bustle of the city behind you, you prepare for the unknown adventure ahead.

    Botswana

    On this particular trip, we were circling an airstrip near the Okavanga Delta area of Botswana. I was wondering why we were not landing when the pilot turned and let us know that the local guides were busy chasing a herd of elephants off the runway and we should be able to land once they pass. It finally hit me that this is the real thing – not a zoo, not a wildlife park – this is Africa. Once we finally landed, the safari experience began!

    Photo Credit: Botswana Tourism

    Photo Credit: Botswana Tourism

    Safari Experience

    The morning flew by with one wonder after another. Warthogs running off in the distance with their tails in the air, lions chewing on an evening prey or lying in the grass protecting their meal. The giraffes are munching along from tree top to tree top. One of the most beautiful sights was when a huge adult giraffe ambled toward a watering hole and slowly crouched down, knees buckling, and took a drink.

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    The next day we hadn’t seen any giraffes, which was odd since they are usually everywhere. The trackers that join you on safari are incredibly knowledgeable and they had the most fascinating answer: there was a small brush fire a few miles away and the giraffes can smell the burning. We all thought they would be rushing in the opposite direction, but no! Giraffes love the taste of the leaves that have been ‘caramelized’ at the edge.

    You will discover many amazing aspects of wildlife in Africa. While lounging on the Zambezi River, a huge bull elephant came to take a drink – so we thought. He walked up to the river and looked out across the landscape before slowly wading into the river. He swam across to the small islands dotting the river, but he did not stop there. Lunging up and down, trunk in the air, he swam from one country to the other! The elephant swam from Botswana to Zambia and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I had no idea an elephant could swim!

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    South Africa

    I like to suggest ending an Africa travel experience in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is a relaxed city by the bay with great last-minute shopping and is perfect for taking time to remember all of the amazing safari adventures you’ve had on your trip. Perhaps you’ll have time for one more incredible learning experience by taking a tour of Robben Island just off the coast.

    Photo Credit: South Africa Tourism

    Photo Credit: South Africa Tourism

    Robben Island

    Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison and 18 of those years were here in an eight by seven-foot cell which you can tour and visit. Even taking the two-hour ferry ride from the mainland is a journey through a historical struggle for equality. It is very emotional as each of the tour guides were once prisoners here. They share their stories, show images of their meager ration cards and explain the daily routine. Though very painful memories to share, they also add the hopeful stories and memories they had of Mandela – the kind and gentle president. Our guide said he and many others – even guards – helped smuggle in his children over the years or helped send his messages to the outside world. You’ll come away, once again as Africa seems to always do, changed and a better, more compassionate person than you came.

    Photo Credit: Tourism South Africa

    Photo Credit: Tourism South Africa

    This is Africa

    I’m always telling my friends, “Just go!”

    Yes, it may sound complicated and intimidating at first, but shove those worries down and make it happen. It will truly change you – make you appreciate the simple aspects in life, appreciate the land and our planet, take care of others and give what you can. Once again, Africa changes you.

    I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California which is fondly known as the raisin capital of the world, yes my dad harvested for Sun Maid. Finishing college I spent leisure time working at a ski resort and soon leading tours with Contiki Holidays where the travel bug really hit. Moving into sales of my favorite countries like Australia, New Zealand and Africa, Swain Destinations was a perfect fit and I’ve enjoyed being a part of this family owned company for 12 years. As I always say, ‘the journey is the reward’.

    October 2, 2018 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 524

  • Kenya Changes You

    “Africa changes you…”

    You’ll hear it over and over. After my recent trip to Kenya, I’ll be the first to add the phrase to my discussions when I’m talking about any future bucket list. Put Africa on your list, pack up and go! I’m in the travel business and I even had my doubts. There’s vaccinations, the distance, my family asking if it was safe, etc. However, you step off the plane to elephants staring at you. Then the village folk in the most beautiful flowing outfits greet you. Finally, you experience your first sunset with a Baobab tree in the distance and all the worry washes away. The effort will seem insignificant compared to what awaits.

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Stepping Off the Plane

    My plane landed along a dirt runway in the middle of Kenya bordering the Samburu region and national park. My first safari experience was spent at Sasaab Lodge. This accommodation was amazing. There was nothing but open air, a small plunge pool to cool off after a day of exploring, and an ice chest with plenty of beverages. These beautiful villas had no electricity so it was just you and nature – with a view of the river where elephants would drop by at sunset for their evening drink just as you were pouring yours. It was a toast to Kenya.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Discovering Kenya

    When you think Africa, you imagine sweeping vistas with a lion perched on a rock overlooking his lands or maybe you picture elephants and giraffes in the distance. We had all of these experiences and it gave me chills as I turned each corner in the safari vehicle. Although the wildlife is stunning, what really affects you are the unexpected, special moments that happen while traveling through this beautiful country. It feels as though you’ve been given a gift, an experience to cherish. You develop a newfound appreciation for the simplicity that life can have and the wonder of nature.

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    One of my favorite moments was visiting a local village near the lodge. A close friend suggested I take one of the retro-Polaroid cameras. The ones where you press the shutter and a little whirring sound happens before spitting out a photo beginning to develop. After giving it a few shakes, you have your picture! Imagine humbly sharing the technology with locals in a third world village. It was amazing.

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    I wanted to share this with the beautiful, happy people of this small village. After gathering them around for a group picture, I handed them the actual photo so they could keep it. Tears welled up in their eyes as they saw themselves in full color for the first time. Another photo was taken of a mother holding her small child and the reaction was so beautiful. This is where I knew the saying was true, “Africa changes you.”

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Visit to a Local School

    We visited a local school next. It was a bit out of the way because they don’t like too many travelers passing through, but we didn’t mind the journey. We visited a local third grade class and their principal had them ask us questions. It’s not every day strangers come to visit.

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Their questions ranged from our favorite soccer players and different foods to what children like to do in our country. Then, one little girl raised her hand and quietly asked, “Can we sing for you?” Sure enough, the entire class started belting out the African version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in unison! It was a humbling experience and one I still fondly carry with me.

    Final Words

    This was just a taste of my time in Africa. We then ventured to the Maasai Mara region where you’ll find indigenous tribes and plenty of animals. But that story is for another time. The people and places are magical. The wildlife is magnificent and everywhere! From the majestic elephants pushing through huge bushes to the cats that are either laying around or on the prowl for their next dinner.  So, I must repeat, “Africa truly does change you.”

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California which is fondly known as the raisin capital of the world, yes my dad harvested for Sun Maid. Finishing college I spent leisure time working at a ski resort and soon leading tours with Contiki Holidays where the travel bug really hit. Moving into sales of my favorite countries like Australia, New Zealand and Africa, Swain Destinations was a perfect fit and I’ve enjoyed being a part of this family owned company for 12 years. As I always say, ‘the journey is the reward’.

    September 18, 2017 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 3335