The Princeton men's tennis team made its way to South Africa for a week-long trip as part of its Marx Tour series, a quadrennial venture made possible by Louis Marx Jr. '53.
The team has taken the trip every four years since 1990, most recently visiting France in 2010. Below is a recap of the trip from rising seniors Ben Quazzo and Michael Katz:
After a 6:45 a.m. departure from Jadwin, a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, and a 4.5 hour bus ride to the Botswanan border, we finally arrived at the Madikwe Game Reserve in the northern part of South Africa. Shortly after arriving, we were treated to tea and a late afternoon safari where minutes into the game drive we saw four male cheetahs surveying the landscape. Moments later, we ran into a pride of five lions taking in their latest caught meal. The following day, we saw the same four cheetahs do the same. Scenes like those characterized the incredible safari on which the team embarked in the first two and a half days of Princeton men's tennis team's trip to South Africa, and tangibly demonstrated the ecological hierarchy which we learn in the classroom. We saw water buffalo and elephants drinking at watering holes, wildebeests and zebras traveling in packs to complement each other's eating habits, giraffes prancing to find food, and rhinos exploring the vast game reserve. After a long morning of searching for more lions, the final safari culminated in a lion family affair, as a male lion sat in front of his expansive family in some brush.
We also were able to enjoy some cultural aspects of South Africa during our time at Tau Game Lodge. Every day, we had tea and a short afternoon snack before heading out to the evening safari. During our delicious dinners, we were able to choose from animals like kudu, a species of antelope which populates South Africa. Having experienced four awe-inspiring excursions, we felt satisfied in setting out for Johannesburg on our way to Cape Town. After a night in a hotel, we flew to Cape Town on Sunday morning.
While weather forced us to reschedule our Monday match and our first Cape Town practice, we were determined to pack our later adventures into the rainy days to make more time for tennis. On Monday morning, we went to Cape Point, whose peak on South Africa's southwestern coastline provided amazing views of sandstone formations and of the Atlantic Ocean, as Cape Point lies close to the Atlantic's collision with the Indian Ocean. We then made a quick drive to the Cape of Good Hope, whose lore extends to famous explorers like Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco de Gama, and marked the point where sailors began to travel eastward rather than southward. The rainy skies made the views all the more sublime, and gave us a sense of the tumultuous seas that these early explorers must have experienced. We later went to a nearby park to see South Africa's penguins, who inhabit various beaches on the coastline, providing a contrast to the more threatening animals we saw on our safaris.
The next morning we set out for Cheetah Outreach, a cheetah sanctuary where visitors' money is used to raise Anatolian Shepherd dogs for farmers. These dogs provide protection for farmers' livestock in return for the farmer's pledge to refrain from use of traps and poisons that kill cheetahs in farm areas. We saw various types of wildlife that are threatened by farmers' methods of protection. We learned that cheetahs have no innate violent instinct, and are ultimately non-confrontational animals that when not in the wild, pose little threat. In the end, the whole team was able to pet a cheetah cub, an experience that provided photos for years to come.
The next part of the blog will include the second half of time in Cape Town, in which we prepared to play against some of South Africa's best junior and collegiate tennis players. Other adventures will include cage diving inches away from great white sharks, and exploring Nelson Mandela's place of imprisonment on the famed Robben Island.