Nat Geo WILD: My 40-Hour Journey to Scottburgh

Like most kids growing up I used to watch TV shows about the future and wonder when all of the stuff that Hollywood dreamed up would become daily realities. Some of it is already here… we have the giant TVs in our living rooms like George Jetson, doctors are rebuilding people like the “Six Million Dollar Man,” and robots are everywhere. Those shows don’t cross my mind much anymore except when it comes to things like a trip to South Africa. That makes me dream of Star Trek and “Beam me Up Scotty.” Now don’t get me wrong…  I am thrilled about this experience and grateful for the opportunity. I try to live in the moment, enjoy the journey and all that, and don’t mean to complain. That all said, there is little pleasant about a 40+ hour trip and I would be willing to have my particles separated and put back together if the experience could start immediately.

The trip started with a six-hour overnight flight to London. It is simply impossible to sleep more than two or three hours on these flights so your journey starts with that exhausted “stayed up all night studying for the mid-term” feeling that gets harder and harder as you get further from college age.

There always seem to be few choices for the connection to South Africa and mine required an eleven-hour layover in London. Just when I was feeling good about these two travel legs coming to a close along came the airline lady who refused a carry-on that I have taken all over the world. My trade depends on the tools of technology that I carry, none of which can be trusted as checked baggage. It was fine last week on a round-trip to Spain and was not a problem on the first leg of this trip, but now when I am already tired and cranky suddenly my “airline approved carry-on” is an issue. This left me with no options except to buy yet another bag to transfer the most delicate items so that the road case could be checked.

Upon finally boarding the plane for the very long trip to Johannesburg my fellow travelers and I were greeted by two of our worst fears – a weather delay and a crying baby. Now don’t get me wrong, I have traveled with children many times and hate to jump on these poor parents who have enough problems already, but this kid sounded like a movie sound-effect. Seven hours into the flight the baby still seemed to be trying for some kind of warped Guinness World Record. The flight was also delayed 90 minutes on the ground due to good old London fog so I missed my connection in Johannesburg and the joys of modern travel continued. I am old enough to remember the glamor days of airline travel as portrayed in the show “Pan Am” but as we all know, those days are long gone.

Scheduling a new flight to Durban was an exercise in dealing with very kind and helpful people moving at a much slower pace than Americans prefer. I was also now working on about six hours sleep in two nights and was 39 hours into the journey. I barely made the flight without time for food or drink and made my final (40-minute) flight of this trip.

I arrived at the same time as the show Executive Producer Ashley Hoppin, who was kind enough to give me a lift to Scottburgh. So after a grand total of 43 hours I finally arrived at the Blue Marlin Hotel and got down to the business at hand.

Soon this will all be a memory and I can get back to being excited about the week to come. I spent the majority of this trip previewing the videos that you will soon see, learning about the incredibly interesting scientific studies on sharks that will take place, and reading about the amazing team that has been assembled. I promise that my next entry will be much more upbeat as I begin to share all of this with you. Just needed to get a little whining out of the way first. Hey, at least I didn’t get the “coughing guy” sitting behind me.

Bob Sitrick is a 30-year TV production and operations veteran who’s produced countless live television and online events. Bob will be our eyes and ears in the field all week long, reporting in real-time from South Africa on Shark Attack Experiment: LIVE — a two-hour special event on Nat Geo WILD airing live this Friday, November 25 at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Bob Sitrick is a 30-year TV production and operations veteran who's produced countless live television and online events. Follow him on Twitter at @bobsitrick