Home Is Where the Suitcase Is: Africa

So far, I have documented my journeys through Antarctica and South America. This week, I will be taking you on a journey to one of my favorite places, Africa.

Living Life on the Savannah, Tanzania

My family and I went to Tanzania when I was 6 years old, and we did a safari that allowed us to camp out in the savannah. At night, we were kept up by the rumbling roars of lion prides that slept nearby. At the time, my favorite movie was The Lion King, so I was excited to be able to see all of the animals from Simba’s pride in person. One morning while we were out on a drive, we saw an antelope give birth. Later that night, we saw a lion hunt and kill an antelope. My mom was worried that I would be scarred for life, but at her concerns I simply said, “It’s all a part of the great circle of life.” To this day, I think that’s the deepest thing I’ve ever said, and it’s all thanks to The Lion King. I saw a lot of amazing animals while we were in the savannah, but a lot of the more memorable experiences happened in civilization.

We stayed a couple nights in a small town that had a school. Our safari guide, Clemence, actually took us into a fifth grade classroom. Thus, I met Arefa, an African schoolgirl. I would wait for her after school, and we would take off on adventures in the bush. She showed me things I never would have experienced otherwise, and I absolutely adored her. In fact, I even tried to send her letters when I got home. Unfortunately, we lost contact, but I still think about her periodically and hope she is doing well.

While we were in the same town, my dad and I went on a hike with another man up to a place called Elephant Waters. Of course, we did not expect to see any elephants. However, we were wrong. There was a lone juvenile bull elephant, which is extremely dangerous. Our guide ended up throwing me onto his shoulders and we had to run down the mountain and hope we weren’t being charged! After a few days, we left the town and moved on with our journey. One of my most distinct memories of Tanzania is staying at a hotel and doing the macarena during dinner time. The restaurant-goers were applauding me and a few of the waitstaff were dancing along with me. I would love to go back to Tanzania, maybe try to contact Arefa, and see the world through more mature eyes without losing my childish sense of wonder and acceptance.

My favorite place in the world: South Africa

South Africa is an amazing place, with towns and savannah. Really, you have it all. We started off our trip in a wildlife reserve called MalaMala, which is known for having the Big Five. The Big Five is leopards, lions, buffalo, elephants and rhinos - the crown jewels of all animals. While at MalaMala, I saw both leopard and lion cubs and fell completely in love with the area. The resort had several animals such as waterbuck and common elund wandering through. In fact, one time, a waterbuck came up to me while I was alone in the pool. It was so cool to see this humongous creature just as curious of me as I was of it.

We also stayed in Cape Town for a week. We visited the Cape of Good Hope and got thoroughly wet while we were there. I also got to go cage diving with Great White sharks, one of my favorite memories. We drove for about an hour and reached a coastal area that was supposedly full of Great White sharks. After my dad and I got all of our gear - my mom was too afraid to go in - we went on the boat with a few other people and drove out to sea. They lowered the cage in, I was in the second batch to go, waiting until the water was nice and baited. My dad and I went in and didn’t see anything at first until all of the sudden a huge shark appeared! There was chum right in front of the cage, and the shark actually ended up banging into the cage, which freaked me out. However, I think the experience made me realize that sharks really are not scary and will not attack unless provoked. In fact, I love sharks. They’re huge and intimidating, but they are also magnificent and fascinating.

We also went wine tasting while we were in South Africa since my parents love wine. Of course, I was extremely bored the whole time until we arrived at the Cango Wildlife Ranch. There, we got to pet cheetahs, hold birds of prey and ride horses. Being able to be up close and personal with three cheetah cubs was an amazing dream come true. The cubs were playful and sweet, and it was truly a life-changing experience. I talked to some of the volunteers at the ranch and learned many were either college students or recent graduates. Since that talk, my goal is to return to Cango Wildlife Ranch after graduating and volunteer with the cheetah cubs for a year. They are primarily a rehabilitation center, and I love helping animals and would love to go back and get hands-on work. I love Africa, especially South Africa, and hope to return to work with the cheetahs, perhaps even moving to Cape Town permanently to do some good in the world.