I’m sure you’ve heard the song “Africa”, written by David Paich and Jeff Porcar of the music group Toto. A snippet of the lyrics includes:
“The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become
It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)”
If you’ve heard the song, you only need to hear the drum beats which begin the song to instantly recognize it. If you’ve never been to Africa, hearing the words to the song will conjure, in your mind, the dusty plains of the Serengeti and you can see images of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, having recently returned from visiting Africa, I can tell you the song accurately portrays the Africa I experienced in my memorable visit.
In the greatest game sanctuary in the world in Serengeti National Park, the deluxe tent which was my home for several nights was nothing like the tents I camped in as a child. With a solid wooden floor, ensuite bath, swaths of mosquito netting and a comfortable bed with luxe linens, I was awakened early by a gentle tap on my tent frame, and a quiet voice announced the time and an offer of a cup of hot tea to begin my day. As I slowly roused, I could hear the gentle rustle of native grasses indicating the approach of a lion. What made the sound so intriguing is that I had become accustomed to the stillness of the bush and now any sound made me listen more intently. Soon, the twitter of birds signaled the big cat has passed by and although I didn’t realize it, I’d been holding my breath. As I released the air in my lungs, I appreciated how, in just a few short days into this adventure, I’d become one with the nature that was all about me.
Although I was participating in a luxury safari, seeing the members of the “big 5,” consisting of lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos, had become commonplace. I was able to determine the smallest differences in types of zebra, and I saw one that was black with white stripes, versus one that was white with black stripes, and I’ve got photos to prove it! Still, when a giraffe moved languidly toward our safari land cruiser, I was struck by their height, gentleness and beauty. In fact, being so close to all the animals I’d previously only seen in a zoo was truly awe-inspiring. Not only that I had seen them in their natural habitat but how many of each species existed is hard to comprehend. Our guides were adept at finding those animals lazily stretched out in the grasses and pointed out others well-concealed by their markings as they blended in with the scenery. It was hard not to take photos of each and every animal; they were all the same, but different!
During the visit to the Masai Mara National Reserve, I was excited to see the Masai Village. It was so interesting to learn about their traditions and to see those customs come to life! We were welcomed with the singing of traditional songs and dances, and to see the beautiful, warm smiles of the children was truly heart-warming. Even the lighting of a bonfire was done in a specific way and had special meaning.
I was intrigued by their intricate jewelry and saw how long it took to make the very detailed ornaments and what a story each piece told. The beading can be worked into very elaborate items and I was so delighted to come home with many pieces, including bracelets, necklaces, and key chains. Blankets are also made and sold to visitors which are the same type of blankets used on the safaris, as the evenings can get cool and the blankets are very welcome. The funds they receive from the sale of the different objects helped with any of the needs in their community. I felt like I was making a difference in purchasing things that were so unique and will always remind me of my visit. Participants in the PTPI delegation to Kenya and Tanzania will have an opportunity to visit the local school and to provide donations to specifically address the needs of the local villages.
My visit created so many memories for me and I will hold the images of the people, places and animals I saw very dear and close to my heart. It was truly a “bucket list” trip for me, and I hope you can experience this remarkable region for yourself with PTPI on the delegation to Kenya and Tanzania June 1-11, 2019. Go to PTPI.org/travel to learn more!