Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

The Lion King

The heavy rain slapped the winding dirt paths that stretched before us. As we drove on through the downpour, the 5 o’clock a.m. sun began to appear behind the grey clouds. The vast plains of Kruger National Park slowly became visible as the South African sunrise blossomed on the horizon. We had been expecting to sleep in on our first day of the safari, after an eighteen hour plane ride a good rest was needed. However, the staff at the Singita Lodge is adamant that their guests experience all that the African bush has to offer, and that includes seeing the buzzing wildlife at the crack of dawn.
My family and I are seated in an open top Jeep that sits about nine people, including our guide. The car has an extra seat poking out the front, the “tracker’s” seat. A professional tracker accompanies us on our game drive and alerts our guide when he notices lion foot prints in the sand or hears the call of an elephant in the distance. It’s our first drive out in the “bush”, I am clad in camouflage colors (don’t wear bright clothes if you want to see cool animals) and ready to see my first giraffe. Binoculars in left hand, camera in right, I am the picture of an overexcited tourist. Minutes after leaving the Singita lodge, herds of deer-like animals called impala surround our Jeep. After snapping dozens of pictures, we drove on deeper into the bush.
The schedule at Singita, and many other safari lodges in South Africa, includes two “game drives” each day: one from 5-9 a.m. and the other from 4-8 p.m. The time in between is free to get massages at the wonderful spa, take a much needed nap, or relax by the pool and enjoy the African heat. As our guide, Mark, said on that first rainy morning, “When you’re out in the bush, you’ve got to be on the same timing as the animals.” We slept on the same short intervals as the lions and buffalo, ate at roughly the same times of day. Compared to the everyday anxieties of home life, the simple schedule of eat, sleep, and observe at Singita was excitingly refreshing.
Our second day of driving resulted in us stumbling upon a breeding herd of elephants, including a baby boy estimated to be about six months old. We inched the car up until we are about two feet away from the massive matriarchs of the herd. Sitting and watching the huge animals bathe and eat in their natural habitat made me realize just how big the world really is. Here is an actual elephant, not some tortured, confined impersonation of one, just feet away from me. And to think that I was in suburban Connecticut just two days ago, the thought of wild animals as distant in my mind as Africa itself.
The trip itself had been a hassle, about twenty hours to arrive in Johannesburg, followed by a two hour flight to Singita Private Airport the next day. The most direct flight available entails a seven hour trip to Senegal, with a one hour layover (in which you are allowed to stay onboard the plane), followed by a ten hour section to Johannesburg. In order to not get too overwhelmed by the traveling, we spent a night at the Westcliffe Hotel in Jo’Burg, which was not enough time to see the city itself but was a great way to break up the pains of flying.
Although the process of arrival may be a pain in the cheetah’s ass, it was undoubtedly worth it. On our third day I woke up at 5 o’clock and walked outside onto the porch of my room, the air was already warming up, with a high for the day of about 95 degrees. It is best to visit Africa in our winter season, for it is Africa’s summer and the weather is incredible compared to the gusty temperatures of the Northeast. I was startled by a strange, grunting noise only a few feet away. I cautiously cocked my head to discover a three foot tall baboon standing inches away from me. He stood there on my porch, completely unmoved by my presence, and gazed into the rising sun of the Veldt. I was so used to my surroundings at this point; I stopped staring at his fuzzy white head and turned my eyes towards the acres of luscious green, stretching for miles in every direction. A week later, when I reluctantly returned home, where the green is not so luscious and is divided by harsh fences, I could almost see the painted face of that baboon, staring back at me with his huge yellow eyes.




Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!




Site Feedback