I suffer from wanderlust and now I know I inherited it from my mum. One thing I’ve found I don’t enjoy in the least bit are safaris. I’ve had a couple of awful experiences that put me off completely.
When I was 4, our family visited Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. All I remember from that trip was an angry elephant stamping it’s feet in front of our car- refusing us passage. My memory is hazy but I’m sure our guide was panicked as he yelled out of the window! Thankfully, the elephant left but I’d started to cry- huge sobs. As we drove away, there was a God-awful noise coming from the car’s under carriage. My sobs had now turned to screams. Somehow, I was now convinced that a zebra was stuck under the car!
So with my legs Elevated – I screamed all the way out of the park. All I knew was that I was very, very frightened. I can’t remember what my parents made of it- but I’m sure they must have been irritated.
So, those memories faded until I was 9 – when my dad organised another safari holiday in Tanzania – for mum, myself and baby sis. This one was to Tarangire National Park. We were staying with friends in Arusha- in northern Tanzania at the time, so we didn’t have far to go.
All seemed well until our guide decided it was alright to drive up to a mud pond to observe a hippo soaking herself in the mud. Before we knew it, the hippo jumped out and charged towards the car! I’m pretty sure my screams could be heard from the moon! Only this time, mummy was screaming too.
With a squeal of tyres, our driver high-tailed it out of there with a very fit, fat and angry hippo in hot pursuit. It gave up the chase after about 3 minutes – but to me, it felt like 3 years. My eyes had been so glued to the rear window I hadn’t realise we’d driven unto a sandy beach by a lake. Only when our car became stuck in the sand did I take in my surroundings – mid-sob.
A fresh scream was forming in my head. Before I could let this one loose, my mum clamped her hand over my mouth quite forcefully. Our car was stuck on a beach where 200 yards away were a sea of hippos basking and yawning. I think I wet myself at this point.
We were eventually rescued when a wonderful couple towed us to dry land. I was traumatised! My mum seemed to think it was an exciting adventure. ..uh-huh, NOT ME. Baby sis had slept through the whole ordeal!
I was done with animals and let my family know in no uncertain terms. My dad acquiesced, much to my relief.
So fast-forward to 2009 where I’m now a parent and we decide to visit ( I know!) The Lion Park in the Gauteng province of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The kids loved it immensely, whilst I endured it- rictus grin in place. I ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to enter a lion enclosure where young lions clawed at you – in the name of play! I put on a brave face whilst I watched in horror as young lions pawed at my family. Thankfully, I didn’t wet myself and it was over soon enough. But I believe I earned a PhD in prayer in those moments. There was talk of visiting the crocodile park next- but I diplomatically put the kibosh on that idea.
My youngest son was so proud- especially after he broke out in a rash afterwards. He’s allergic to cats so you can imagine – for weeks afterwards he would tell his teachers and friends that he was allergic to lions……then explain why – as they gaped in surprise!