They say going on safari is a once in a lifetime experience and will be something that stays with you for the rest of your life….. It is.
When I was 12 I was lucky enough to go on a family holiday to Kenya – an adventure in itself – but especially for a child still at the age where innocence is a given and not a distant memory. Strange creatures I wouldn’t see at home were magical and intriguing and finding out I was going to get to see them in their own habitat was an exciting prospect.
Kenya is a beautiful place, its landscape so alien to our own but yet somehow familiar from all the television programmes we watch from the comfort of our homes. During the safari we were to stay in some lodges, a hotel on stilts and visit a small tribe and the adventure began at sun up!
With a smaller bag packed to last 4 days, my family piled into the jeep with our guide and we started our exploration of Africa and what is has to offer. The roads were bumpy but this just added to the excitement as you were forced to hold onto the parts of the jeep for safety.
The aim of this safari was not just to learn about and experience Africa but for my brother and I to spot the Big 5… we had our checklist and our pens poised to mark how many we saw. The Big 5 are: lions, leopards, African elephants, rhinos and Cape buffalo.
Of course there are other beautiful and enchanting creatures to see that were also on our lists such as zebras and antelopes even monkeys if there was an opportunity (and there was… at our hotel – monkeys were ever-present!).
Upon entering the nature reserve I remember being hit by the sense of how vast the landscape was and how much there was going to be to see.
I had my eyes peeled for one animal in particular though, the lions.
I had cats at home and I wanted to see how different these big cats I saw on TV shows and in films really were. Lions fascinated me – and they still do – the way they stay in prides, a family unit much like we do. Their manes which make these particular big cats so different to all the others have earned them the title of ‘King of the Jungle’ (although they don’t actually live in a jungle).
On this safari I was lucky enough to see the majority of the Big 5 however the rhino and the leopard escaped me. I also got to see zebras and antelope, more snakes than 12 year old me (or older me) care to think of!
But it was seeing lions lazing around in the sunshine from the safety of a jeep – and also the comfort of a lodge that overlooked a watering hole – that made the trip, especially as the latter involved going underground into a hidey hole to get a better view.
We were lucky enough to encounter a pride of lions with small cubs and it was great fun to try and spot them as they hide in the thick brush and grasslands. Realising the big cats are not so different to the little cats I have at home. My cats clean each other much as the lions do for each other and they like to play, especially as kittens/cubs and I think this is maybe why I was and am still mesmerized by these animals.
I would hope that the magic of the big cats is still something that future generations will get to enjoy and experience and not just read about or watch in documentaries.
You can find out more about adopting a lion here