Guest Blogger - My 16-year old daughter Maia was on the third Southern Safaris tour to Africa. Following is her account of her safari days. All photos taken by Maia Coen. I have seen more of the world in my 16 years than many will see in a lifetime. I have tasted decadent yogurt and honey under the Greek sun and seen Bali from every angle. I have seen the mountains where the Lord of the Rings was filmed and explored my way through half of Europe. In all of my travels I have never experienced what I did in Southern Africa this summer.
I left home with the excitement of a child, I was going to see African animals in the wild! It was impossible to wrap my head around it. I traveled longer than I have ever traveled to reach Africa but I would do it again in a heartbeat. When I arrived in Botswana with my mother I had the biggest smile plastered across my face, dying for my next adventure. We settled into our tents and went to bed for it had been a long day. Despite the exhaustion that threatened to drag me under I lay awake that first night and I listened to the sounds. There were so many new interesting and intriguing sounds. The distinct and unusual clicking of the local frogs, the night songs of inumberable bird species, the croaking of hippos in the nearby river, the steady background singing of jungle insects, and other outrageous sounds I couldn’t have placed in a million years. Before I go any further let me tell you this; I am not a bug person. There were spiders the size of my hand. Although my stay at the camp could have been more comfortable because of this, I’m almost glad it wasn’t. My experience was wonderful and I was able to lie in complete darkness and listen to the sounds of Africa as I drifted off into sleep. It was a magical and being pushed beyond my usual comfort zone added to the sense of adventure.
We woke at 5:30 and were on the road, or dirt path rather, by 6:00 AM. At first everyone had that half asleep look in their eyes but as soon as we started to move it was like a curtain was lifted and our eyes were clear and bright and ready to see the world. There was a nervous kind of excitement running through me. I was finally here, in Africa, and we were going to see the animals today. Everyone else chatted about what they were hoping to see and how excited they were. But I was quiet. I had been bubbling with excitement for weeks but now was not the time or place for it. I simply looked out at the rising sun and the environment in bliss. I was letting go and living in the moment and simply enjoying the way the cool wind whipped my hair around and chilled my face. We didn’t see much that day and some people felt disappointed but I was not despairing. I was here in this beautiful country living an adventure. So it started off a little slow, I was okay with that. I was patient. I knew I would get what I wanted eventually. I was happy to just look at the trees and the birds that day.
The following days were filled to the brim with excitement, anticipation, and giddy fulfillment. We saw everything in those next three days. We saw the elephants, the impalas, the hippos, the lions, the giraffes, and many more. The only animal who eluded our eye was the leopard. I have experienced so much culture and so much beauty in my lifetime but I have never felt something so pure and wonderful as I did when I saw the elephants. They were huge majestic creatures who towered over you and made you feel like maybe we are not as important as we seem to think. I looked into their eyes and they stared back in serene calmness. They looked at me and I saw a wisdom and grace in them that I have never seen before. I looked at them and I felt they knew more about the world than me or any other person ever will. When I was around them I felt calm, like nothing else mattered. They left me at a loss for words which does not happen often. They made me feel like they had the secrets of the universe locked up tight and only they had the key for no one else in this world was able to baer such a thing.
The other animal that had an incredible impact on me was the lion. We came across a whole pride of them one day. You could feel the excitement and joy eminating from all of us. Our driver took us in closer, and closer, and closer until we were a mere ten feet away. It is difficult to put into words everything I was feeling. They were right there, casually lying around and dozing. Lions, elegant and deadly, right in front of my eyes. You’ve heard people say how certain situations can give a false sense of security, well our safari vehicles made us feel a little like that. There was no glass, just open sides. I felt uneasy but at the same time completely safe due to the fact that I was in a seat in a vehicle. Even though I knew at any minute one of them could attack and we wouldn’t stand a chance. The lions humbled me. These beautiful animals made me understand that I was not the best, I was not on top. They were so peaceful and content and the most majestic creatures I have ever seen. When they yawned and I saw those deadly teeth - I knew that they had the power and I was okay with that.
There are many things that people may think about when they hear the word Africa. I will now forever think of the elephants and the lions that changed my perspective. We may think that we’ve got it all figured out. We may say that we are in charge, that we rule this world. What we don’t tend to realize is that we don’t, and we never will as long as these animals roam the earth. We see out technological advances and our advanced society and think we know best. Mistakes are being made every day by people and everyone seems to overlook that. The elephant’s wisdom and the lion's majesty made me understand a little better. We do not have it all figured out. We do not have all the answers. We only pretend we do.