For those lucky enough to have experienced the thrill of an African safari, the adventure is undeniably once in a lifetime. Sure, a summer vacation to Disney, Hershey Park or even the Grand Canyon is memorable. But, for many, years of saving, years of planning and years of imagining an encounter with Africa’s Big Five is a dream. For me, an early morning game drive was a great start of my adventure.
Our tour guide told us to wake up early and be at the Range Rover by 5:15am ready to head out on our game drive. Since it was my first time in Africa and my first-ever game drive, I was super excited and had no problem waking up; I was even one of the first people at the Range Rover - accompanied by my Satchel & Page laptop bag of course. Our guide had also reminded us to wear layers and bring a big pullover, although I thought he was over reacting. After all, the previous day reached a temperature high of 104 degrees, but I followed his instruction, grabbed a North Face pullover, and placed it in my new messenger bag just before I headed out the door of my chalet. Once at the Range Rover, I met the others joining the game drive. Since the lodge was small, I had seen their faces around grounds already. The safari lodge, a high-end exclusive retreat based in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve, only accommodated 45 people, which meant I received the full luxury treatment!
It was bitterly cold while on the Range Rover, and had to remind myself that I was in the middle of an African summer and not a Austin, TX winter. After a few minutes of the bumpy ride, I didn’t have to remind myself where I was any longer as I turned to left and saw a the amazing sun rising up over the vast African bush. With the temperature quickly rising, the Range Rover came to an abrupt stop. In the middle of our path was a male and female lion! The lions were obviously not moving, which meant that we had to turn off our engine and simply wait for them to go. I had a feeling of calm since I was in a big truck six feet off the ground. I was living out my dream as I sat observing one of Africa’s Big Five in their natural habitat while listings to the guide explain their habits and body markings. I smiled and turned to my neighbor, reminding myself of what an amazing experience I was having. The turn to my neighbor put within my view a shadow of an odd shape. I had heard a description of this shape before but I just couldn’t put my finger on a time or place. Suddenly, I felt my feet and hands go numb. Yes! I remember this shape. The time and place are here and now! The guide is still talking about the shape! I’m on the last row of the Range Rover and there’s a lion right behind me! Oh, crap! What do I do?
As I realize the danger and fear I was in, the guide also noticed and calmly placed his hand on his rifle and began to ease it out of its case. All eleven passengers were as a quite as a church mouse. Before I could realize what happened, a group of zebra dashed across the front path of the Range Rover. The lion and lioness, true to their predatory nature, dashed off after them and I, and my bag, were once again safe. I love the power and rule of the African food chain. With our path now clear, we continued on in our early morning adventure.