Africa: A Transformative Experience
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel internationally on business and for pleasure. From the town of Ajijic in Mexico, Turks and Caicos, and Peru to traversing Europe--most recently, Rome a city so rich in culture and history--I have had indelible travel experiences. If I were to pick my most memorable one, it would be my visit to Nairobi, Kenya in Africa in May of 2018.
Following a layover in Amsterdam, we landed in Nairobi at night in the rain. Due to the darkness, weather, and a power outage at the airport, I couldn’t see much during our descent. That didn’t matter because, though travel-weary, I was too excited to care. Staff from Micato Safaris warmly greeted us and drove us to our hotel.
The Most Amazing of God’s Creatures
I’m not what you would call and animal person, but that changed when I hand-fed Rothschild Giraffes at the Nairobi Giraffe Center on the first day of safari. I’d seen giraffes before, but not up close and personal. They are truly majestic, beautiful creatures, and I was proud to support the Center’s mission to care for these endangered animals. The adventure only got better from there.
After experiencing Kenya’s Laikipia region, Maasi Mara National Reserve, and Amboseli National Park, it was off to the Serengeti in Tanzania. I’ll admit I brought my westernized preconceived notions with me: I believed that a safari would entail just holding a camera and driving around in a jeep all day. I’d never been more glad to be wrong. Led on a bushwalk by our local guide, Brown and escorted by an armed guard named Lucky, we encountered the most amazing of God’s creatures: elephants, giraffes, buffalos, impalas, zebras, and more wildlife. To see East African wildlife in their natural habitat is to see the animals for the first time, but in an entirely different way.
This exhilarating experience was followed by a surprise: a deliciously lavish breakfast served on tables set up in the bush with table cloths and fine china--a truly “Wow” moment.
As magical as an African safari is, there are exhilarating “Beyond-the-Jeep” activities. My favorite one was mountain biking. At one point, our group was halted to allow a male elephant to finish drinking from a water hole near our dirt path, and shortly after that, we stopped to marvel at a zeal of zebras galloping in front of us across the path. Riding among the wildlife felt surreal, as though I was in Jurassic Park.
A close second to mountain biking was lava tubing at Amboseli National Park. A lava tube is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. I donned a headlamp and climbed down the lava tube, gazing at the various layers of solidified black lava formed many years ago.
Other excursions included horseback and camelback riding through the bush, bird watching, hot air balloon rides, and stargazing.
Above all, the African people made the most lasting impression on me. Whether in Nairobi or out in the rural areas on safari, the people of these communities foster a culture of inclusion, warmth, and hospitality.