Those Childhood Dreams of Tanzania
When a childhood dream revisited me as a young adult, I could not be sure that anything I saw, felt, or heard was entirely real. I had romanticized going on safari since I first sang the words, "Oh I just can't wait to be king!" out of Disney's 1994 classic movie, The Lion King. I was shocked most of my European friends had never even heard of The Lion King, let alone Disney. I suppose it is culturally American and in my naivete I figured the whole world must know about it. At least, Sifuni, our safari guide, knew and even gave me a crash course in Swahili greetings and animal names, some of which were in the animated movie. Needless to say, the trip was a blast. I never sat down. I stood in the pop out portion of our modified Land Rover Defender for hours, eyes wide and giddy. Sifuni was incredibly excited that day as well and said we were good luck, or the animals particularly liked us considering the 'Big Five' (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo) all decided to come out and show themselves up close. By the end, my hair was permanently wind swept and my face caked in a good layer of dirt--which at first I thought was a tan.
That night we camped just on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. I woke up in the middle of the night in need of a latrine. Hyenas could be heard laughing in the night and I wondered what sort of predators might be on the edge of camp watching when I walked the twenty meters to the latrines. I crossed my legs trying to hold back the urge, but finally gave in and unzipped the tent. A zebra butt was within arms reach. A herd of them had taken to grazing through the tents, their white stripes visible in the star light. I caught my breath, startled at their beauty and remembering zebra's are actually pretty mean when they feel threatened. I looked at the latrine and shrugged, if there were any predators about, hopefully they'd go for zebras first. And if I was attacked by zebras, well, being in the statistic group of 'human's attacked by zebras' would be odd.
The very next morning our camp had another visitor. A full grown bull elephant waltzed in to drink from our water tower. All of the Tanzanians, including the tour guides ran for the iron barred mess hall enclosures. Of course, all the tourists grabbed their cameras and started walking towards him. Bull elephants are known for their aggression and territorial behaviors during a hormonal surge called, 'musth'. Thankfully, he seemed to be in a good mood and wasn't bothered to pay the tourists any attention.
My short month in Tanzania came to a close. I had shot some amazing photographs with my new camera. At the airport my checked bag was violated and my camera was stolen. I had only one memory card in my carry-on from my old backup camera, and lost a lot of memorable photographs. I thought to myself, the theif could have the camera, just give me back the memory card still in it!