This week’s photo challenge is “Nature Animals” and I have chosen to use my daughter’s photos from her recent trip to Kenya.
Marissa, a student at Virginia Tech, loves adventure, travel, and living her life with arms and eyes wide open. Read more about Marissa here.
Tsavo National Park, Kenya
Written by: Marissa Forte
I awoke bright and early, restless with excitement on another beautiful and swelteringly hot Kenyan morning. Eight of us piled into our windowless van, giddy with anticipation. The three hour ride to Tsavo National Park was much more like riding a wooden roller coaster as the van bumped along the dirt and rock road. Many of us found ourselves with bruised skulls from hitting the roof so many times.
Several miles from the park, we noticed a strange figure crossing the road. More and more of the same gangly creature followed until there were too many to count. Someone yelled, “GIRAFFES!” and the eight of us nearly leapt out of our own skin. Our driver took us off-roading so that we could follow the giraffes for a little ways longer. None of us had ever seen so many in one place and my eyes jumped feverishly from giraffe to giraffe as I attempted to soak up the incredible moment of our first wildlife spotting.
Thirty minutes later, we drove into the entrance of Tsavo and began the first of three game drives. The park was massive and stretched on for hundreds of thousands of square miles. I was overwhelmed by the backdrop as I brushed red dirt out of my eyes, reached out to touch elegant savanna trees and felt the heat from the intense Kenyan sun.
We passed antelope, water buffalo, zebras, giraffes, monkeys and finally saw our first herd of elephants. They were massive and at times we were so close that I swear I could have almost touched their tusks (if my arm was 15 feet longer). We got a little too close once or twice and the alpha elephant would stomp his feet and pretend to charge at our van which obviously sent us all into fits of squeals and screams. Most of the wildlife pretended like we didn’t exist and we had the pleasure of simply observing them and snapping as many photos and selfies as our hearts desired.
After about four hours of an already unforgettable experience, we took a break for lunch before setting out to find the most sought after safari animal—the lion. I knew that lions were rare and that we weren’t guaranteed to see one. Lions are usually very inactive during the day and spend the majority of their time sleeping so none of us set our hopes too high.
We had a blast driving past watering holes and using the binoculars our guide lent us to find hippos as well as more families of animals from our first game drive. After another three hours, we began to head back to our lodge, slightly bummed that we hadn’t spotted any big cats but over the moon that we had experienced one of the best days of our lives. One of the girls on our trip pointed to a shadow on a rock and screamed, “WHAT’S THAT?!” I nearly flew out of the roof as we careened around a tree and into the savanna towards the direction of the big rock. I was a horrible wildlife spotter and was the annoying girl on the trip constantly poking people on the shoulder whispering, “Where, where, I don’t see it. Where are you looking? Oh, oooooooh, there it is!” At last, I spotted a slender figure standing majestically on top of a boulder. Our guide confirmed that we would be approaching the lioness and that it was of utmost importance that we remain silent. The eight of us clutched on to one another and even clapped our hands over each other’s mouths to keep from accidentally shrieking. I’m almost positive I stopped breathing for 60 seconds as we circled the rock where not one, but TWO lions stood. We watched in complete awe and ecstasy while struggling to take mental snapshots of the lions’ eyes, ears, paws, snarls and tails. After our (extremely) close encounter, the second we made it back to the path, we all finally let out our screams of delight.