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Into the wild

I lay wide awake, too excited to sleep. A long-held dream from childhood had finally come true. We were spending our first night on safari in the wilds of Tanzania, with nothing between us and the wildlife except the flimsy canvas of our tent. My husband and I had driven from Arusha earlier that day and we were barely through the entrance to Tarangire National Park, when during the first hour, I was able to clock up an impressive sighting list that included herds of impala, a small group of waterbuck antelopes, families of warthogs, several ostriches, a small herd of elephants, a pair of lions, and at a popular watering hole, a melting pot of wildebeest, zebras and giraffes. I have to admit, that after that first hour, it rather felt like shooting fish in a barrel. However, my faith was restored when the next day, as we were leaving the park and passed the very same watering hole at approximately the same time of day, there was nary an animal to be seen. That’s when it first clicked that the lure of safari lies in the adage, ‘the luck of the draw’.

While I have no memory of what we had for dinner that evening at Swala Safari Camp, I do recall the thrill of watching a herd of elephants coming in to graze within 300 meters of the camp’s swimming pool late that afternoon.  As the chill of an African night set in, much cooler than I’d been expecting, I gratefully reached for a Masai blanket as we sat around a blazing fire and watched a full moon rise through the branches of the Acacia trees.  After an entertaining evening exchanging pleasantries with other travellers as we imbibed in our favourite tipple, we were escorted back to our tent by a Masai guard, under strict instructions not to walk about the camp unescorted or to ever leave the path. The camp manager’s stories were still fresh in my head, of people walking back to their tents to find a lion sprawled across the opening and his warnings of recent sightings of lion prints in camp.

And so here I lay, in what I’m not ashamed to admit was the height of glamping: a tent set on a raised wooden platform, large enough to hold a queen-sized bed and two small armchairs, electric lighting, running water from two washbasins and an enclosed outdoor shower. If I had to wait till my 25th wedding anniversary before I got to full my childhood
dream, it was going to be in style!

I must have finally drifted off to sleep only to be woken at some time during the night to the surreal sound of a lion roaring. I giggled. As I snuggled into my sheets, I gave myself a mental hug at the thought I was within meters of wildlife I had only ever seen on TV shows such as Lorne Green’s Wilderness back in the day. My delight only increased when early next morning, as dawn’s grey light chased away the shadows, my husband, who had worked in Tanzania, explained that the curious sound of water trickling onto the canvas overhead and dripping down on to the wooden verandah below, was a monkey peeing on the tent.

Later, as I stood in the outdoor shower under a cool stream of water, in full view of the monkeys in the trees, I acknowledged how lucky I was to be realising this dream, and gave thanks. This African safari had been worth waiting for and I knew it would prove to be a trip of a lifetime, as indeed it was.

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