Truth be told, I am not crazy about wild animals, but something very profound happened when I went on my first safari adventure.
About two years ago, Chiumbo (“Chium”), my Kenyan neighbor of 10 years informed me that he was leaving California for good and would be returning to Kenya to care for his ailing mother. Chium and I have always been friendly with each other and it made me sad to know that he would no longer be my neighbor. As Chium said his final goodbye, he pulled out a small card with his contact information and address in Kenya and said, “You are always welcome to come and visit me and my country. I hope someday you do.” And so last year, I did.
True to his word, Chium was waiting for me at the airport in Nairobi with his teenage nephew, Jebet. After two days of roaming around as a tourist, Chium said that it was time for me to go on my first safari.
Before the crack of dawn on my third day, Chium, Jebet, and I arrived at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in a 4×4 Jeep. Before I could ask why we had to be there very early, Chium said it was because the wild animals prefer to hunt and appear in the cool morning hours. After 15 minutes of entering the park, the number of animals that came into view gradually increased. I was fascinated by the sight of a lion yawning and then slowly resting its head on a rock. It was then that I realized the King gets tired too!
The next sight that captivated me was a cheetah lounging on a piece of dried fallen log slowly putting one leg on top of the other like a queen on display. As any woman would, I thought to myself, “What was she doing? Was she trying to look sexy for the Lion King?”
Then a tower of running giraffes came into view. I tell you these giraffes had rhythm. They were so synchronized in their act – it was almost like a dance step that they executed oh, so gracefully!
I asked Chium if these animals ever attack a vehicle and his response was, “They won’t if you keep quiet, you keep still, you never look them in the eye and you never ever, under any circumstance touch them.”
At this point, sensing the fear in my voice, he added in a very serious tone, “My friend, this land belongs to these animals and this is all they’ve got. They were here first. You need to respect them and their land. You do that, and you get respect back. Be polite for this land does not belong to you.”
Wow. This was all I needed to hear. Chium’s words were enough to transform my fear into respect and admiration for these creatures of the wild. This is indeed their land and theirs alone. After all, they are also inhabitants of this planet and they, too, deserve their place in the sun. ~