Ever seen The Lion King? Ever felt like you were on scene, just waiting for Timon and Pumba to pop out from behind any bush? Me either, until this weekend! This weekend our group packed into two safari cars and traveled down long, bumpy, dirt roads to Ruaha National Park for our much-anticipated safari weekend.
As someone who grew up in rural Michigan, getting to spend a weekend in a huge national park with natural wildlife stretching out far beyond I could see felt somewhat like coming home, minus the times we turned a corner to find a herd of elephants or small pride of sleeping lions. While we say “Watch for deer!” while driving in Michigan, this weekend we had to say, “Watch for giraffe!” because yes- a giraffe literally ran out in front of our safari car at one point!
We arrived Friday evening just in time to drive through the park at sunset to our small village of “bandas” we stayed in, which were little huts, and saw our first elephant and giraffes along the way! We woke up early Saturday morning to catch the sunrise and to see what animals were out and about! We were pleasantly surprised throughout the entire day as turn by turn, we were able to see everything we had hoped to and more: elephants, giraffes, hippos, ostriches, zebras, gazelles, meerkats, baboons, eagles, and an owl, as well as another beautiful sunset. We arrived back to our village of bandas Saturday night with wind blown hair and bragging rights of who got the closest to certain animals. To wind down after a long day, the nice guard who carries a gun and has to escort us everywhere (just in case any unexpected animal guests show up!) built a campfire for us. As our group took turns telling spooky campfire stories, we realized we were living in one when we suddenly heard a lion making lion noises from what sounded not far away! Our guard jumped up and shined his flashlight toward it; thankfully, the lion was on the other side of a river from us and much further away than he sounded so we weren’t in any danger. Needless to say, our campfire didn’t last much longer and our guard safely escorted us back to our individual bandas where we continued to hear lions in the distance and formulated our next campfire story about the time we heard wild lions at night on our safari while studying abroad in Tanzania!
We spent Sunday morning in the park scouting out any last animals that wanted to bless us with their presence, and then began to head back home to Iringa. As our cars pulled into Iringa and we awoke from our naps and lifted our heads, my friend Ellie whispered, “home sweet home,”- and home it has become. How grateful and humbled I am to have a new home where I can travel just a few hours North and experience what I imagined I only would via Disney.