In Summary
  • I’ll confess that I was also worried I would get bored of spending all day looking at animals.
  • I had seen hippos, lions and monkeys in zoos, after all.
  • Wouldn’t it get repetitive following them around in a car for four days?

Thick socks. A raincoat. A wool hat. I was wearing all of them, and still, I shivered.

No, I was not on Everest; I was in the Maasai Mara.

On November 13, my dad and I took our very first trip to Kenya’s most renowned national park.

As a mzungu who had only ever been exposed to Western depictions of safaris - images of old, white men in a wide-brimmed hats - I was excited to have my expectations challenged. And they were.

For one, I thought it would be boiling hot.

Yeah, right.

I quickly learned that sunrise and sunset were my cues to bring out my bulky fleece sweater - a sight which thoroughly amused my fellow tourists.

“How do you survive winter in Canada?” they teased. (Hint: many, many...many scarves).

I’ll confess that I was also worried I would get bored of spending all day looking at animals. I had seen hippos, lions and monkeys in zoos, after all.

Wouldn’t it get repetitive following them around in a car for four days?

The writer poses for a photo with her father. PHOTO| CARO ROLANDO

Negative.

HEART SKIPPED A BEAT

From the moment I saw my first wild animal - a giraffe - my heart skipped a beat.

Not only was I mesmerised by its beauty; I was also in complete awe when our guide told us that giraffes have a symbiotic - or mutually beneficial - relationship with oxpeckers.

The tiny birds feed themselves by eating ticks off the giraffe’s fur. This, in turn, relieves giraffes from the nuisance of the blood-sucking parasites.

I had read about symbiosis in school, but seeing it in action caused me to reflect on the way that our own species lives.

“How funny it is,” I told my dad, “that a giant, orange creature can host a tiny, fragile being on its back, when some humans can’t even speak to one another because of politics.”

Let’s be clear: I’m fully aware that it’s not all peace and love in the Mara. On our second day there, my dad and I witnessed a cheetah hunt a baby impala. We saw the impala’s mother come to mourn the loss of her baby, before a lion came and stole the cheetah’s prey.

“That’s corruption in nature,” my dad joked, as we watched the lion steal her opponent’s lunch. “She didn’t even have to work for her food.”

Animals in the wild kill one another to survive - and that’s something that no amount of denial or sadness can change.

But homo sapiens are different.

A silhouette of a giraffe in Maasai Mara. PHOTO| CARO ROLANDO

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