Day Two: Morning Game Drive
The word “safari” literally translated from Swahili to English means “to travel”, and while I did briefly look up what a wildlife safari would be like online prior leaving for Tanzania, I was really able to fully grasp just how life-changing this experience would be on Day 2.
After breakfast, the six of us began the morning game drive with Sam as our driver and our guide. I’ve never thought of myself as a “nature” person, much less a wildlife enthusiast. But being on safari had slowly began to change that. It was as thought the excitement was contagious, because seeing zebras up close, a herd of them so close you could smell them, was my morning highlight.
Throughout the day, we saw countless zebras (eventually, we got used to the black and white stripes), wildebeests, and a large variety of antelopes that befuddled me to no end. At this, Sam gave a good tip. We were looking at a herd of antelopes, and I struggled to tell them apart. He pointed at a group and said, “Do you see the shape of a letter M on their butts?” I squinted, the full sun was shining in all its glory, the morning chill was long gone and it was unforgivingly hot in the midday. I made out the obscure letter M that consisted of black strokes on the antelope’s backside and nodded. “These are Thomson’s gazelles, they’re the fourth fastest land animals. Fast Food.” He smirked at us knowingly, as though he just uttered something exceedingly clever. I blinked. Sam turned to us again, this time a wide grin spread across his face. “M is for McDonald.”
The six of us from jeep no. 2 with our safari guide, Sam
Day 2: Evening Chaos
You know that saying, “a person’s true character is often revealed in a time of crisis”? Well, something happened later on the evening of Day 2 that made me look at Sam slightly differently.
Because we signed up for a budget camping safari, we did not have a hotel to return to, where our meals are prepared to us by a kitchen and chefs. Instead, we had cooks who accompanied us to all the campsites. Once we arrived back at the campsite, the cooks were supposed to coordinate and prepare the meals, and we would serve ourselves, buffet-style. For some reason, once we got back to the camp and waited for dinner, two of the safari guides were missing. Incidentally, our trip coincided with the World Cup games, and I later found out, that almost every single Tanzanian men is a die-hard soccer fan of a particular team (Sam is a Chelsea fan, if any of you were wondering). For the mealtime to go smoothly, the safari guides were expected to pitch the mess tent, get the utensils ready and help out with whatever the cooks needed assistance with. Unfortunately for us, we were two safari guides short, so everything was delayed.
Our group watched as other safari groups who arrived to the campsite later than us started on their warm meals; and this didn’t exactly bode well for some of us. At the time, the only safari guide that we could reach was Sam, who, upon receiving the call, hurried over to us from the kitchen. He stood by the table, surrounded by a few volunteers who were understandably quite unhappy with the food situation. Thinking back, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and the unknown whereabouts of our dinner was part of the adventure. But to Sam, he had to deal with eighteen hungry volunteers, with no support from his team.To this day, I still remember keenly observing Sam from my seat. He was still wearing his cap and a fleece jacket zipped all the way up. His arms were crossed, with one of his hands was supporting his chin, and he was pensive, probably struggling to come up with an explanation. I recall how calm and unfazed he looked, and this was one of the first things that I found impressive about him. Later, when I got to know him better and discovering what a soccer fanatic he was, I realized how dedicated he was to his work; the two other “missing” safari guides driven to a nearby pub to watch the long anticipated game.
In the end, the eighteen of us did not go to bed hungry, and all was well again. I remember going to bed thinking, ‘Well, that was an eventful day. Can’t wait for tomorrow.’ Who knew that things were about to take an interesting turn in less than 24 hours.
Stay tuned for Day 3.