A number of years back I went on a camping safari in the Serengeti. It was a dream trip and one of my greatest experiences. I chose this story to start the narrative since it combines my favorite moment of the trip followed up by a statistically impossible encounter. This wasn’t the first time I ran into someone somewhere, where there was a loose thread attached. When I was in Israel I ran into the Rabbi that Bar Mitzvahed me, on my first trip to Costa Rica I almost ran over one of my best friends from college trying to catch a connecting flight( last time I saw him was 5 months earlier in DC…on that flight back I read about a white-water rafting trip in a place called Costa Rica…we had not spoken since I last saw him…he was on my connecting flight to Costa Rica !)
I booked my trip to Africa after blowing off a trip to Ibiza. One of the customer service reps that supported me on one on my larger accounts had come through for me big time, so to thank her I took her for a nice lunch for her efforts. We had not a whole lot in common(by any stretch of the imagination…she was a bit eclectic) and I really wondered what we would talk about but figured I’d find some common ground. I don’t remember how travel came up but it did and lo and behold…she liked to travel! She went on a trip to Alaska to see Polar Bears, to Europe, etc.. When I told her that I was doing a Safari she said that was her dream trip. I said “then go” she stammered saying she was too scared of this that and the other thing happening . I asked her if she would be OK going through life never going on a Safari because she was too scared. She said she’d think about it. Well she ended up booking a trip to Kenya’s Masai Mara thru Abercrombie and Kent (stayed in high-end tented safari lodges).I went thought the Adventure Center (in a canvas tent! I think I spent more do re me on my cameras). On top of that she left a week before I did!
So, anyhow…we’re driving around the Serengeti looking for game. Unlike in Kenya, the game in Tanzania is not as plentiful or as used to humans which is why I chose Tanzania over Kenya…I wanted to see animals in the wild…not an oversized zoo. A drought had been going on for a while (I cannot turn on a faucet to this day without thinking of the Africans I saw walk for miles with buckets on either side of a broomstick to get water) when for the first time since I’d been in country it started to drizzle and we had to pull the top down on our 4X4 Jeep….then all of a sudden right alongside the road is a young male lion in a state of repose. We stopped the jeep so our guides could check him out. His belly was full so we were told it was safe to take pics. I and my mates were giddy with excitement and popped up through the top taking photos (see below) and video. It was beyond incredible. The lion was literally 5ft away from us and I was standing out of the top of a small 4X4 jeep. The lion could have easily leap up and ripped my head off…luckily he was full and just watched us with mild interest and eventually got up and went for a stroll.
It was the highlight of an epic trip full of amazing experiences and incredible encounters. As we were driving away our hearts still pumping we saw a couple of large buses up ahead. A good way to find animals was looking for others who found them. They were sitting there for a while so we couldn’t wait to see what they were observing. Turned out to be 2 freaking Dik-dik’s They are mini deer and yes cute… but after being 5ft from a lion…bit of a letdown. As the buses started pulling away I look over wondering who are these people that were looking at these Dik Dik’s while we were with a lion! Well as one of the buses drives by…with her face by the window looking terrified was my Customer Service rep!!! To put this in perspective we were both on the Dark Continent for a few overlapping days but most of her trip was in Kenya…these countries are bigger than Texas each! How we ended up in the same game park at the same time…the math is beyond me. To prove it happened she came back with a picture of me standing out of the top of the 4X4 pointing out in the distance. She told everyone I was crazy…she couldn’t believe how I would drive around all day long standing up exposed…well I’m still crazy after all these years:)