Today was SAFARI DAY!!! It was our day to spend time with God’s creation and to relax on His day of rest. We saw animals that could be found in obscure parts of the United States and animals whose names we couldn’t pronounce correctly!
We kicked the day off early, at 6 am, starting with a cold shower (I’m surprised ice didn’t come out of the shower head…). The breakfast table was mostly quiet as we all tried to wake up. The beautiful sunrise over the mountains got our spirits up a little bit; the hotel we are staying in now has the most gorgeous view of the sky. Just stepping on our porch can reveal the day breaking, the sun setting, the blue skies of Africa, or the nighttime stars with no interruptions.
On the way to the Ngorongoro Crater we planned to have a quick worship from Tai. Though it was short & sweet, Tai had a great message for us: to look for God’s gifts and to treasure them. God blesses His children in ways we would never expect, and we need to learn to appreciate these little gifts. It was a challenge for the entire day; the world’s shortest worship suddenly became the world’s longest.
We grabbed the binoculars and Mikey’s tourist-safari hat as we drove down the bumpy clay road to see the animals in the Crater. There were a few animals to be expected – wildebeest, zebras, Thompson gazelle, and we saw them in plenty. They were exciting to see, no doubt; these creatures we won’t find roaming around in our backyards. But they were not the shining stars of the day, as we had many surprises. While driving into the Crater, we happened to glance out the window and spot, waayyyy off in the distance, a lone giraffe!!! They are rare to see around the Crater and we thought we had no shot in the dark of seeing one, yet there it was. I named it Trent J It was standing so still, we thought it was just plastic for a while! Then it flicked its tail and took a few long strides, to our amazement. It was our first sighting of any animal today and it set the bar pretty high for the rest of the day.
We were not disappointed. In the first few minutes of the drive, we saw a bunch of safari cars parked on the side of the trail, people standing out of the top with binoculars and fingers pointing. It took us half an hour to truly find what the commotion was about – two cheetahs were resting way up on a mountain! They blended in so well, as to God’s magnificent design. It would have been amazing to see them run, but like all cats, they are pretty lazy creatures. Further along the road, I was kind of zoning out and staring at the landscape, and my mind wandered to Tai’s worship, and I tried figuring out what had been my gift from God. Just as the thought crossed my mind, I saw a figure on a rock a long distance away. I thought, “no way, it can’t be…” The figure moved its head and I cried out, “Wait!!” A lion was lounging on a rock about 150 feet from our safari car!!!! He was a sight to see – full mane, long body, an air of royalty about him. Well, that is until he rolled on his back like a housecat to stretch out. We continued down the road when the lion decided he was finished with the paparazzi, and saw another stretch of safari trucks on the side of the road.
We pulled over to find an elephant and her baby snacking on Acacia trees! It was so precious; the baby followed her momma all through the trees. While we were observing them in awe, another was spotted, then another, then another…. There was an entire herd of elephants and their babies eating amongst the trees!! They crossed the road to get to more food and got alarmingly close to our car. They are so majestic; they are slow and powerful and enormous. They don’t do that thing where they hold each other’s tails with their trunks like they do in the circus, though. The big beauties were just gorgeous.
Somewhat similar to elephants are hippos (kiboko in Swahili), of which we saw many. They weren’t idle and didn’t appear as just logs sticking out of water though; they were barrel-rolling, splashing, talking, and fighting. We must have seen 30 active hippos today. They were great to see, not so great to smell.
As the day was winding down, Elisabeth had seen everything she had been hoping to see besides a leopard and a rhino. We came upon another line of cars and found out that there was a possible sighting of an interesting animal. We spent a good amount of time searching the horizon with our binoculars, when suddenly Elisabeth pointed out and shouted, “Rhino!” We all got a good look at it as he wandered back and forth between bushes and open spaces. Its gray, wrinkled skin camouflaged it, but it was worth the time spent to see it. We also spotted the Cape Buffalo, which means we had seen the Big 5 of the Crater (cheetahs, elephants, lions, rhinos, and cape buffalo make up what is called “The Big 5”). It was a great day to see some rare animals. Personally, I liked the little birdies the best, but not much of a fuss was made over them. Today was a Sabbath nobody will forget.
Back at the hotel, we attended a Traditional Dance show by the tribe that lives near the hotel. Seven of the tribal people arrived: one playing a drum, one playing a shaker, one playing a two-stringed instrument, and the rest were dancing. They introduced themselves and invited us to get up and dance with them. They wanted us to say their names, but they had a few sounds that we don’t use in the English language so it challenged us. We danced better than other people staying in the hotel, but that isn’t saying much. It was interesting to hear about their culture; they taught us some words in Swahili and taught us their songs. It was a… different way to close the night, but it was fun. It was definitely not something you could experience, authentically, in the United States.
The trip is coming to an end and we are all expressing how much we miss certain foods and places and people, but truthfully, this trip has been a blessing to all of our lives. I know that I have gotten closer to God and have come to appreciate the things I have more and to be charitable. Taking care of and playing with kids isn’t exactly my cup of tea but God calls us to do things we never could imagine ourselves doing, and I am glad that He called me halfway across the world to serve His purpose.
Shout out to my momma and my dad! I miss you guys. I promise to come home safely.