Kruger was like nothing I had ever seen before; the entire experience felt like a dream. All the scenery in the world going on around us felt like we were starring in a movie. When we first arrived, we immediately got into the safari cars and I remember literally shaking with excitement. I couldn’t wait for what was going to happen. I was expecting to see a few animals that were far away using my binoculars, but what actually happened was so much better. David Bunn, our tour guide, said whoever sees the first animal gets a point. I spotted something brown ahead and was so proud of myself…later to realize it was just an impala and we would see those pretty much everywhere. My first animal spot was definitely overshadowed by someone else in our safari car shouting “look to our left!” and there were three zebras less than 10 feet away. That was absolutely ridiculous to me…I couldn’t believe how close they were. And we were only five minutes into the safari!
We drove past more impala and beautiful saharan greenery, and then the coolest moment of my life happened.I was asking Thomas-the ranger driving us- a question and before he could answer people were shouting that they saw something. As I looked up, I saw a HUGE elephant RIGHT ON THE ROAD! Elephants are my favorite animal and when I was a kid I used to write research papers on them just for fun because of how much I liked them. To see an elephant, wild in South Africa, standing right next to us, made one of the top moments of my life. I will never forget that image or feeling. I honestly remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I could die happy now”.
After the safaris when we arrived at our first camp, Biyamiti, I found some challenges. I always considered myself fairly tolerant of insects and a “nature person”. However, that was all relative to the past nature preserves that I had been in with much less insects and much less of a chance of a leopard coming into our hut. So this was the start of my anxiety during the Kruger trip. I was constantly looking to my left and right and feeling all over my body to see if there were animals or insects. I didn’t sleep very well due to the heat and my unnecessary fear of insects crawling all over me or fear of a leopard coming in to kill me.This anxiety continued into our second camp where I woke up in the middle of the night screaming because I thought an animal was on me. The fear in my scream awoke my roommates, of course, and it was at that moment I realized I really needed to calm down. I thought of the big picture and what my life entailed at that moment: I was at one of the most amazing national parks in the world and staying at the most incredible camps seeing sights I never have and may never see again. It was an absolute privilege to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience and instead of traumatizing in my fears, I should embrace them. I decided to create that as the motto I would use for the remainder of the trip. I was going to experience a lot of new people, cultural differences, and new experiences and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for all of that. But if I’m doing something that makes me nervous, it must be worthwhile. I can’t wait for what the rest of South Africa will bring me.