In September, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Kruger National Park in South Africa as an add-on to my TEFL Certificate Program (Teaching English as Foreign Language). Now, I was extremely excited to see the beautiful animals in their natural habitat but that excitement turned to pure terror once I was told we would be living in tents without fencing...in the bush.
Most people who know me, are familiar with my disdain for bugs. Unfortunately, that was no longer my greatest fear when it comes to camping. My new friends tried to call me down and told me we would be protected. "Ty, don't worry, I am sure the guides will have weapons to protect us". WRONG!! THEY WERE INCREDIBLY WRONG. According to the Game Guide, guns and other weapons are more likely to be a danger to humans due to itchy trigger fingers.
But you know what, I'm blessed, so I decided to grow from this experience. The first night we stayed in a lodge in a fenced community( yay). I enjoyed this space. I felt safe and was ready for the safari! #anxiety
Next, was the game drive! I was on the lookout for the Big 5! (Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Buffalo, Rhino)
"Unfortunately, that was no longer my greatest fear when it comes to camping".
*The rhinos in this area were de-horned to deter poachers
I couldn't get over all this African magic. My favorite part of the safari was watching the elephants. As a child, I couldn't help but be amazed at the grace and majestic movements of the large animal.
As we were on the way back to the lodge, a call came in that a cheetah had just attacked an impala. Not only did we drive there, but the guide told us it was safe to jump off the safari vehicle to get a closer look. If you follow me on Instagram, this is where the story stopped!
We were literally a stone throw away from these feasting cheetahs. According to the guides, the cheetahs are relatively tame and not aggressive. They even said we could pet them, no thanks!
*Graphic Images Ahead
This was the closest I got to them, and believe me, I was terrified.
After about 10 minutes of watching them, one of the cheetahs stands up and starts staring off into the distance as if something is coming in our direction. Our guide gets a call saying that a lioness was heading straight towards us. So we( me first) jumped back into the truck and waited to see if the lion would get close enough to see. This had to be one of scariest moments of my life. Standing next to those cheetahs, who are clearly afraid of what's to come. About 5 minutes went by and nothing showed up and the cheetahs kept on eating. You would not believe what this guide said to us on that truck.
"Let's go search for the lion on foot".
Who is about to get off this truck and go search for some lions? Did he forget what a lion looks let alone what they are capable of? We must be going to look for some baby lions because this made no type of sense to me.
After much deliberation (peer pressure), I eventually got off of the truck and followed the guide blindly into the bush. Clearly, I am growing.
We walked around for about 15 minutes learning about various trees and small animals while I had my eyes wide open for the big ones. He decided to stop in a little area filled with animal droppings. He then picks up a small piece of...crap. It's crap, there's no way around it, and proceeds to place it in his mouth and spit it as far as he can.
He then asks us who thinks they can spit the farthest. A few participated, I politely declined.
As our game drive was coming to an end, we started to head back to the lodge to get our belongings and head towards the tented accommodation with no fences or protection from the animals.
When we arrived at the campsite, I was genuinely afraid. I calculated all the different ways I could meet my demise.
1. An elephant could not see me and trample over my tent (gracefully of course)
2. A lion would enter my tent while I was sleeping and drag me to my death.
3. Death by scorpion. It was going to sting me and I would die at Kruger National Park because emergency services wouldn't get to me in time. My anxiety was rising and the sun was starting to set.
One of my TEFL friends saw that I was a little afraid and popped his head into my tent see how I was doing. He reassured me that everything would be fine and soon I started to feel a little silly. I started thinking to myself "It can't be that bad, people do this all the time".
About 3.4 seconds later, while he still is next to my tent he says in his calmest voice, "Hey guys there's scorpion over here, it crawled under her tent". Of course, that "her" was me.
The guides came rushing over, telling me to quickly get out of my tent so they could catch it. I was afraid to jump out because I didn't have shoes on, and I was terrified to stay inside and accidentally step on it (and emergency services not get to me in time). I jumped out into the arms of another friend while the new guide caught it with a cup.
That night I simply couldn't deal anymore, so I took medicine to go to sleep so I wouldn't have to hear the sounds of roaring lions and bushes swaying in the wind. After a long night, morning came and I was alive! I had survived sleeping in the bush with lions, leopards, and scorpions. I had made it through. 2 years ago I never would have assumed I had the ability to do something so scary. Clearly, I am full of surprises but don't ask me to sleep at Kruger National Park ever again.
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