Driving through the Tanzanian countryside on my way to Lake Manyara National Park, I remembered how my brother used to sit in the back seat of my family’s station wagon chanting “zoo, zoo, zoo,” as if it were his own calming mantra. The truth is, we both loved the zoo. My parents bought season passes each year which allowed us unlimited visits to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. My grandparents, aunt, and uncle would all entertain our imaginations as we crawled through the plastic termite mounds, explored the canopy from the Skyfari, and insisted on taking the monorail several times around the simulated safari park.
As I prepared to enter my first real safari park in Northern Tanzania, I fondly reminisced, appreciating the care my family took to make my brother and me curious about the world surrounding us.
The “real deal” is even cooler than I imagined. Standing out of the popped-roof of the 4x4 safari vehicle, the wind blew through my hair, leaving a sweet fragrance like a bike ride through southern honeysuckle.
In only a few hours, I saw hippos, giraffes, a large herd of migrating wildebeest, warthogs, monkeys, zebras and baboons. The black mamba snake which crossed my path—one of the deadliest in the world, killing a human in only 15 minutes—tied with the adorable baby blue monkey for my favorite animals of the day.
Safaris bring even their oldest guests back to childhood, wide-eyed and in amazement of the world surrounding. At once, I was six again, climbing through those termite mounds, chanting “zoo, zoo, zoo” to the driver in front of me.