The Circle of Life

From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the sun.
There’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.
There’s far too much to take in here, more to find than can ever be found.
But the sun rolling high, through the sapphire sky, keeps great and small on the endless round.

Call me a nerd, but as soon as we entered the Serengeti and were suddenly surrounded by mysterious beasts that we’ve only encountered in zoos and seen on the movies, my head was suddenly flooded with lyrics from the movie The Lion King. I’m sure that happens to everyone…

East Africa is full of amazing wonders. Unfortunately, if we partook in every one of them, we would break the bank and come home much sooner than planned. The main attractions that beckoned to us were gorilla trekking in Rwanda, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain (which can only be done with guides and porters), and going on safari in one of the numerous national parks. In the end, we voted for the safari, hands down.

We rode around the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in a land cruiser. Matt usually had his head sticking out the top, his eagle eyes intensely scouring the land for Simba. I’d always envisioned a safari as bumping around the bush and making a beeline for wherever the animals were. On the contrary, all of the land cruisers from the countless safari tours stayed on the roads, which seemed well maintained.

The animal kingdom was amazing. I never dreamed we would see so many animals, and it wasn’t even migration time! The land was speckled with thousands of wildebeests and hundreds of zebras. Unperturbed by our presence, both a cheetah and lion walked within feet of the vehicle. Things we never learned from the zoo:

– What is that zebra doing in the middle of the wildebeest pack? What? You mean they all share the same space? Sounds silly but after seeing animals locked up in separate fields in zoos, it’s a bit astonishing to see them all grazing together.
– Elephants go head to head in tusk matches. It reminded me of sumo wrestlers.
– Giraffes are super awkward when they run; their long legs and neck create an illusion of slow motion that is hilarious to watch.
– Hippos look like harmless stepping stones in the water hole until their jaws bend to 180 degrees to produce a wicked and life threatening yawn.
– Elephants always have the right of way in the water hole. Even the massive hippos will get out of their way. They will complain, but they move.
– Cheetahs hunt in pairs. In the second grade I became obsessed with speedy creatures and have since then dreamed of watching a cheetah run in the wild. We watched one try to take down a buck by itself – the second cheetah was lazy and late on the scene – but the buck was too big and got away. I was horrified to find myself cheering for the cheetah. It didn’t get up to speed and I was most disappointed.

I always dreamed a safari would be a once in a lifetime experience. It was so cool that we’re already dreaming of going back. Besides, Mufasa, the great haired lion in The Lion King, alluded us. We must return to see the king. It’s the first experience we’ve had that I truly wish EVERYONE could partake in. Why? Because it’s unlike anything else. I think everyone, no matter what age, education, class, or background, would be filled with a childlike joy and wonder.

It’s the circle of life and it moves us all. Through despair and hope. Through faith and love.
‘Till we find our place on the path unwinding. In the circle, the circle of life.

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