In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey writes, “I have no affinity for animals. I don’t hate animals and I would never hurt an animal; I just don’t actively care about them.”
Tina, I totally feel you on this. Thank you for being so honest and allowing me to feel I can finally come out of the closet regarding my Animal Indifference.
Animals are fine. I grew up on a farm. My childhood home was always overrun by dogs, cats, chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, and the occasional ox, horse, or baby deer. I obviously think nature is awesome, and I usually consider wild animals to be much better at life than humans. It’s just that I am somewhat “meh” towards animals, as a group. Thus, I never thought I’d be interested in going on a safari. The idea of sitting in a hot 4×4 with a group of strangers, driving slowly through fields trying to spot a rhino or chasing down lions, sounds absolutely heinous/pointless to me.*
But then my colleague Matt, his partner Mandy, and I drove our rental car through Kruger National Park and…Mind: Blown.
If you want to get the thrills of the animal kingdom without pulling a Bear Grylls, drive a tiny rental car through the wilderness where you may just come face-to-fender with animals bigger than your vehicle (scary/awesome). Kruger National Park is the size of Massachusetts and has every crazy exotic African animal you can possibly think of, roaming free. We drove our baby car up and down Kruger’s red dirt roads for a day, and saw one million animals. Really. I counted.
There was definitely something cool about our self-made safari. I think it was because A) I wasn’t surrounded by tourists (I am tolerance-challenged when around other tourists – I know, the hypocrisy, WHATEVER!) and B) we found these crazy wild beasts all on our own, without the help of a guide or a radio or anything but our own eyes and Matt’s stealth-driving tactics. So, I rescind my previous comments about animals being “meh”. At least, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and water buffalo, when seen at close proximity in their natural habitat, just being totally free and huge and beastly, are very much not “meh”.
*Of course, I don’t judge people who go on safari. Just like I don’t judge people for having pets. These things are totally normal and fine activities for humans. They’re just not for me.
One serious adventure we had in Kruger was a rhino-induced traffic jam. The following slideshow tells this story. It was all very wilderness-meets-the-modern-man.
After a full day of quietly sneaking up on dangerous animals in our teensy vehicle and leaning precariously out the window to take photos, we exited Kruger and headed to a backpacker’s in Nelspruit. The next day, I left the wilderness behind in exchange for a second trip to Johannesburg and then some Cape Town exploration. But I am happy to have experienced this self-made safari. It’s possible that it was, at times, a bit…unsafe. But it’s also possible that it was worth it.