I wrote this account of one of our family’s recent adventures in order to model personal narrative writing for my sixth grade students at the Rift Valley Academy.
“Management is not responsible for injury or death resulting from wild animal attacks!” This sign welcomed us into the wilderness behind one of the lodges on the shores of Lake Naivasha. My family and my brother’s family crossed the small footbridge and passed through the gates hoping to catch a glimpse of Africa’s wilder side. We had all spent a relaxing afternoon poolside—a needed break after a busy half-term working and studying at the Rift Valley Academy. As evening approached, we were ready for some adventure.
My eyes began scanning the horizon as we approached the water’s edge. My brother, Erik, pointed off to the left, “We got some great shots of a giraffe right over there last time.” I was full of anticipation. Water bucks were all around, but I’d never been particularly impressed with antelope. They were just deer to me, although it was a little exciting when a dik dik, a dog-sized antelope, crossed our path and ran off into the brush. What I really wanted to see, though, was a hippopotamus. We didn’t see a whole lot of live game at first, but we stumbled across a couple of sun-bleached skeletons. The boys were ecstatic and insisted on taking them home. My wife, Eva, stuck an exotic bird feather she had found into my hat, and I began singing “Yankee Doodle” to myself. Any disappointment initially felt was overshadowed by the enjoyment of being able to trek in Africa with my family.
I wasn’t sure if the boys would be able to keep their newfound treasure. In American parks, you aren’t allowed to take any ‘natural souvenirs’ home with you. The kids didn’t bother to ask, and I didn’t try to find out. We came across a security guard who I guess had shown up to make sure we hadn’t been mauled yet, but he didn’t seem to care that we were toting around animal remains. I was sure my oldest son, Adam, would get tired of lugging around an entire skull and spine, and ‘dear old Dad’ would end up carrying his find. The spine was nearly half his height, but he never complained once during the whole hike.
I glanced off into the distance and saw the form of a giraffe. I was about to announce my find to the rest of our entourage, but the shape didn’t seem to be moving. I guessed it was only another tree. We were not close enough to see its spots. A moment later, my nephew exclaimed, “I see a giraffe over there!” It had begun to move, and we crept closer very slowly, trying not to startle it. It took some stern warnings to keep the younger members of our crew from scaring it away in their excitement. The giraffe watched us very closely, and once we’d come to a safe distance, we stopped and gazed. Once we’d gotten our eyeful, we started back to the lodge, but the strangest thing happened. The giraffe was following us! Far from being afraid, he was just as curious about us as we were of him. He nearly trailed us all the way up to the footbridge that took us back to the resort.
Africa is wild. Walking among the animals in the African savannah is a whole different experience from seeing the same creatures in a zoo. I’m thankful that I was able to be with family for this “walk on the wild side.”