Two years ago, when I again found myself over in East Africa, my sister and I decided to go on a mini-vacation. We had done the "mzungu experience" of tented camps and safari drives, so this time we wanted to vacation like the locals. We had heard there was a park north of Nairobi where you could actually walk among the wild animals. The park, surrounded by water, was uninhabited by predators. And the best part? There were giraffes!
In all my times in East Africa I had never seen a giraffe. I had mostly traveled in the north and although I had seen wandering packs of lions, herds of zebras, and families of elephants, giraffes had eluded me.
My sister and I found a map, gassed up the car and set out on our adventure.
Though they recommended hiring a guide my sister Laura and I figured we'd be fine on our own. This motto of ours "How hard could it be?" has gotten us into trouble on more than one continent, but we reasoned a guide would only help us find the animals - and how hard could it be to spot a wild animal?
We said goodbye to the boat, assured the captain we would be fine by ourselves, then climbed the hill. Within seconds we came face to face with a wildebeest not more than 10' away from us. Maybe a guide would have been a good idea. Too late now. We looked around. We were the only ones here. What had we gotten ourselves into?!? Then we really realized: We are the only ones here.
Standing on these wild African plains, it was like no other people existed. It was quiet, hushed. We tread lightly, emerging ourselves in the landscape as best we could. It was one of the most incredible feelings I have ever had in my life.
Wandering around the park we encountered zebras, impalas, more wildebeests, and wild birds. We even had a near miss with a herd of water buffalo - and in that moment understood why a guide might have been useful - but still no giraffe. "Maybe we're not looking in the right place. Maybe they're hiding," my sister Laura said. I looked around me. "Where would they be hiding? If there was a giraffe here, I think we'd see it."
Then we turned the corner.
Suddenly there they all were. Masai and the near extinct Rothschild giraffe. Merely a few feet from us, so close we could reach out and touch them - which full disclosure we briefly considered before coming to our senses, these were in fact wild animals!
Throughout our trip, Laura and I went on to see many other giraffes but I will never forget that moment when just the two of us experienced nature's most majestic creature.
Truly a bond my sister and I will always share.