“Savannah” was a word I learned in my spelling book in the fourth grade, in an extra credit unit that included words like “mesa” and “plateau,” as examples of how our geographic vocabulary involves many foreign spellings. Unfortunately, at my advanced age, its meaning had drifted to mean “grasslands,” which I learned is not its meaning.
What I thought the Serengeti would look like:
Gold grasslands. Flat like the Great Plains. Vistas for miles.
Reality: Gold-green grass, tree, gold-green grass, tree, gold-green grass. The trees hold up their greenery like a waiter’s spread fingers holding up a tray. Rock outcroppings here and there. Occasional hills. Vistas for miles.
What I thought the weather would be: Hot and hotter, dry.
Reality: Breezy, refreshing, slight cloud cover and sun.
What I thought a Serengeti safari would be like:
Drive off-road to a watering hole in a covered jeep.
Reality: A cross between the jeep rides in the movie Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones ride and the Universal Studios tram tour on unpaved roads. Think of being on the Indiana Jones ride for eight hours, complete with the occasional stop. If I had kidney stones, they were shaken loose.
How I thought we would see wildlife:
Loads of animals at a watering hole. Outside of the watering hole, it would be accidental if we saw anything.
Reality: Every 100 yards, an animal or multiple animals within site of the road, many within 10 feet of the road. Elephants and baboons within a car length. Lions, a cheetah, giraffes, impalas, wildebeests within two car lengths. Ostriches and a leopard further away. Three "kills" on the side of the road.
Insects? We would be plagued and likely contract dengue fever
Reality: With the breeze and a lot of spraying around the hotel, hardly any insects.
Every single shred of media related to Africa came flooding back to me (well, the Book of Mormon not so much). The first movie my mother took me to was "Born Free." The Lion King (fun fact: “Rafiki” means “friend” in Swahili), Dumbo (the greeting here is “Jambo!”), The Jungle Book (I know: wrong jungle, but the vultures were there), Out of Africa, The English Patient (I know: a little far afield), Toto. We had a presentation by Louise Leakey about the Oduvai gorge, and Maasai warriors danced at cocktails. All in one day.