Breathtaking, captivating, unforgettable – words that are not usually used to describe a college classroom – only hint at the learning experience I had with Kenya as my classroom on a photographic safari, one of the study abroad opportunities offered by Troy University.
Safari leader Bob Joslin, director of photography in the Art & Design Department at TROY, told me about the trip when we met last fall, and how it could be used as part of TROY’s class in travel photography. He also warned me that once I’d been, I’d want to go back.
A few of my journal entries offer a sense of the adventure in learning the safari provided.
May 9: We flew from Nairobi to Tsavo West National Park and Severin Safari Camp. From the air we saw our first animals – pink elephants! The pilot told us they look pink because they cover themselves with the red dirt in the area.
When we landed we met our guides, David and Henry, who will be our teachers and protectors for the next two weeks. We went on our first game drive in the afternoon and saw giraffes, zebras, dikdiks and a kudu. While we were eating dinner a pregnant hippopotamus walked past the open dining area, about 30 feet away.
May 10: Early morning game drive with a picnic breakfast, which we ate while enjoying a beautiful view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I learned to like warthogs today. Henry told us that a warthog has a bad memory – he’ll see a lion, start running away, and then suddenly stop, as if he’s forgotten why he is running. I think they have a cute wiggle when they run.
May 18: We flew to the Masai Mara National Reserve and are staying at Mara Intrepids Camp. Mr. Joslin saved the best for last. Our tents are amazing – it seems odd to call them tents when they have beautiful hardwood floors and furniture and huge tiled showers.
On our afternoon game drive, we were so close to an old female in a large herd of elephants that we could almost touch her. It was exciting and a little scary, but I was confident that David would not let us get into trouble.
We also saw a pride of lions, about 12 adult females and cubs, and observed a mother lion nursing and grooming her cubs.
May 20: Up early this morning for a hot-air balloon trip over the Mara plains – an amazing experience. After landing we were served breakfast in the bush, with omelets cooked to order and champagne.
May 21: Our last day began with a visit to a Maasai village, where the warriors danced, showing us their traditional jumping competition. At one point I found myself surrounded by warriors, and was a little startled until I realized they were inviting me to dance with them. I accepted the invitation.
We were also encouraged to join in when the village women danced and sang. The visit was a wonderfully unique experience.
These few observations cannot fully convey the richness of my experience. The beauty of the landscape, the graciousness of the people and the thrill of seeing animals in their natural surroundings all contributed to make it a life-changing trip.
Akin is a senior journalism major with a photojournalism minor from Enterprise.