People thought I was crazy getting on a plane and traveling halfway around the world to live with a family with whom I had only exchanged a few emails.
My destination was South Africa, a little town called Hoedspruit; it was there I had landed an internship for wildlife photography with the company African Dream Horse Safari and would be living with the owner Traci and her husband Glen.
My hands were sweaty as I exited the plane. I had never been out of the country by myself; In fact this was my first trip ever on my own. I was relieved after meeting Traci and Glen and their lovely children, and I immediately felt part of the family. I embraced not only who seemed my long lost family but the scenery and the wildlife before me.
Glen suggested after dinner we take a game drive to celebrate my arrival. My eyes drank in the imagery before me: golden Earth spread wide and foreign animals roamed. Impala, African deer, jumped; scaling bushes, and the herd ran as one. Their feet synchronized and they all became a single creature creating a wave of tanned fur against the barren lands of dried grass.
During the drive we stumbled across a kill sight. The prey had been a juvenile giraffe, around three years old. He lay mangled in the dirt, his belly and face the only areas that looked as if they had been touched. A small pride of lions reclined off to the side in the tall grass, bellies busting from their feast. Attacking the mouth of the giraffe seemed odd to me because the facial meat is often sparse and tougher than the belly or hindquarters. Glenn explained, however, when lions attack prey and ground they immediately bite the muzzle to suffocate the animal. In fact, lions kill their prey through this method more often than through bite or claw wounds.
After observing the kill sight for half an hour, one of the lions came around the vehicle and lazily picked at the carcass of the giraffe. He was a young male, just before the age of two judging by his size, and the beginnings of his mane had formed. He looked like an adolescent teen trying to grow out a beard in patches. The sun was descending for the night and the golden haze caught the iris of this young male; he and I met gazes. His eyes were the color of honey. We stayed locked for a moment and I held my breath not wanting anything to break the moment. For those few seconds, I felt frozen. The world muted and as I exhaled the creature in front of me inhaled and it seemed our breath was one, we connected.
I knew this was an instance I would remember forever, and on the eve of my arrival I learned Africa holds moments that no camera nor language can capture.
Written by Brianna (USA)