My daughter is asleep, cuddled in my arms, as we pass under the gate officially declaring our entry to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. I thought of waking her as this park, this ecosystem, these views are what we took more than six flights through four countries to see. But honestly, the start of the Park is rather plain. It’s the same dry, bumpy, monotonous road it was before the gate. Unlike entering a city, where a boundary can be the difference between rural settings and sudden civilization, the Serengeti becomes less exciting when you enter.
It’s not until we reach the first migrating herds in 20km that the excitement begins. I rouse Sabrina from her slumber when we pull to a stop next to a scattered herd of wildebeest and zebras. Some antelope are grazing here and there. She wakes quickly and is enthralled as we stare out the open windows of our Toyota Land Cruiser at the herbivores going about their grass munching ways. “Are we here, Dada?” she asks, pointing me to an adorable newborn antelope and mother. “Yes, honey, this is the Serengeti.” I listen to my own words, still trying to grasp the enormity of the land and our journey.
We are at the Southern tip of the park and heading north for four nights of camping on the hot, dusty savannah. It is March and most of the migration is already rounding towards the West side of the park. More than one and a half million wildebeest will soon lead the other herbivorous, following instinct, heading North into Kenya once the rains come.
I knew, as I planned this trip months earlier, we will not be experiencing the bulk of the herds in this location at this time of year. We will not witness the incredible crossing of the Mara River, when the herbivorous must battle the river and predatory crocodiles to reach rutting and calving grounds. The stuff seen in National Geographic videos. Even without that excitement, I knew back then that I wanted to have this moment, now, with my daughter. A foreign land. A foreign language and culture. And animals we had only seen sparsely in zoos back home, literally running free in the oldest circle of life our planet displays.
She is spending a month out of school for this trip. But I do not believe she fully understands the education she is receiving in the heart of Africa.