Have you ever examined a crocodile and really studied it? Not at a zoo or someplace like that, we’ve all seen those sad creatures lounging about looking tragic. I mean getting up close and taking a peek at their marvelous scaly skin–so varied, so prehistoric, every shade of green. I could look at crocodiles for days!
Of course they’re ugly, even I’ll admit that, and I adore all creatures. Never mind, that was a lie. I abhor spiders–wouldn’t even eat them if they were the only thing separating me from death. No thank you! I’ll happily suffer my chances on the Other Side. But back to crocodiles, I so easily get off track. Can you imagine a crocodile with braces on its crooked teeth in a mouth that looks like it wants to chomp, chomp, chomp you to bits? It’d be hilarious.
But I haven’t even told you why I’m so delighted by the beasts, yet. Let’s start from the beginning.
This year, for the Holidays, I decided to buy experiences for my family. We were going to Disney World in January and I wanted to treat them in a more memorable way than another DVD box set or a book that is never opened–not once. So, for my mother I booked Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian Resort because we never managed to do it last Spring in London, too busy chasing the Royal Family. For my father, a Polynesian Luau at another of the numerous resorts to recall his childhood near Miami where he claims his family would boat to an island off the coast and gorge on shrimp. And for my sister, Jessica, I chose the best. For her, I decided on the Wild Africa Trek, an exclusive, not entirely affordable, but not exactly reasonably priced safari through the wilds of Africa. Well, not Africa–it’s the middle of Florida, but it bears a striking resemblance to the safaris I dream of going on. I would be only too happy to be mauled by a lion! I recall an episode of the Martha Stewart Show dedicated to a safari she went on in South Africa. I drooled with envy. I’m always of envious of Martha, though. The woman has my life–she HAS it!
I was going to send the whole family on the Wild Africa Trek at first, but though it looks it, I’m not made of money–well, a bit of me is still that pesky flesh and bone, the rest is all Euros. I swear that my tibias are composed of two Euro coins. Plus, I tagged along on all these myriad excursions, so I got lots of new experiences that I wouldn’t have had if they’d all been there.
I haven’t even told you what I wore, yet! You must be on pins and needles. Forgive me. Picture this: rugged, handsome, mustachioed, son of Indiana Jones sans whip and hat. Yes, that was me, absolutely devastating in a denim shirt and raw sienna shorts from J. Crew with a nine-inch seam. Not an eleven-inch seam, mind you, not ever. The nine-inch seam is forever in fashion for those of us who have the thighs to pull it off–and believe me, I do. I’ve quite wonderful thighs. The shirt was tucked in and around my unbelievably slender waist, a faux-leather belt was elegantly looped.
I will admit one failure to you, so pay close attention because I am not accustomed to it. My shoes. They were fine, the were decent, oh Hell! They were dreadful. I meant to buy a faux-leather pair of shoes or boots from Topman, but I never tumbled in love with a pair, they wouldn’t have arrived in time, and the shipping prices are outrageous! I’ll pick some up on my next visit to London–I’m just itching to get back to Europe. Somehow, I managed to be born an American in an unjust twist of fate. My charming, German-softened, eastern European features are so out of place here with the working classes. I mean that as a compliment, mind you, nobody respects the peasants as much as I do. I just have the ironic misfortune to currently be one, loathe as I am to admit it. A remarkable thing that I dearly love America for is the ease of upward mobility. I’ll be famous and beloved soon, my sweets. Where was I?
Yes, my shoes. I’ll just get it over with. They were a lavender pair of Converse. There. I looked fine with my teal ankle socks poking out, but I get all aquiver with excitement when I think of me in a pair of Chelsea boots or broken in wing tips. God, people would have collapsed.
Now that you’ve got a visual in mind, I’ll carry on with the actual events.
Jessica and I burst onto the Animal Kingdom singing songs from The Lion King and being uproariously applauded by dewy-eyed cast members. Others will surely tell you something different. Allow me to let you in on a little secret, others lie.
We met our guides outside the Dawa Bar in the Harambe village and instantly began to eye and judge the competition. And by competition, I mean the other paying guests. They seemed to think that they were just the most interesting people on earth with their cruise boats and theatre jobs, but it didn’t take too long before we were in charge. Strangers are naturally inclined to follow me, I am a Leo, I simply can’t help it. Jessica and I are like a halogen light in a football field and everybody else is just a moth.
Once we were checked in we had to sign a contract that basically forbid us from suing Disney if we were hurt or died. This was an annoying inconvenience. Insurance settlements and lawsuits are two of the simplest and most profitable ways to make a fortune these days.
Then more guests showed up. They were peculiar. They didn’t dress well, they didn’t socialize, they didn’t respect the tribe I had so effortlessly formed. What bastards! Then a minute or so before the safari was set to begin, two stragglers arrived. We (all of us) hated them on sight. This later proved to be a justified assessment.
Now that we were assembled, Jessica and I pushed and shoved our way to the front and were led into the bamboo forest that the common guests never have the good fortune to see. I doubt they know it exists. Poor, sad fools.
There is a little building shadowed by the mighty bamboo where we were introduced to our guide and photographer. They were both lovely people. I always wonder if they are genuinely lovely or if they are paid to be lovely? No matter, they treated me well and that’s really the most important thing after all.
We were each given a fancy electric locker to put our things in–nothing but a camera and sunglasses were allowed and then we were put into a harness. What is this, I mused to myself with a smirk, Cirque du Soleil? I chuckled at my inner stand up comedian as the straps were pulled tighter and tighter (no smirk now) around the more sensitive areas of my lower anatomy. After that awkward, minor molestation, I was given a radio headset, a strap for my camera, and a stainless steel canteen to take along with me forever in case I should become parched.
Once we were dressed and adjusted, we made our way to the test bridge where the guides admired my modeling prowess, we traded jokes with the other guests, pretended to listen to what they were saying, and drank a delicious beverage nicknamed ‘Jungle Juice.’ (Equal parts orange, guava, and passionfruit juice.)
We all had to cross the test bridge to see if we could make the Trek–infants could manage this–and then after a brief chat where Jessica and I modeled some more (broken-down-Barbie-doll-H2T, if you were curious) we were on our way.
The paths were very natural, it was like walking through the forest we own in the country. Trees whipped the less familiar in the faces and we laughed and laughed.
After a few photo ops, we made our first stop at the hippopotamuses. They were absolutely adorable, huge and pink on their stomachs, smooth and pewter grey up top. They were lazy and hilarious. Crows would unconcernedly approach and take a peck of their skin. The mighty beasts didn’t care, this was exfoliation for them, as the crows only ate the dead skin.
The man we all detested asked a number of foolish questions, accused Disney of abusing the animals, and then verbally assaulted the photographer making sure he was capturing every moment. Asswipe.
Once finished with the hippos, we went back into the forest, excited with every brief glimpse we had of the Savannah. The next part of the Trek was to climb up a tower and then cross a pretty rickety looking bridge. The bridge was high above the road below and on the other side was a massive pile of crocodiles. I wasn’t so enamored of them, yet, but once I was near them, I fell in love. I’m still high up in the air at this point, though. Jessica, brave, daring girl that she is, was the first to cross the bridge with me soon to follow. The rest of the crew was composed of sissies and mamby pambies who were afraid to cross when the bridge was wiggling and so insisted on going alone. Not us. I posed up and down all over that bridge. Hands on hip, booty tooch, broken-down-Barbie-doll, Voguing, and so much more. I’ve learned quite a variety of poses from my beloved Tyra. All I heard was click, click, click, click each time the shutter closed. I poses so ferociously that Jessica was embarrassed. Silly girl. Tick, tick, tick, tick, flash!
We were quickly off the second bridge and stood around the waiting area near the crocodiles. Such fantastic, prehistoric beasts. It took the rest of our party ages and ages to join us on the other side, so Jessica and I amused ourselves immensely by waving majestically to the passing caravans. Some of the vehicles were full of assholes who wouldn’t acknowledge us, but the majority were full of adoring fans who waved their little arms off and tried to photograph us. How lucky those commoners were!
After what felt like an eternity, we were all reunited and allowed to get even closer to the crocodiles. Jessica and I were pretending to be alligator hunters like in Swamp People, as you do, mumbling, “Fourteen fu gata. Shood it, shood it! Don’ cudda cabul.” Some bitch told us, “They’re Nile crocodiles.” I cut her with my eyes as sharply as I would have with a shank. She learned her lesson.
I can’t get over how much I enjoy these dinosaur-like animals. I adore their skin so, and if I weren’t a vegetarian fighting for animal rights, I’d be happy to have a pair of crocodile shoes. But, I’m not, so I’ll go faux. I love their teeth and their eyes and the lazy way they stroll a few feet before plunking back down to bask in the warm sun. Nobody else seemed quite as taken as I was.
We plunged back into the jungle where we saw ripening fruit on trees and another interesting tree called a Monkey Ear. The seed pods look just like an ear! I subtly stuffed one in my pocket for future germination. I love horticulture!
And now, what I was most excited for–THE SAFARI! We boarded an exclusive, roomy caravan and set out on the trail. I was a bit disappointed that we used the same roads as the Kilimanjaro Safaris. I was expecting something more expansive, more private, but it was still lovely.
The giraffes were about in abundance with their necks stretching to heaven, their tongues reaching up, up, up for the scrumptious leaves high in the canopy. I read an article just yesterday about people spending thousands and thousands of dollars to go hunting giraffes. To you assholes, I have only one word, “F**K YOU! I hope you get shot Dick Cheney style.” See what I did there, Kath & Kim reference? Anyway, I’d rather spend thousands of dollars on wallpaper.
We wound through the Savannah admiring all the animals. I really enjoyed the ostriches and their bitchy attitudes. They were so mean looking…reminded me a bit of myself.
The photographer was trying his hardest to have us all look at the rhinos and listen to the intriguing facts, but we were having none of that nonsense. Suddenly, Jessica shouted, “KITTY!” A swarm of birds erupted in shock from a nearby tree. We all swiveled our heads to look at the adorable fluffy lions. I don’t really recall what else happened here for a little bit, I was in a kitten high. Stop snickering, this is a real condition that I suffer terribly from. Oh, I wanted to pet them, to rush to them, to join their pride, but of course, we were not allowed to do anything of the sort, much to my annoyance. For the huge sum of money I paid, I at least wanted the opportunity to be devoured by a carnivorous kitten with fabulous hair.
The next stop was the elephants. There were many out today and they were gorgeous. There was a schism recently and now there are two elephant gangs. It’s like West Side Story out there. One of the elephants was so pleased to see us that he showed us his fifth leg. Good God.
After we gazed upon those fantastic animals, we made our way to the Boma, which was a gorgeous lodge in the middle of the Savannah surrounded by giraffes, antelopes, flamingos, elephants in the distance, and concrete baobab trees. The weather was delicious, the atmosphere incomparable, and the hospitality was first-rate.
We were all allowed to choose a table on the deck, well spaced for privacy and simply, yet elegantly, draped with a thick gorgeously colored tablecloth. A carafe of ‘jungle juice’ was in the middle of each table and Jessica and I began to elegantly chug that nectar. Our guide told us that the college version also had an equal part of Everclear. Pretty sure I would kill myself on that stuff if I drank it in the quantities I would.
Lunch was served in a metal camp pail that had two separate compartments. I had the vegetarian option. The savory portion had pita bread, teriyaki-marinated tofu, tabbouleh, and a couscous salad. The sweet portion had ginger-marinated melon balls, dried apricots, vegan cheese, yogurt with cranberries, and an edible flower. It all looked beautiful, but I had a bit of trepidation at first–the first time I had tabbouleh was on an airplane en route to Paris. That was some nasty shit.
The only utensil we had was a wide-mouthed bamboo spoon. It looked awkward, but actually was a delight. I may eat everything with it from now on, which won’t be too tricky as I nicked it. The food was delicious, my favorite was the tofu and tabbouleh (I know!). I could have eaten buckets of it and as soon as I find a good recipe for it, I fully intend on making it for lunch every single day for the rest of my life. The only thing I wasn’t absolutely crazy about was the yogurt. I’ve never loved yogurt and I don’t think that will ever change.
After I guzzled the rest of the ‘jungle juice’ we loaded ourselves back on the caravan and finished the Trek. When we approached the poachers and the Little Red/Big Red zone, one of my most favorite moments took place. “Little Red,” I moaned, “every time I’m here, I have to save you from those damn poachers.” The guide turned to me and said with a straight face. “I save that elephant every day and he never learns.” Jessica and I wet ourselves with laughter and as we drove through the geysers, we all yelled at Little Red. “You deserve to be kidnapped!” “Maybe you’ll learn if they detusk you!” “I have a life, too, I can’t waste my time saving you!” “I thought elephants were smart!”
All right, that last one was pretty low, but it was hilarious. I mean really, that ride needs a touch of updating. If they can make it look like Johnny Depp is gallivanting around a Spanish fort town in the Pirates of the Caribbean, they can surely make a realistic animatronic elephant.
After we pulled up to the deck and unloaded, we walked back through Harambe village to the Dawa Bar and back to the lodge in the bamboo forest. Along the way, the guide pointed out the only real baobab tree on the property. It was still quite young and didn’t have the impressive girth of the trees you’ll see in Africa. It was quite a thrill to touch one for me, probably not for you, but that’s you. One of my dream vacations is to go to some expensive, luxurious resort in Kenya and nap beneath the shade of one of those megalithic trees.
Back at the lodge, we had the opportunity to donate a portion of our fee to an animal charity. Jessica and I of course chose the Big Cat fund, but the rest of the PC ninnies picked to split it between all the animals. Lame. We collected our belongings and posed for a few more photographs. They were stunning, our guide said, and honestly, I have no doubt of that.
The Wild Africa Trek was a delight–chic, exclusive, cultured, and well worth the price. In fact, it was probably worth more than the price I paid. I was fed will, I was able to see animals from a new perspective, and I was treated like a wealthy gentleman. Quite honestly, I would have paid just to be treated well–the animals were just a bonus.
If you can go, and I do hope that you can, I urge you to go. In fact, I would drag your ass to the Dawa Bar and go along with you–on your dime of course.
The pictures from the photographer will come in a few weeks, and of course I’ll post them for you. I’m impatiently waiting, too. Here are a couple more pictures to tide you over: