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When I was about the age of 15, I was sitting in class when I received a note from the office that I had a phone call. I excused myself and ran up to the office desk and picked up the phone. As students we knew that when we were getting a phone call at school it was not usually a phone call from one of your parents telling you they loved you.

I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Tana.”

“Tan it’s your Dad, Hey babe, how are you?”

“Dad, what’s up? Everything ok?”

“I am sending your Mom to come pick you up, I need you to wrestle an alligator for the ‘Mike Douglas Show’ today.”

“Dad, I have never wrestled an Alligator before why me?”

“I thought it would be fun for you to be on air with your old man, plus you’ll do great as long as you listen to everything I tell you, kid. I love you. Mom should be there in the next 30 minutes, go home and get some shorts and tee-shirt. Love you.” And the phone went dead as my heart jumped into my throat.

I am not sure what the poor secretary was thinking as she overheard this conversation, but I am sure she was thinking of calling child services. I smiled at her and just said, “Family Fun Time, thank you,” and walked away. I couldn’t stop going over the stunt in my head. I had been around alligators and didn’t have a problem with them nor was I afraid of the stunt, but pleasing my Dad on National TV, now that was terrifying. I hated to let my dad down and loved to prove I could do anything the men could do.

Mom collected me from school and drove me home to get a change of clothes for the show. She said, “Dad wants you to wear a tee-shirt and shorts.”

“Mom, I am not wearing a tee-shirt while wrestling an alligator in water on national television! Don’t need the world to see my ittie bitties, thank you very much!” I went to my room, picked out a red flannel shirt and jean shorts and got changed. I packed clothes to change in to afterwards. I knew this would not please him and he preferred me to look more girlie, but he had a tomboy for a daughter and this was what he would have to settle for.

We got to the set and everyone was hustling and bustling around. I loved being on set as I felt right at home. Mom and I were greeted when we walked in the studio and we were shown where my dad and the guys (trainers) were. We walked over and I was greeted with a hug from my dad and a collective “Hey Tan” from the guys!

Dad, affectionately gripped my shoulder with his hand and led me over to where the metal swimming pool was where I would be doing the stunt. I saw this thing and said, “It really isn’t that big”

“Na, you’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Dad, where is the Alligator and how big is he?”

“He is in the back right now chilling. He is just over 6 foot, perfect size for you!” I just gave him one of those quizzical looks. I was 5’6”.

Dad gave me the up and down look, cocked his head and said, “ What are you wearing?”

“What I feel comfortable in,” I said.

“Well, I guess it will do,” said Dad.

Dad pulled me to the side where no one would hear us and started to talk to me about the stunt. He always talked to me right before and never let me rehearse, which was unheard of for most stunt people. Dad new I had already been working with animals longer then anyone there besides him and he trusted his animals and me completely. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean I went in all conceited, it means I knew better then to ever think I couldn’t get hurt. I always had a respectful fear, a lion is a lion not a dog, no matter how loving, their natural instincts always came first and I respected that at all times for every animal. The animal’s safety and the animal feeling safe with you was also very important.

“Okay Kid, this is what you have to do. The men are going to hold the alligator in position for you when you step in to the water. I want you to kneel down, one knee on the right of him the other leg over is back so you can lie down when we let go…” This conversation lasted about 3 minutes, we covered hand and body positioning, his teeth, mouth, protruding scales, nails and tail- I had it all down. I was ready.

“Dad, since I have never wrestled an alligator before, what is the hardest thing to do, and to make it look like a great stunt?” “If you can flip him over on his back. It is not easy and takes a lot of strength and I am not expecting you to be able to do that. Just do what I have told you, be careful of the things I have warned you about and you will be fine!”

“ One last question Dad, do I have to be with you during your interview? Can I just be waiting by the ‘gator?”

“Of course you will go up with me! You’ll be fine and Mike is looking forward to meeting you.” That was when my heart started to pound! I hated being in front of the camera, alligator no problem, but when that darn red light went on and I was meant to talk, the world started to spin.

I went back and reacquainted myself with the Alligator and gave him a pat. All the guys were there making fun of me as usual and trying to wind me up, but it never worked, I was comfortable with stunt work and at home with the animals, it was all the rest of it, which no one knew, I was smart enough to keep that to myself and just breathed deeply.

We were in position to go on stage, ugh, head spinning, heart pounding…

We were introduced and walked on stage. I was trying to smile without my lip quivering, it always gave me away if I didn’t control it. Mike and the guests were all very nice and concerned for me. Dad and I assured them I would be fine. I was thinking, just let me get off this stage. Finally it was time for me to wrestle the alligator, I just thought ‘thank god’. We all got up and walked over to the metal pond and I stepped in, my whole body relaxed as soon as I was with him, my head cleared, my heart slowed down. I got in position and the guys asked me if I was ready. I said “Yes, let him go,” and the wrestling started.

When I was in the middle of any stunt, everything came naturally and instinctively.

I knew before I started this stunt there was only one thing I had to do, and do it fast, as I would only be on camera for less then a minute, and that was to figure out how to hold him tight and flip him over so his belly was up.

Time was ticking down, I couldn’t hear anything except the alligator and the water splashing. It was about 20 seconds into everything I got my hands and legs in position, I was getting tired so I had to act now. I pulled him in to my chest. I took a deep breath: I knew I might go under the water with the weight of him on me. I held on, flipped us both and his beautiful shiny belly was up! Just as I did this I heard “Cut” and then all the applause from the audience, Mike and his guests. I flipped us both back over and waited for the guys to step in and take over.

I stood up, wiped the water from my face and looked for the only person who mattered to me, my dad. My dad’s and my eyes met, that was all I needed. He had a huge smile on his face and he helped me out of the water and patted me on the back! “Great job, kid, you did me proud.”

xxx

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I was known as the tester child amongst the family and close friends (trainers on the ranch). Whenever an animal was up for a movie or TV show and there was a child actor involved, my dad would always say yes to the production, even before knowing which animal would work best with the child actor. That is where I was always brought in.

I was about 4 or 5 years old when a call from the studio came in about doing a “pilot” show and they needed a child who could ride a zebra. Of course my dad took the production, before any child had ever ridden ‘Folsom’ our Grant’s zebra. He could be ridden, but on his terms of course. Folsom had a mind all of his own and animals, like humans, pick and choose whom they like and don’t like. When my Dad came to me and told me he needed to see me ride Folsom, the first thing I said was, “Are you crazy?” as I had seen Folsom throw grown men who he didn’t like. And although Folsom and I always got along well, it was with my feet firmly on terra firma at all times.

My Dad said, “Tana, you have been riding since you could sit up, you can do this.” “Dad, I know I can ride, it doesn’t mean Folsom wants me to ride him.” “Tana, don’t let me down honey, I need to see if Folsom will be ok with a kid on his back, I will be right next you in case he try’s to bolt and Frank will be holding the reins.” “What is in it for me?” My Dad took a deep breath, as I had learned to negotiate at too young an age. “I will be extremely proud of you,” he said. I laughed, “Dad that worked when I was a little girl. How about I get to choose the next movie we all go to?” “Ok, kid, that sounds fair to me.”

The next day we were at the ranch (Africa U.S.A.) and I was watching Folsom come out and a couple of the guys with him. My Dad called out for me and asked me to join them. I yelled back, as he was a ways away, “I want to see one of the guys get up on him first, to see what kind of a mood he is in!” My dad dropped his head, as he was not use to anyone questioning him or not jumping to his every whim. He called out to Dick (a trainer) and asked him to get up on Folsom. Dick walked over to Folsom and jumped on, sure enough it took Folsom all of 2 seconds to decide he didn’t like Dick and he took off. Poor Dick was being bounced from side to side for about 20 yards before he could jump off.

I was rolling with laughter watching, till my Dad walked over and said your turn! I straightened right up and said, “Did you see that? He is not in a good mood, and you want me to get up there? Are you crazy?” “Tana, trust me, have I ever let you get hurt? I love you honey, please.” I looked up at him with my hands on my little hips and said “NO!” I walked off to the nearest fence, climbed up and refused to move.

My Dad took a deep breath, walked over and for the next 15 minutes stood there looking up at me and pulled out all the stops to talk me down. I finally came down and walked over to Folsom, I approached him from his head so he could see me, then I slowly walked to his side and put my little hands on his belly and slowly walked towards his head while talking gently to him the whole way. I was explaining how I had to ride him and I would so appreciate it if he would allow this and not try to run off with me.

When I got to his head he lowered it and I kissed his nose. I looked at my dad and said, “Okay, lets do this.” My dad slowly lifted me and gently put me on Folsom’s back, he didn’t let go till he saw I had the reins firmly in my hand and that Frank had a good hold on Folsom’s head collar. He looked at me and asked, “Are you ready?” I nodded back and said, “You so owe me,” and one by one each person released and it was just Folsom and me. I kept talking to him and gave him a gentle nudge with my feet and he started to walk. I set out and then turned him so we were going in big circles then I reversed the circle, he was a perfect gentleman with me. I jumped off and gave him a hug around his neck and walked him back over to Frank who had a grin on his face. I looked up at my Dad and said, “There you go!” He cracked up and bent down and gave me a hug and then said, “See you listened and all was fine. Good job kid.”

When the producers came out to see the animals they wanted to hire for the production they asked to see Folsom and me, I rode him around for them and to my huge disappointment they not only hired the animals, but they wanted me to be the little girl in the pilot! I hated acting and now to my poor Dad’s apprehension he knew negotiations were about to begin all over again with me! The TV show pilot was for the hugely successful TV series ‘Daktari.’

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0375046/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daktari

The child star was Erin Moran

xxx

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Tiva turns 21 today! Anyone whom has ever watched a child grow up understands the immense pride you can have for your child, even someone else’s child. Tiva and her sisters have brought me overwhelming pride and joy every moment of their existence.

This story is 100% true, nothing elaborated on and all because of Tiva’s eminent enlightenment at the age of two.

At the time we were living in Washington State as I had the children there and then would come back to Kenya later. I had just had Rian in January of ‘91 she was about 6 months old at the time of this story and Tiva was 2 years old. We lived on a small plot with a huge forest for our back yard which we did not own. Tiva loved the forest and often I would find her sitting by the fence looking at the trees and the small wildlife playing. She would play around the trees in our yard and hug them.

It was early morning and I had been up for a while cleaning and feeding Tiva and Rian. Tiva was watching her little sister in her bounce chair and talking to her as big sisters do. I had stepped in to another room to make a bed when I heard Tiva start Screaming “NO, BAD MAN, NO, GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU!” I came running in to the kitchen to see Tiva banging on the sliding glass door and overwhelmed with grief and anger. Tiva just kept saying the same words over and over. I ran over to her and picked her up and asked her “Tiva, what is wrong? What man honey?” She pointed with her little finger to the forest. That is when it struck me, she saw a tractor and heard the chainsaws. I too had heard them but, to be honest, I just said a prayer for the forest and left it at that.

Tiva had tears rolling down her Cherub face and just kept repeating “NO, BAD MAN, NO, GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU.” I sat her down on my lap and tried to explain that these men were just doing their jobs to feed their own families and that I was sure they didn’t understand they are hurting anyone who loves the trees. Tiva would not have any of it. I set Tiva back down on the floor and she ran back to the sliding glass door and started screaming at them again. The tractor was up and running and the chainsaw was in full force, you could now hear tree’s falling and Tiva was furious.

I called my Mom at this point in time as Tiva was inconsolable and explained what was going on. My Mom said, strangely, to videotape her so she could see it later and talk to her. I did this for a short while for my Mom and then turned it off and went back to Tiva. I picked her up and picked up Rian who was now crying in her little bounce carry thingy and walked to the sliding glass door and opened it. The noise of everything going on in the forest hit us all with a huge force of sound. I set Rian down where I could keep my eye on her and I looked at Tiva and I said, “Tiva, lets see if we can talk to the men in the forest, ok?” Tiva nodded and continued her chat, “Bad men, god be so mad at you.”

We got to the fence and I waved at the man closest to us and he walked over to us. I introduced him to Tiva and introduced myself. I proceeded to explain that Tiva was very upset about the forest being cut and I had hoped he would have a minute to talk to her to help her understand what his job was. He smiled and started to talk to Tiva with kindness and said, “Tiva, I cut the tree’s so good people like you have a house to live in and chairs to sit on,” and then he smiled. Tiva was having none of it, she put her little finger up and said “ You are a bad man, God be so mad at you, STOP.” I looked at Tiva and then the man and I asked, “Is there anything we can do?” He amazingly said, “Well, this is strange but it just so happens the man who owns this forest is here today and I can get him for you if you would like?” I said, “Yes, please.” Tiva and I waited as we watched the logger go get the Owner. When they were walking towards us I could see the owner was of Oriental decent and was listening to what the logger was telling him.

They approached the fence line where Tiva and I were, the Owner politely smiled and gave a small bow to Tiva and introduced himself. Tiva looked at him and said “Hi, YOU BAD MAN, AND GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU, TREES’ MY FRIENDS.” The owner was a bit taken aback, not by a two year old raising her voice at him, but at the conviction in her voice. I explained that Tiva would play in this forest and she loved it. I was polite and asked if there was anything he could do.

The owner stepped backed and started talking to his logger (site manager) and the logger started to get a bit worked up and then the owner turned and bowed to Tiva and said he was so sorry and hopes this is ok. I looked at him a bit perplexed? Is what ok? The logger turned at me and said, “Well you wont believe this, but he has ordered me not to cut any of the trees along the fence line and three inward. These are the biggest trees and he will lose a lot of money. I tried to change his mind, but he refused and said we must honour Tiva’s wishes.” The logger was dumfounded and I couldn’t believe it either, I was stunned, I had never heard of anyone stopping a clear cut and losing money, let alone doing it for a child.

I am sure there was a tremble in my voice as the tears welled up and I thanked them both immensely and did a small bow back to the owner.  I turned and was walking away with Tiva, I was proud of Tiva for speaking up and speaking her truth, I was so proud of the Owner for listening and caring enough to do something.

As Tiva and I were walking away I explained to Tiva what she had just done, she had saved a huge part of a forest. She looked at me and said “Save all trees?” I said, “Not all of them, but a lot of them.” She looked at me and said “GOD BE SO MAD.” We sat down on the ground next to Rian and I held Tiva and I told her, “Tiva I am proud of you for what you did today. And I am sorry we didn’t save all the tree’s, but you saved some and that is HUGE.” She leaned over to Rian and put her head in Rian’s lap and hugged her, then kissed her forehead and then Tiva looked up at me and said, “Thank you mummy.” To which I replied “For what?” and her sweet response was, “ You listened.”

Well that did it. I was emotionally gone, tears were just pouring down my face and I grabbed her up and held her. Then I stood up, took Rian while holding Tiva’s hand and we walked inside together.

When people heard this story and saw the video they were so moved they too started listening to their children more, knowing their children too could make a difference. They even went as far as to start a foundation called “Kids 4 Earth”, which is now part of the United Nations global 500. http://www.kids4earth.org/index.html click on “Tiva’s Sacred Grove”

From the mouths of babes, God Bless them all.

From one proud Mummy.

xxx

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area#Wildlife

On our second night at the Ngorongoro crater, we were celebrating a wonderful time. We had seen splendid game that day, close encounters with Elephant, wonderful Lion, Lioness and cubs, and cheeky monkeys who tried to share our food. We even spotted tourist, something we do at times for fun! Spot which country they are from. Amazingly enough they all have their own quirks. At one point, we had spotted some lions and we were parked there having a silent giggle watching the cubs wrestle with each other and one little guy would sneak up around the back of his mum and then pounce on her and think this was the funniest thing he had ever done! Mum would feel this thump on her back and then roll over and put a paw on his head, at one point she pulled him in to her with her massive paw and pinned him down lovingly and started to lick him all over, the little guy just lay there looking like a drowned rat! Too cute.

Then the loud tourist came, the driver politely drove up, and then unleashed his clients on all our serenity. They were loud Europeans, I am sure they had no inner voice barometer, even the lions who are used to being on stage, sat up! We looked at them, with kind smiles but slanted eyes! The driver put his head down and raised his hands in the air palms up and shrugged apologetically.

He didn’t know we were from East Africa, must have thought we were tourist too. So you can imagine the look on his face when Tanyth spoke to him in Swahili and asked him “tafadhali utaweza kuu mumbia hawa ma punda kuu nyamazia”, although with a bit of a teenagers twist of language, translation: Please would you ask your car full of donkeys to be QUIET! We all quietly cracked up laughing, even the other guide did. Then he turned to the back of his mini van and explained to them that they should lower their voices. They did and we waved to them in appreciation. The guide in the Europeans vehicle smiled at us as we drove off.

David our driver had a great sense of humour and thought we were all bonkers, but enjoyed being with people who also do safari, we laughed all day telling animal stories and of sightings we had in our pasts. There were a few animals between us that we had not seen in a while or ever. Anteaters, Giant Forest Hog, Large Python and a few others.

We were back at the camp and had a huge roaring fire and full tummies, although not fed by the Over-Lander this time, I had treated the girls to dinner at a nearby lodge.

We were full of laughter this night and being a bit silly, playing games and singing songs and joining us were the staff from the Over –Lander Truck. Their clients had gone off to their own fires and made it clear they wanted to be left alone.

The stories were amazing and funny from all sides and we started imitating different animal sounds to see who had the best imitation. Again much laughter followed. It was about 2am when most of us decided to go to bed. With hugs all around and shared appreciation between us all, I excused myself. About 30 minutes later, I was sound asleep. A little later in the night I was woken up by our driver David, tapping on my tent. I woke up thinking this was a joke that was being carried on from earlier and played along. “Yes, what’s up?” David Said “Tana, I have a Giant Forest Hog in my tent (Adult giant forest hogs can weigh between 300lbs to 600lbs and have very impressive sized tusks, and we had just been talking about how I hadn’t seen one in years and would love too)!” I broke out in laughter, thinking this is a good one, never heard that before! I laughed and told him to go to sleep and that was a good one! He walked away. I didn’t hear any ruckus or screams, so was convinced it was just a joke especially since he was casual about it.

In the morning, I woke to the beautiful sunrise and crisp air. I got dressed for the day. I climbed out of my tent to see who else was up. It was fairly early still, except for the Over-Lander staff, whom I waved to.

I walked over to our Land cruiser to get some supplies, only to see our driver sleeping in the back. I threw my hand up to my mouth in shock, as there could only be one reason he was in there and it wasn’t because it was more comfortable. I ran over to his tent and saw the entire front of his tent was torn to shreds and all his stuff was askew. I felt horrible, as I knew instantly that the poor man was indeed scared out of his own tent by a Giant Forest Hog. I seriously had thought it was a joke when he came to me that night.  And because he didn’t make much of it, I didn’t think twice about it till now! I turned around and he was standing there.

“Oh David, I am so sorry, I had no idea you were being serious last night! Please forgive me, are you ok?” He laughed and said “yes, but I thought you were some big animal trainer and stuntwoman who would come to my rescue!!!” I looked at him and he busted out in huge laughter, I joined him.

He then said, “it was pretty scary trying to get out of my tent while he was trying to get in, I had to throw all the apples and oranges at him, I think he liked that part!”  I could visualize this scene immediately and I started to laugh with him at this point, then remembered when we had come back yesterday that we had dropped off food supplies at his tent and we all had forgotten to put them in the vehicle before we went to bed. We were in the wrong, as you never leave food out, but this was thankfully a lesson well reminded with out anyone getting hurt, except of course our tent.

xxx

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I decided to take my daughters and Tiva’s best friend Tanyth (whom I call my adopted daughter, she lives here with her Father, Step Mum and three Brothers) and Seb (a son of a friend who was visiting from the UK) on safari to Ngorongoro Crater ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area) in Tanzania one summer. We all piled in to our old beige Land Cruiser and set off on the road with water, sodas, bitings, music and plenty of excitement.

We set out that day around noon and drove in to Arusha that early evening. This would normally be about a four hour drive, but we were delayed at the boarder because Seb forgot his passport and we had to send him back to Karen with my driver to get his passport and ID. We had to leave them there with money in their pockets to grab a bus back to Nairobi while we carried on on our own. Seb took a bus the next day to Arusha and we collected him at the hotel where we were staying.

There are many stories to tell while we were on this amazing holiday, but the one I am going to tell for now is about what happened when we were camping at the crater itself.

We hired a driver in Arusha to drive us to the crater, as I had never driven there before. We unloaded our gear and put up our tents. We hit the mother lode when we saw an overlander (these are the big trucks that take 15 plus people all together on safari, I call them cattle trucks) pulling up just below where we had set up, this meant they could cook food for us if they felt like it. As there were always leftovers after feeding their guests.

We made friends right away with the driver, guides and cook from the overlander and negotiated a deal as their smaller vehicle had broken down and all their firewood was in it, which lead to our good fortune, as we said we would collect dry wood for them if they fed us. As they were exhausted from a grueling drive and breakdowns along the way they happily agreed. We happily obliged.

After about an hour of collecting wood we started a fire for them and piled up the remaining wood.

My daughter Savanah had been watching how to fire dance via Zoe – Zoe, my friend Dawn’s (the Goddess) daughter, had been learning and Savanah had been watching her and started teaching herself. I had not allowed Savanah to light them for at least a month until I saw she wasn’t hitting herself and Tanyth had been fire dancing for years and convinced me Savanah was ready to light them up. That night was going to be her first time fire dancing with fire!

A few of the people that had arrived with the overlander where not at all the friendliest of sorts, they were loud, disruptive and judgmental of the fine crew who were looking after them and showed no appreciation of where they were. They were also complaining that they had not seen an elephant and blamed it on the guide.

It was dusk and the beautiful orange and red sky was getting darker by the second, Tanyth decided Savanah was ready to light up and give it a go! We were all so excited for her and sat on the lawn and awaited her debut.

With all the grace Savanah possesses she lit up and started to dance in amazing unison with the fireballs blazing by her head. I was so proud of her and we were all clapping and cheering her on.

The not so nice clients of the overlander were sitting nearby and started making very rude comments of how dangerous it was to let a child do that, loud enough to make sure that I could hear. We all ignored them and kept our attention on Savanah who after about 4 minutes was finished performing and smiling from ear to ear. Just around this time and before it was completely dark, I looked up and pointed towards the bush about 20 yards from us, walking out of the bush was this massive six ton male elephant. If I had not been sitting where I was I would not have heard him as he was in stealth mode. By his movement we could tell that he knew these grounds very well and knew exactly where he was going.

The girls looked at me and said should we tell the mean people? I just smiled and said if they are meant to see him they will. We all just sat there and looked on at this magnificent creature for about 5 minutes, moving so gracefully along the path as he then disappeared back in to the bush.

It was one of those moments where you felt blessed to be alive and in the presence of Mother Nature. The mean people never saw him, as they were to busy complaining to one another.

Savanah has been fire dancing for several years now and has been asked on numerous occasions to perform at events through out Nairobi. I am so proud of her.

God Bless and Best Wishes to everyone!

xxx, T

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Hello Beautiful People, Below I have posted my future Son-in-laws (Eddie) Camp Questions and Answers. I found this to be hysterical, as it is so true. Please know his answers are how most of us in this field would like to answer our guest after living in the bush 3 months straight, answering the same questions for the 400th time , but we are all very professional and have to keep these thoughts to ourselves. Maybe those of you who are coming to visit this amazing country in the future will have many of your questions answered here. If you would like to add some questions, please do, I will be more then happy to answer any questions on camp life, safari or life in Kenya for you in a professional manner, I promise. Hope everyone not in this field can appreciate the humor in the below Question and Answer statements. Huge Hugs to everyone, Tana

Why don’t lions just jump in the vehicle and eat you?

Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, lions are not on a mission to consume all human life. In fact wherever possible they would rather avoid you. It is they that view us as a threat and will, in most cases, run away if they can. They largely ignore you in a vehicle because they see the car as a barrier if you will: you are safely inside your cage and can therefore can do no damage to them. You are not seen as meals on wheels.

Can we get out and take photos with the lions?

Sure, why not? You’ve signed your waiver and release form and obviously have no understanding of the term ‘WILDlife’ so go ahead and I’ll write up a report for the Darwin Awards.

Can elephants run?

The common answer to this is no. However, running is far more complicated than simply having all your feet off the ground at one time and involves things like transfer of kinetic energy in the limbs. Recent study shows that when elephants travel at full speed they somehow manage to run and walk at the same time, in fact they run with their front legs and walk with their back, or the other way round according to some. Basically scientists can’t agree so I don’t know, but what you need to know is that they will easily outrun/walk you whichever way they do it.

Why is it raining?

This involves all sorts of complicated things about weather systems and such, but by your tone of voice I deduce you are implying that I am somehow responsible for this unseasonable downpour. You’re right of course, I apologise, I do control the weather and chose this moment for it to rain so you could sit there and give me grief.

Will we get to see alligators in the river?

(Sigh) No we do not have alligators in Africa; they exist solely in the Americas. What we have here are crocodiles. I could explain the difference but you will forget it so I won’t bother, just accept that there is one.

Are there snakes here?

There are snakes just about everywhere except Antarctica although for some reason they couldn’t quite tolerate Ireland either. This is Africa, this is the bush so yes there are snakes. You are unlikely to see any but they exist and no they are not all waiting to ambush you.

What about spiders?

Ditto, except for the Ireland bit, you’re not safe there either.

Would the lions come into the tent?

No, and sleeping next to the zip won’t put you in a more dangerous position. Even if they did want to eat you their grasp of the zip mechanism is fairly limited.

What do we do if there’s a lion outside our tent?

Be very polite, laugh with and not at, remember to say please. No, just stay put. It will leave, especially after hearing your scream.

We saw a jaguar in a tree

No you did not. I’ll make this clear: jaguars – South America; leopards – Africa… and Asia as well but let’s keep it simple.

Is this local beef/chicken/lamb/vegetables/fruit?

Why yes; Kenya is surprisingly capable of producing its own food and it tastes great. Actually the veggies you purchase from your local supermarket are most likely from here too so it should make you feel right at home.

How does your cook come up with these meals?

I’ll ask him, I suspect it’s magic.

How does one approach the Maasai?

They’re people; treat them as such and the outcome will be wonderful.

Do the Maasai still kill lions?

Not legally.

But does that mean…

No comment.

What would your askaris do if a lion walked into camp?

Would the answer to this question make you feel any different about your stay here? If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then they would chase them away fearlessly. If your answer is ‘no’ then nothing.

How bad is malaria?

Bad, but not that bad. Quick treatment and you’ll get over it pretty quickly, but given that you’d probably only develop symptoms back home where a diagnosis would require a ‘tropical disease’ specialist, I’d say keep taking your Malarone.

Why are the lions roaring?

Despite what you’re feeling they are not planning an all-out killing spree on the camp. Roaring is simply communication between pride members, however bowel-loosening the sound may be.

Is the Maasai language a different dialect to Swahili?

They are entirely different languages with no connection whatsoever, and while we’re on the subject there is no such language as ‘African’, just because I speak Swahili it does not mean I can understand Zulu.

We want to see a leopard.

So do I. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Unfortunately they’re a bunch of divas and are very picky about when they show themselves. You’ll just have to hope and deal with it if you aren’t lucky enough to see one.

Can we see Shakira?

Big Cat Diary naming animals is a pain in the rear. Shakira is as special as the next cheetah and so be happy to see any at all. Alternatively I could tell you than any cheetah we see is Shakira and there’s very little you can do to prove me wrong.

How do you find your way around here?

It’s not an innate skill, I’ve been here a long time. Drive around enough and anywhere will become familiar – I don’t know why people find this incredible. I couldn’t begin to find my way around London but you can, because you’ve been there for years. The Maasai don’t have inbuilt GPS, they’ve lived here their whole lives. Are you getting my point?

I can’t quite get my camera to…

That’s because you went and bought an overly expensive piece of equipment that you haven’t the first idea how to use and can’t be bothered to read the instruction manual. It’s highly unlikely that this trip will turn you into a wildlife photographer extraordinaire, so why not get something simpler and more familiar that you can at least use instead of spending half your holiday trying to figure out why the photos are blurry.

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As for the ex-landlord, he has agreed to pay some money, but not all. And it appears that he can hold me to a quote I sent him via email, but I can not hold him to an email I was sent acknowledging what I am owed for the fencing I put up! Hmmm… So, still up in the air, this is exactly how everything goes in Kenya, slow, very, very slow! If anyone ever needs to learn patience they must come to Kenya to live.

Now for the Kenyan story: My future son in law to be, Eddie, was on a job and driving back from upcountry with his driver, Steven. They were on a notoriously bad road. The driving in this country is the worst I have ever seen, and I have traveled to many 3rd world counties. You must always be so careful when over taking here, it is how many people die as although there are laws, the only laws that seem to apply are the individuals’ own laws in his or her head.

Steven was behind a matatu (public minibus transpiration) and the matatu was behind a Bus. The matatu had his indicator on to over take the Bus, he started to pull out only to pull back in and start to go off the other side of the road, looking as if he had a passenger ready wanting to get out. Steven started to accelerate to then over take the bus, when out of no where the matatu came back into his lane and side swiped Steven and Eddie, then the matatu speeds up and starts to leave the scene.

Eddie suggest to Steven that he will just take the license plate number and they can report it! Steven would have nothing to do with this as quite rightly number plates are often not registered or are just fake, so they proceeded to chase the matatu. Eddie was now on a white-knuckle ride of his life and thinking, “Oh my this is not for me.” Eddie kept asking Steven to stop as it wasn’t worth their lives, but Steven was holding to his resolve on this one. No one in his mind would get away with crashing in to the company car! And he knew, as we all do, most companies will take the damage out of your salary or fire you!

Steven was now right behind this matatu and they were in a part of town no one wants to be in, Eddie was now saying his prayers and Steven was hell bent on getting his man!

Finally the matatu had cornered him self in a back alley somewhere which was blocked off and he had no where to go!

Steven jumps out of the car and runs over to the matatu, unbelievably the owner of the matatu was also in it! After many words in Kikuyu, Steven is now pulling the owner out of the matatu by his shirt! And drags him in to the car and throws him in it! Eddie was standing outside while all this was happening in case Steven need back up, so when the owner was thrown in, Eddie got in next, then Steven got back in the car!

They were now on their way to the police station. They arrived dragged this man out and walked in the station. They filed their report and justice was served up a platinum platter!

Steven was satisfied, Eddie was still in a bit of shock, but all ended well and Steven job was secured.

This is not normally what we do, but then again, it is not normal to have an African that would rather die then let someone get away with breaking the law! Well Done men.

Hope everyone has a great week. xxx

Thank you Eddie for approving your story for my BLOG! Mwah xxx

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