I could cry – I’ve hugged an elephant. I’ve walked with a lion’s tail in hand, and swam in Devil’s Armchair nearly spilling over the edge of Vic Falls. I’m not a daredevil. In fact, I am afraid of heights (though that doesn’t stop me from climbing the highest whatever in the vicinity). But all these were calculated risks, with tamed animals and lifeguards controlling my every move even in the shallowest of waters.
Now I’m having trouble deciding how highly may I allow myself to cherish these “tame” experiences. My heart certainly wasn’t on the verge of leaping out of my chest when I first felt the rough fur on the neck of a lioness, nor was it when she singled me out as the smallest one of the group and wanted to play with me, but it almost did leap out when I stood between two huge ivory tusks and wrapped my arms around an enormous, nothing-else-like-it trunk, and felt a storm begin above my head as the elephant flapped its ears.
Have I also gotten dangerously close to wild animals? The kind that could kill me in a blink of an eye? Certainly, and tourists on safari probably have captured me on film numerous times as I move in for the “kill” – climb, crawl, and inch to position myself for the best camera angle.
While the “high” I get from getting as close as possible to a truly wild animal is nothing like the breathtaking experience of visually and physically embracing every single wrinkle and eyelash on a truly magnificent creature, either kind of encounter is so humbling and so incredibly precious, I want time to stop moving.