I willed my legs to unlock at the knees and I took a step forward. It went against every instinct in my body to do so, but I told myself it would be worse to be separated from the pack. My hip was already hurting from the 3.5 hour ride to our destination, and I didn’t want to be singled out as the lone, injured mzungu by the two spotted predators eyeballing us from their shaded tree, only 50 yards away.

It played out in my head, just like a Nat Geo documentary — the narrator, a male with a deep, soothing South African accent, would introduce the characters: here, we find a not-so-uncommon mzungu, out of its natural habitat. It is a female, in her late 20s. She is too old to walk fearlessly through the tall, savannah grass and appears distracted, thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong with what she is doing. But she is also too young to stop her advance, wanting to check off an item on her bucket list. 

She continues to follow her mate, a slightly older male with a distinguishing beard. He confidently strides towards the two wild predators who have been curiously watching their approach. The mate glances back at the female mzungu to ensure she stays close at hand and does not bolt in fear — a move that would prove deadly. Soon, they will reach the predators. 

The male predator licks his whiskers, his eyes fixated on the female mzungu. His eyes miss little. Is it possible he has noticed her sore hip? But would it even matter if her hip wasn’t sore? He is the Greyhound of the Desert and can run up to 70 mph. The question is not if she could get away  it’s how many steps could she take before he reached her? 

Noticing the female mzungu’s hesitation, her mate reaches out a hand and coaxes her along. Together, they complete the distance between themselves and the cheetah couple they have journeyed to visit. Then they reach out their hands, and touch the soft spotted fur… 

african-animal-bucket-list

We spent our day off at Entebbe’s Wildlife Sanctuary with our friends, the Staples. With no OSHA regulations in Uganda, we were able to pay a few dollars extra to go “behind the scenes” and meet some of the animals face to face. 

Sweet Maelyn, age 5, was a bit perturbed that she could not go into the cheetah habitat with us, stating that she “couldn’t pet her favorite animal, because it wanted to eat her.” It was true — while we were with the cheetahs, Maelyn and her older brother Malachi had to stay away, as the wildlife workers explained that “cheetahs like little children too much.”  

Petting rehabilitating cheetahs was only one of the terrifying but awesome things we did that day. Gabriel comprised a video of our behind the scenes experience at Entebbe Wildlife Sanctuary. See if you can spot what terrified Sarah most…

Hint: it was not petting a cheetah or hand-feeding a lion... 

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