Have you ever just sat in silence and listened to the noise surrounding you?
It is almost as if the world engulfs you in marvelous music that has a special way of amalgamating together. Yet, only some of us can hear it – the others… well, they are too busy to listen.
I’m sitting in our team van approximately 15 feet away from 3 rhinos, listening to the deliberate chomp of hay, bite after bite, interspersed with their steady breathing (Yes, you read this correctly). The stunning beginning of this adventure was calm and peaceful, yet the lack of daring music and movements (excitement, perhaps?) about put me to sleep. Then things got interesting.
I begin my own beat against the glass windshield to liven the mood in typical Drew fashion. The rhinos chomped. Drew banged, ting, ting, bang. Chomp, bang, ting, ting, bang…chomp. Before I knew it, one particularly grumpy guy joined the fun and began scraping his massive back leg against the dirt each bang, ting, ting, bang I completed. I continued. And continued.
Chomp, bang, ting, ting, bang, SCRAPE. Chomp, bang, ting ting, bang….. This time no scrape occurred. Then it happened.
Suddenly, this 5,000 pound beast whips around, as if I am the source of all his childhood pain. He thrusts his head forward and takes two beastly steps directly toward the van. Surely, he was not going to charge at us, or was he?
By now, my scared thermometer is a little on the high side as my heart rate increased. My teammates are screaming and attempting to throw punches at me for just adding music to the world. My driver hightails it away as if he is the get-away car in a high-speed chase. Everyone’s eyes are wide, except for Mr. Rhino who stared us down until we drove over the hill.
Soon we were safe. Everyone checked their pants, and we continued the adventure.
Welcome to Japan’s African Safari: one of the few places in the world where humans are in cages and animals roam freely.
One recent day off, I took a trip out of the city and over the mountains with a few of my teammates to experience this adventure first-hand. The rolling hills were beautiful. The crisp air was refreshing (until you came upon a horrible-smelling animal). And the experience was unforgettable.
The safari was set up where visitors could drive their own car through and see all the animals. Afterwards, we loaded up in a caged van stocked with meat and vegetables to feed the hungry creatures. Up close and personal.
The creatures roamed about majestically. Cheetahs pranced around playing a game of hide and seek. Lions walked slow and cocky as if they could smell the fear of everyone sitting in the caged truck. The elephants shook the earth as they gathered their babies around a watering hole. Tigers sat undisturbed, looking like Miss America pageant winners knowing their true beauty. Flocks of deer flooded the eating areas as the zebras began to make me dizzy. Giraffes looked as if they had zero testosterone as they ate their dainty leaves. The camels leaned over hump-backed as their lips did the shimmy singing happy hump day. Every time I turned my head another animal would appear. The safari stretched on for miles and miles.
I have the chicken breast, filet mignon, potatoes, carrots, leaves, and camel feed sitting in my lap. As we round the corner, we are instantly greeted by a group of lions. The caged truck of humans becomes silent, and the deep breathing of the beasts causes me to lose my breath. These half-inch bars are the only thing that is keeping me from being lunch this afternoon.
I slowly grab my tongs, all the while keeping my eyes focused on the hairy face staring me down. My palms are sweating. My mind keeps having flashes of my hand and arm being ripped to shreds from venturing too close to the bars. His head is full of scars – bits and pieces of his face missing. The other lions roam around the truck looking for the more steak, yet this big fellow wants mine…. Pronto. He lets out a little grumble that is deeper than any Barry White song could have dreamed of reaching. Fumbling, I tong my steak and thrust it through the bars. Instantly it is gone. Completely devoured. I hold on to the tongs with fierce determination as the lion tries to bite through the metal. His teeth are old and yellowed, and his gums black and pink. I am captivated and lean in just a bit to have a closer look.
My heart hits the floor. The whole truck full of people stop dead in their tracks. My ears ring. My teammates grab each other as if we are all going to die together.
One beast had just stolen another beast’s dinner on the other side of the truck, and he made sure to tell the whole world what had happened.
The sound was so majestic, so deep, so fierce, even ear-tingling. Sure, we were scared and paralyzed for a moment, yet at the same time, it was beautiful music.
Daniel in the Lion’s Den has a completely new meaning for me now. The roars from a den of lions alone would have 80% of the population pass out from fright. (I really wanted to use the word scaredom.)
Soon, we continued on our safari, enjoying the “meat and greet” with numerous other animals. The elephants’ strong trunks wrapped tightly around my potatoes, and their eyes gazed softly into mine as if to say “thanks bud.” The giraffes looked like Eiffel towers and ran quirkily to come slurp up the leaves and carrots with their long tongues.
The sounds around me continued to join forces almost in a crescendo, making melodies of their own. I sit quietly in awe, admiring the beauty God has created.
Lions, tigers, and rhinos… oh my! In Japan, of all places.