Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

April 15, 2015
kenya, tanzania, travel
Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

Going on a safari in Africa had always been one of my biggest dreams. Not only is it the ultimate bucket list item, but as an animal lover I’d always wanted to see all those exotic African animals in their natural environment. Actually booking a safari had always seemed so daunting though; where do I begin, which country do I go to, and how do I find a reputable safari operator?

Now, thanks to safaribookings.com, those questions are more easily answered, but a few years ago when I booked my trip that website was not up and running yet. Fate, however, stepped in and decided that I should not wait any longer for my African safari experience and dropped in my lap at the same time a love for Big Cat Diaries which is filmed in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and a Groupon offer for an African safari in Kenya.

I didn’t even hesitate. I knew it was time. I had to go on this safari.

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

I grew up watching nature shows on television, which showed herds of antelope and buffalo on the African savanna, running from predators like lions or cheetahs. I knew what the Maasai Mara in Kenya looked like and what kinds of animals I would see there from watching those shows, but nothing could prepare me for what it felt like to actually be there. It’s immense size and the beauty of the landscape and the animals in their natural habitat cannot fully be appreciated through a television screen.

Rarely have I ever felt so removed from modern life and more connected to the natural world.

All the jeeps and safari vans from the various tour groups left the tourist lodges at the same time for our morning game drives, but as we left we all went different ways on the dirt roads that wind through the massive national reserve. Within 10 minutes, we could no longer see any other vehicles. We were just one lone jeep driving through endless wilderness amongst herds of wild animals. We could drive for hours without seeing another vehicle, safari lodge, or any other sign of human presence. Rarely have I ever felt so removed from modern life and more connected to the natural world. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

During one such game drive, our driver took us to a stone pillar standing alone in the middle of the vast green savanna. It marked the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It was where these grassy plains became the Serengeti instead of the Maasai Mara. Our driver parked the jeep and told us we could get out, one of the few times when we were allowed outside of the jeep while out on game drives. We all took turns taking photos of ourselves next to the pillar. When it was my turn, on a sudden impulse, I jumped on top of the pillar and chose to occupy both countries at once.

I felt both large and small at the same time. Here I was, sitting on this pillar, with my body taking up space in two different countries at the same time. Yet as I looked all around me, all I saw was wide-open plains of grass, some trees and animals a safe distance away, and above me the endless sky. There was no hint of modern civilization for as far as I could see, aside from our safari jeeps. I felt so tiny in this vast space.

There was no hint of modern civilization for as far as I could see, aside from our safari jeeps.

There was a hyena, which I had noticed when we parked the jeeps. He was in Kenya at that time, but when I saw him again as I sat atop the pillar, I noticed he had walked across into Tanzania. Did it matter? Was he even aware of it? No. Did it matter that I had walked across the Kenyan border into Tanzania even though I only had a Visa for Kenya, and not Tanzania? No.

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

As I sat there in both countries at the same time, watching the hyena walk away from me further into Tanzania, I realized these borders are truly arbitrary. We humans have invented them as a way to organize ourselves into different groups, but actually we are all the same.

We are all people, animals taking up space on this beautiful planet. We have created invisible borders for ourselves, along with rules for crossing those borders, but I won’t let that stop me from seeing every bit as much of this planet as I can. And out there in the middle of the African savanna, amongst wild animals who don’t recognize the borders we humans have created, you can throw the rules to the wind. You won’t need a Visa to take a few steps into another country. Just make sure those hyenas don’t come too close.

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

 

Top photo credit: David Berkowitz / Two Countries, One Planet: The Invisible Border

About Heather Hanson

Heather HansonHeather Hanson lives in Brooklyn, NY. She spends her 9 to 5 hours as a technical designer in the fashion industry. When not traveling, she spends most of her free time planning her next adventure. She is also a blogger/ freelance writer, amateur photographer, and hopeful nomad.

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