Exposed to Africa at Age Nine

My love of travel has always been rooted with my family. My father was always travelling everywhere for work, and he would come back and tell me stories about where he got to go. I was so jealous of my older sister, who sometimes accompanied him on trips. Imagine my shock when dad decided on my 8th birthday that I was “a big kid now” and was ready to go on my first travel adventure – A Kenyan safari.

South Africa Safari - Djuma Game Reserve - Sabi Sand - Kruger National Park

After a heavy dose of taunting my sister, who was taken to Disneyworld to soften the blow, Dad and I were off on a plane from Philadelphia to Kenya. There was a stop in Amsterdam, but I was too small to enjoy it then.

The plane into the Kenyan Airport felt like it was the size of a mini-van, and it rattled and shook almost as much. After landing, a driver took dad and I into the city. The sweltering savannah heat was too much for my little-kid frame, and I passed out the instant we got to our room, not even noticing that my bed was essentially a wooden bench.

Because of my love for animals, I was psyched to go out into the wilderness and see these creatures on their home turf. The vehicle we rode in reminded me of a cross between a tank and a school bus. Dad let me use his expensive binoculars as we approached the watering hole, and I spotted a pride of lionesses feeding on a carcass several hundred yards away. I was shocked by the sheer size of the elephants and how loud the zebras were as we approached the watering hole.

But what surprised me the most were that there were hundreds and hundreds of birds everywhere, covering trees and hitching rides on elephants. My dad put his arm around me as we watched the African Sunset, Lion-King-Style, and told me that I was growing up fast, and to take in all I could while I can. That was when I knew that I was going to see the world.

This post is sponsored by Steppes Travel. A Botswana safari

holiday offers some of the greatest destinations for secluded and off the beaten track safaris, from the lily-dappled waters of the Okavango Delta to the salt pans of Makgadikgadi.- call one of our experts, many of whom are former safari guides, for more advice.


Jason Bartoli
Jason Bartoli

"Jason is the best person you'll ever meet here. He's just a ray of sunshine. An adventurer, businessman, and has a 4.9 Uber rating. Lovely person inside and out. I say, go message him" - My Mom

View stories