When you first meet me, ‘adrenaline junkie’ is not at all what comes to mind. I’d always liked the thought of doing a bungee jump or white water rafting but I never actively pursued these hobbies. However, when I travelled to Kenya in 2010 this all changed. Staying just south of Mombasa, our weekends were spent on the perfect Diani Beach. Luckily for us, a skydiving company were offering tandem skydives for around £90; stupidly cheap. Within a few minutes they had us convinced and booked in for a jump.
I toyed with what to tell my parents; sadly, they read into all the bad press Africa gets, and presumed I’d either be kidnapped or die of some tropical disease whilst I was there. How would they take the news of a skydive? I figured I would just keep it quiet; they wouldn’t have believed me had I told them anyway.
Before I knew it, we were in the world’s smallest plane with no door and the pilot was eating her lunch with one hand whilst steering with the other. On top of this, Herman, my tandem instructor, only had 3 and a half fingers; I didn’t dare ask how he came to possess so few. The actual jump was the most amazing thing I had ever done, and the high lasted for days. When I landed, I called my parents to tell them the whole story. Though shocked I’d jumped at all, they were delighted to hear that it was an actual parachute and that I had not jumped out of a plane dangling freely from a banana leaf. After this they calmed slightly, resting in the knowledge that they hadn’t produced some idiot of a daughter who would do anything for a quick adrenaline rush.
After my first year of uni, I once again headed back to East Africa, venturing further south to Tanzania with a friend. This time I promised ‘no adrenaline activities’, but seemingly in Africa these things just sort of happen. After we landed we pretty much went right to the bus station to start a journey that was supposed to take 5 hours that somehow turned into 11. About halfway into the journey, when smoke started pouring into the bus, my friend and I were sitting in the back corner frantically looking for an exit to escape from. Before we had time to find one, everyone began jumping out of the bus windows. After a few minutes of utter shock I began a) sizing up how I was going to fit out of the tiny back window and b) how I could jump down the 7ft drop with minimal bone breakage. This was the first of many situations that provided us with an natural adrenaline rush.
A week later we found a ridiculously cheap safari, but there is a reason you don’t do cheap safaris. Our driver and guide were inexperienced to say the least; they pushed the rickety Jeep to 90mph, went completely off the tracks and managed to squeeze us tightly between bushes, straight into a pack of lions. The driver commented that he’d ‘never been this close to Simba before!’ and joined us standing looking out of the non-existent roof of the Jeep. I then noticed 2 tiny lion cubs on the other side of us. Before I had time to say anything, the biggest lion had decided that he’d had enough of us blocking the view of his cubs, stood up and approached the Jeep. All it took was the lion to roar at full pelt at us and the driver scrambled back down into his seat and tried clumsily to reverse between the trees before the lion had time to jump on to the hood of the car and feast on the 5 of us. Needless to say, this experience provided the high of the week.
For a part of the world that I always associate with being so relaxing, particularly along the coastline (which has, hands down, some of the most breath-taking beaches in the entire world), it possesses an equally exhilarating quality. Be it for pre-planned adrenaline activities or a spontaneous mishap, East Africa is definitely where to head for an unforgettable experience.