Exiting Sambutu Enkaji hut

A Father’s Day Tribute

By “Safari Mike” Appelbaum

A FATHER’S DAY TRIBUTE

This Tribute is near and dear to my heart and represents one small, yet never to be forgotten time in a life that was joyous and full. A tribute to Fathers all. I was one of the lucky ones….to have this and many other wonderful memories with my……

PAPA SAFARI

Summer 1989

It was the smallest group I’ve ever taken on safari. All friends that spent years saving up for their ultimate dream trip. Kim, Kathy, Gail, Michelle, Burleigh and of course…”Papa Safari”. Of all the participants, Papa Safari was certainly the most ready for anything. While most people look over their itinerary for their upcoming trip and choose their clothing needs accordingly, Papa Safari didn’t care.

 

Group Photo At Amboseli with Mt. Kilimanjaro
Group Photo At Amboseli with Mt. Kilimanjaro

                       

The only thing important was that he was going to Kenya for 2-1/2 weeks. Marlin Perkins, Frank Buck, Tarzan, Discovery Channel, Jungle Jim, National Geographic….all had gotten there before him, but none of them could have been more excited about it. He was ready! In fact he was more than 70 years ready.

Since he grew up in Brooklyn, the closest he ever came to any African wildlife was on pages of natural history books and magazines. Nature books would always inhabit the shelves of his home library. Many of these books would later be passed on to his first born, but that’s another whole story….

His camera was an old Nikon recently purchased at a garage sale. Just prior to the group’s departure he negotiated for a zoom lens that was so well priced he couldn’t pass it up. He knew he would put it to good use during the next 2-1/2 weeks and thankfully, it just happened to fit on ‘his new’, old Nikon.

Camera, film, binoculars, suitcase and tickets in hand, our adventurer was on his way. For the only time in almost 50 years he would be leaving his wife, Irma, at home while he was off to fulfill a lifelong dream. Lion, rhino, leopard, elephant, giraffe….endless herds of wildebeest and zebra during migration, all would soon be close enough to smell and quite literally, touch. This would be an experience that few could fully appreciate if they had not themselves been there.

 

Papa with Young Eland
Papa with Young Eland

 

During the coming days the group would waken at 5:00 am and be off on early game drives before the first rays of light appeared in the cool morning sky. Papa Safari was never late. Always up early and ready for the new day. It was my greatest pleasure to witness his excitement and energy.

At dinnertime as the group recounted the events of the day he was always animated and added his perspective. When our dinner was the “local game” he didn’t hesitate for a moment. In fact one time after trying the first piece of meat served, his comment was… “that was pretty good, what was it?” When I told him it was crocodile he immediately asked for more.

 

 

 

 

Joking with Driver Joseph
Joking with Driver Joseph

 

One of the popular stops in Kenya is a visit to either Treetops or The Ark, two lodges where you remain inside while the wildlife comes to the waterhole to drink and bathe, seemingly for your viewing pleasure. Guests can be contacted in their room at any hour of the night when one of Africa’s Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo) makes an appearance. However, the image that is so clear in my mind is that of Papa Safari at The Ark, wrapped in a wool blanket at 4:00 am in front of the main viewing area window, eyes closed with binoculars in his lap, but remaining there all night, not willing to miss a moment…just in case “something” wandered by.

 

Probably the most unforgettable day was the 2nd of August. We were in one of the most remote areas in Kenya called the Northern Frontier District. Truly perfect for a safari, it was all wilderness and wildlife. We were up even earlier than usual in order to meet my friend Adam (whom I met years earlier when he worked at one of the lodges). Adam, a Samburu, is highly respected in his tribe and he was going to lead us to his village for a very unique morning. Since the Samburu and Turkana are nomadic tribes his village is truly off the beaten path and in fact not even our local guides knew how to find it. Other than Adam, few others even spoke English, but that didn’t matter to Papa Safari, he was taking it all in…visiting every hut, playing with the baby goats, joking with the young “morani” (warriors), learning from the morani how to shoot with their bows and arrows and even witnessing the taking of blood from one of the camels (note: this does not hurt the camel, but they do drink the blood as a significant part of their diet…I bet you thought they only drank blood from cows). In addition, Papa Safari was totally fascinated by the 100+ year-old village “holy lady” and her history.

 

Papa Exiting Sambutu Enkaji (hut)
Papa Exiting Sambutu Enkaji (hut)

Upon leaving Adam and his village our little group was in a state of total awe. It was difficult to believe what we had just seen and where we had just been. What could possibly follow a morning like this…..?

Driving several hours south, our next stop was the world renowned Mt. Kenya Safari Club, made famous by one time owner, actor William Holden. Frequently seen on the old TV show (many years ago) Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, this was an exquisite contrast to our amazing morning.

Mt. Kenya Safari Club is unbelievable!  Sitting right smack on the Equator (7,000′ elevation) at the foot of Mt. Kenya, it is the epitome of old British charm and the elegance of the colonial era. Even golf and tennis on safari. Wow…really, wow! A Samburu village in the morning and 8 course fine dining in the evening. It is here that Papa Safari celebrated his 74th birthday. An amazing meal, delicious birthday cake and happy birthday sung in English, Swahili and even Chinese thanks to some delightful visitors from China….and topped off after the singing with a call from home that we were able to get “patched in” to the dining room (remember, this was back in 1989) .

 

 

 

Papa Birthday Cake
Papa with his Birthday Cake

                                                             

Yup, this was my all-time best safari. I will always have these incredible memories of my safari with my dad, Artie Appelbaum, who finally got to join me and live the life-long dream he had of going to Africa. He’s been gone for 20 years now, but seeing the images of our safari brings back all those fantastic memories.

 

Even now I can almost hear his response to a friend who once asked… “So, Artie, have you ever played golf at the Doral Country Club?

“No, but….have you ever played Mt. Kenya Safari Club?’

 

“Safari Mike” Appelbaum

14 thoughts on “A Father’s Day Tribute”

    1. Thank you, Manijeh. Even as I recall my wonderful memories I am so very aware how fortunate I’ve been. To have been raised in a loving and supportive family has not been taken for granted. Taking my dad on safari was so very special for me and even years later HE continued to talk about his experience with anyone who would listen. I guess that’s what I’m doing as well, so thanks for being one of those wonderful people who have humored ME…by listening.

  1. What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with your readers at HALLARD PRESS.

    My dad was a deep-sea fisherman who like you, found what he liked to do and did it well.
    Being the oldest son, I went with him on many excursions but unfortunately, try as I might, I was always sea-sick
    and spent much of our trips in the cabin.
    I tried eating before a trip, not eating, but nothing worked. Didn’t know if pills were available in the 40s,
    but I knew I was a landlubber, and so did he. When my younger brother was old enough he went with dad.

    1. Many people were not as fortunate as we were, Ben. I can only hope that young fathers/parents realize how important these experiences are for their children, regardless of their age. Whether the memories are from childhood experiences or as a young adult with their parent, they will be remembered many years later. Now that I’m the same age my father was when he joined me on his safari, I can truly appreciated the experience even more. It’s really a blessing to have wonderful memories….and to be able to remember them (and share them). Thanks Ben, for always being so interested and supportive.

    1. Hi Peggy. Thank you for such enthusiastic support. I know that everyone’s situation is different and there are so many factors that determine one’s ability to take a trip to Africa. If it is something that is within your ability (budget, long flight, your health, etc.) I would certainly recommend a safari, however, if not….just sit back and enjoy the amazing photography and videos being produced these days. I never miss a Nat. Geo or Discovery video if I can help it. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  2. I remember reading this last year and I enjoyed it as much today as I did last year. It’s a beautiful story and I love all the pictures of your Dad. He looked like it was the trip of a lifetime, as I’m sure it is for many people. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Bev. I’ve always said a safari is probably the most amazing trip one could take. No two days are ever the same and you’re right about it being the trip of a lifetime for most people. My dad was just as excited about it ten years later so it really was for him.

  3. Hi Mike! What a gift to see the safari I was fortunate enough to join in this tribute again. I felt the warmth and pride that you and your Dad had on that trip. Artie made everyone happy!
    My Dad, on the other hand, was at a wedding in NY when he saw the article on the ambush in the park we happened to be visiting on the same day. He got my brother-in-law, who worked for the US government, to investigate. I’m sure the wedding guests were glad to hear that it wasn’t our party involved. My Dad was a character to the very end and he told that story often.

    1. Great memory, Michelle. You are very right on all counts. You were certainly a significant member on that wonderful safari and will always be part of those memories. The incident that took place was something that brings to mind how things can happen regardless of where in the world you might be. We were very fortunate to have been sooo very close and yet avoided being involved. It just might be a story to be told in a future post. By the way, it sounds like your dad was also “one for the books.”

  4. Ginger Hadert Horn

    Mike, what a beautiful tribute to your dad!! It has made my day extra special! May your day be filled with lots of love and laughter! Miss seeing you, my dear old friend!!

    1. Hi Ginger. I’m so glad you enjoyed that story again. You are also truly missed. I hope a future “road trip” will be possible. I’d love to see how my favorite transplant from Lighthouse Point has become a real Texan. Sending you and Rusty and Lisa my regards and love.

  5. Wow Mike…you certainly brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat…how proud you must be and how envious I am that you shared that with your precious dad. No one can take these memories away. I have had some fantastic holidays with my dad…but Africa? No…that’s special. Lots of love Sandy 😀

    1. There are so many “special times” that have been shared in one’s life. It certainly isn’t necessary to be on a safari. Just the fact that you’ve had some wonderful times with your dad really says it all, Sandy. You are so right about the ownership of your memories. They are yours to keep and thankfully you’ve got some great ones, too. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings. I’m pretty much an open book about mine as well. Love, back at ya.

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