Science, Tech & Environment

This is how close we got to the King of the Jungle

Lion close up_crop.jpg

Credit: George Nganga

The following is a listener submitted Geo Quiz. If you have an overseas travel adventure or experience to share, put it in the form of a quiz and email it to theworld@pri.org.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Hi! My name is George Nganga. I live in Kyle, Texas, though I am originally from Kenya. I listen to The World on KUT-Austin, Texas.

Name the geographical formation that stretches the entire length of Kenya, from north to south of Kenya, and on which the great migration of the Masai Mara takes place.

Millions of wildebeest cross into the Masai Mara and have to get cross the Mara River, where the hippos in the water are looking for a meal and the crocodiles are looking for a meal. The wildebeests have to cross, and survive, so that they can find greener pastures. 

So can you name the Earth formation that spans Kenya?

The answer is the Great Rift Valley.

The Great Rift Valley stretches in the north from Lebanon and all the way south to Mozambique. But it's that section of the Rift Valley that crosses Kenya where there is so much going on — mountains, active volcanos, and lakes, including Lake Turkana and Lake Nakuru.

I took one of my sons, Watson, and I took my wife, Lilie,  and we went to my village in central Kenya, but everyone who goes to Kenya wants to go to the Rift Valley for a tour. My son wanted to see the lions, zebra and giraffes because he had an idea of them growing up in America from watching the animated movie Madagascar. So did my wife.

We were driving around Lake Nakuru and we had actually seen a female lion perched on a tree. Then we took a different path because I know the place. I actually spent a lot of time there, and right as we took a turn, my sister spotted a male lion, so we made a u-turn and the lion came from the grass and stood right on our path — an amazing feeling.

Facing a lion, whether its the first time or the ninth time, always gives you that excitement, that you are face-to-face with the King of the Jungle.

He was very uninterested in us. You can see how close he was behind our car.

I tried to imagine that he was as little interested in us as a cat is to milk in a carton, but once the milk gets out of the carton, then the reaction is different. So we didn't dare get out of the car.

It was such a scene to see the lion up close, especially in the wild.

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