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  • Megan Zavaglia

What not to do when your safari jeep breaks down in the Serengeti

It was a sunny and warm afternoon. The breeze was blowing and the grasses were shifting like waves on the ocean. It smelled like the Earth.

Muridy’s head was under the hood of the car. I had been asked to “lookout” for anything that may come out of the grass. Like a cheetah, or a lion.

This was my eighth or ninth day on safari and our “jeep” had decided to take a break. Or break down, however you’d like to see it. At that moment I liked the phrase “take a break” because break down meant we were stuck, in the Serengeti, out of radio range.

Let me back up a bit.

My name is Megan Zavaglia and I have an absolute passion for travel. I love getting out of my comfort zone, going to new places and learning about new cultures. I have my parents to thank for that – and I thank them profusely.

I want to thank you for reading my initial blog post and I hope that you will return for more of the stories. I have more adventures than I can count and I literally LOVE each one of them. Those adventures are what helped to shape and create ME. I love ME, no one is like ME. I hope you love YOU and that these stories send you on some adventures that help to further define who YOU are.

We all find the things in life that we love the most. I thought it was school and doing well academically. I thought it was hanging out with my friends. Turns out it’s a passport, a digital camera and tickets to somewhere amazing. (And, yes, my husband and son, but those are a given.) These are the things I love the most. What is it for you?

After driving my friends and family nuts every time I came home from a trip, I finally stopped and thought, why do I want to talk about these experiences so much? Why do I feel like I’m going to burst if I don’t share? What is it about these trips that make me just as excited to share as to go on them? And then it hit me. I want my experiences to entertain, to educate and to inspire. Simple, I’m going to love travel even more by sharing. Through this blog I’ll offer travel tips, include candid pictures and post any serious photos to the “Photography” page.

As you can tell from the title, I often get myself into some sort of trouble on my trips. I end up in awkward situations, tick off my travel partners or just plain embarrass myself from top to bottom. I hope this entertains you, I hope it makes you laugh, and I hope you want to keep on reading. Head to the landing page and sign up for my email list if you’d like to get alerts on my next post.

So, that’s how I ended up in a safari jeep in the Tanzanian Serengeti.

With my head stuck out of the top of the safari jeep I slowly made a 360 degree turn watching the grass and praying that nothing appeared behind me where I couldn’t see it. That’s the hard part of being a look-out, the possibility that you’re going to miss the one thing you were supposed to look out for because it’s snuck up behind you. I wiped my sweaty palms on my shirt. What’s the perfect pace for a lion watch?

Muridy, my safari guide and the man I had trusted with my life, was checking the engine.

The jeep had been running just fine when we had stopped to see if there was something in the road ahead. It turned out to be a false alarm so Muridy turned the key to start the jeep and… nothing. After a lot of trying the key again the energy in the car became tense. Muridy looked at me and said. “I’d like for you to watch and see if anything comes out of the grass, I’m getting out to look at the engine.” Then he opened the door.

As I said, I trusted Muridy with my life. This is the guy who scoffed at American’s with their DEET spray, after all, he’s had malaria a couple of times before and it wasn’t that bad. So, to see him look at me earnestly and say those words, “I’d like for you to watch….”, slowly and with the intent to be very clear, I took it to heart. The second thing that concerned me was that the door was open. Even for just a moment. IN the jeep, you were nothing to the animals, something of a spectator event yourself. But an open door or an exit of the vehicle in the wrong spot, and you were lunch.

I was steadfastly rotating at my post when, about 4 minutes in, out of the corner of my right eye, I saw something jump.

“Um, Muridy?” I managed to squeak out. I’m a pretty bold person and would have like to shout from the rooftops that THERE WAS AN ANIMAL OUT THERE. But, I didn’t want to look like a crazy person (this is the time to act like a crazy person, by the way) and wanted to remain calm in a sticky situation.

His head quickly shot out from around the hood. He looked me in the eye and then looked around.


“I don’t want to alarm you, but I just saw something jump up out of the grass….” I said pointing to my right.

He stepped to the side of the car. The left side of the car.

“What did it look like?”

“Small, dark brown and grey back.”

He took a deep breath and waved is hand, “That’s OK, it’s just a silver backed jackal jumping up to see what is going on.” He stepped back around the car and stuck his head back under the hood, as if it was no big deal.

I sighed in relief. OK – just a sliver backed jackal, that’s all.

I couldn’t help but smile a little as I started my rotation again. I was beginning to love this place more than I could stand it. I mean, do you know ANYONE else that has had to keep up a lion watch? Me either, and I couldn’t have been happier.

And then I panicked. What is the one thing you don’t do when your safari jeep breaks down in the middle of the Serengeti? You don’t stop watching, had the lion snuck up on me?

Next up: What not to do when pushing a safari jeep….

Travel tip #1: What to do when your safari jeep breaks down in the Serengeti?

Answer: Don’t panic, take a deep breath and keep watch. Listen to your guide and recognize you’re in Africa, things don’t always go as planned. It’s going to be OK and, you may just see a silver backed jackal.

Language: Swahili

Kwende = Stop

Lion = Simba

Cheetah = Duma

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1 Comment

Janna Brown
Janna Brown
Jun 26, 2019

Woohoo! Love this story and love that you're sharing what you're passionate about which is travel. I also love that this story is very personal and funny, and not the stereotypical, go here and see this. Travel has been a great gift to me and hopefully this blog and your books will inspire and educate others to travel as well! Very proud of you for publishing this site. Can't wait to see all the good that will come from it!!! :)

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