I am out of Africa.

Drew and I have just returned from a month of traveling the continent of Africa and — oh — what we saw and experienced!

Will you ever forget that magnificent Academy Award winning movie, "Out of Africa," with its breathtaking cinematography retelling the true story of famed author Isak Dinesen and her life struggles trying to make a coffee plantation viable in the wilds of Kenya? The lush landscape, herds of magnificent beasts running free and, of course gorgeous, young, Robert Redford wooing the incomparable Meryl Streep. It was simply glorious.

While our trip caused me to miss the announcement of the nominations for the Academy Awards this year, I didn’t miss visiting the site of Karen Blixen’s coffee plantation immortalized in that film in Nairobi, Kenya.

And who could forget the aerial scenes from the movie following tremendous herds of great beasts across the African plains?

We did not see tremendous herds, it’s not the migration season. We did, however, see lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, zebra, giraffes and so many other animals, far too many to list. I had a majestic male lion stroll within a foot of me on his way following a herd of impala. “My” leopard was less than two feet away and Drew and I had two giraffes literally eating out of our hands.

I promised a shout out to the great folks at Ngala game reserve, a truly fabulous spot with the best guides ever, not to mention beautiful accommodations and a staff any Ritz or Four Seasons hotel would be proud to employ. Want a great safari experience? Check out Ngala!

But there were other sights I wish we hadn’t seen. Kruger National Park, home to thousands of these animals (which, by the way, is as large as Portugal) has been plagued by such drought, the water so scarce, many of the animals are drinking mud. And in most every country we visited, village after village throughout the continent were so impoverished, it literally hurt my heart.

We then sailed around the Cape going from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indian Ocean and the blackest night sky I had ever seen formed the backdrop for the most amazing array of stars imaginable. The oceans were shiny, midnight blue and there were dolphins rising and spinning in greeting. There were groups of hippos partially submerged and crocodiles lazing by the water’s edge seeking respite from the heat.

No phone service, no TV, no newspapers, no internet.

So, when we returned, I couldn’t believe that I had missed the State of the Union address. I missed the Academy Awards’ nominations, for the first time in my personal modern history, with all of the uproar about a lack of minority nominees. I even missed a couple of debates and all of the political news coverage with which I am usually obsessed — and you know what? It was great!

My guess is that my passion for politics and the movies will return in force for I am out of Africa — but Africa is not out of me.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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