Grandparents in Mouseland



“The most exciting thing that ever happened to me,” our guide relates as we sit on a wooden terrace enjoying what’s termed as a ‘light African snack,’ “was having a rhino charge  at our truck at full speed and smash up against the front dash.”

It is a warm, breezy morning in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Mike and I have signed up (and paid extra) for a 3-hour VIP tour of this newest of Disney attractions. The Wild African Trek has had us up before dawn and in what can only be called battle gear by nine o’clock. Since then we have climbed forested paths, looked over cliffsides to watch a pod of  hippos snacking, and  crossed a swaying, gap-floored rope bridge over a half dozen (very) large crocodiles lying open-jawed in the sun.

“It was raining like mad,” our guide is saying, “and I guess the rhino thought we were poaching on his preserves.” What happened? We asked. “He stopped, we stopped, and he just walked off,” he grins. “If you are ever chased by a rhino, just stop. He figures what to do next by what YOU do. If he thinks you are not a threat, he will lose interest.”


When we first told our friends that we were going to visit Disney World without our grandchildren, their reaction was to stare at us. “You’re kidding,” our friends exclaimed. “Disney has to be seen through a kid’s eyes.”

For many of the theme parks, this is true. Yesterday we wandered through the MagicKingdom and boarded a fast track pass to the Pirates Of the Caribbean whilst listening to the squeals of happy toddlers. Later, in an unseasonable cold evening, we ate at a restaurant where Pooh Bear and Eyore (my favorite character) came up to hug us and take photos with us. It was fun—but nostalgic fun, harkening back to days when we brought our own sons  to Mouseland some thirty five years ago.  Even when we caught our breath to see Cinderella’s Castle glowing  against the dark sky in winter silver and palest mauve, we were still caught up in yesteryear’s dream.

But the Animal Kingdom, though its rides and thrills are for youngsters, has an aura of its own. Today we have watched animals great and small both in their native habitats and free in those habitats. Giraffes, elegant and poised with their so-long necks and gentle faces, walk across the road without harm or hindrance; cheetahs lie carelessly asleep in the sun by the roadside, and a trio of rhinos feed peacefully in another corner of the vast savannah. And of course there were zebras as well.


“Do you know,” says our guide, “that zebra mothers, when they are about to give birth, will make sure that all other zebras stay at least half a mile away? Then, when the baby comes, she will look deeply into the eyes of her newborn. That way, she imprints on it. Zebras look very much alike, you see.”

We have heard a wealth of information today, and we have seen species that are being lost as we speak in the wild. We have watched beautiful animals that have been poached or hunted until nearly extinct. We have heard about cheetahs being saved by dogs. Cheetahs, our guide tells us, were considered predators by African farmers because they fed on their herds. To counter this, Andalusian Shepherd dogs were imported to watch and round up flocks. The big dogs scared away the cheetahs and so– “It was a win-win situation and dogs saved cats from being killed off!”

We have finished our gourmet African snacks and spend a few more minutes watching a baby giraffe playing in the sun. Then we are off  again, on a truck this time, to watch elephants grazing. Elephants, we are told, are sometimes destructive because of their size. They are discouraged from marauding by—of all things—bees! “Elephants are really scared of bees. Maybe it’s because of their  ears or trunks. Bee hives help farmers by giving honey, too,” our guide remarks as the big elephant tosses dust over its great gray flank.

By the time we are finished with our morning’s adventure, we are tired and happy and wiser than we were before. For though this enormous expanse is given to fun and pleasure, it is also a place for thought and contemplation of the environment, of the richness of our planet, and of our place in that vast and forever turning circle of life.

“We don’t say goodbye, in Swahili,” we are told as we thank our guides. “We say kwaheri, which means, ‘go well.’”




About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

9 responses »

  1. Really, a great mini safari! I loved the giraffes. So graceful, so elegant… and did I mention the antelopes with the corkscrew antlers who are white in the spring so gradually turn brown through the year?? Thanks for enjoying it with me, Linda!

  2. Dear Maureen,
    I love reading your blog posts. They are filled with fun and information. Thanks for sharing the picture of the giraffe. I love giraffes and their long graceful necks. I’m glad you had an exciting time in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Fascinating information the guides shared with you. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Celebrate you
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    • Thank you for reading, Joan! Really, it was an exciting trek. I will never forget the swaying, gap-planked rope bridge that passed directly over the crocodiles!! Nor will I ever be the same again after riding The Tower Of Terror!!

  3. Dearest Maureen,

    we never shared your wonderful African voyage in Disneyland tour last quilt meeting. so i just caught up with your facebook page and saw you had it posted there. and thus i got to share your adventure this eve. nov. 24th. and i was so stunned by your visit to see wild africa adventure. and the serendipity of that book i was describing to you just yesterday in my email to you. Remember ” Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck.
    Her big adventure is going on many Safari’s in Africa being a part of a renewal of the wilds of africa. mostly in central Africa, i think.
    she takes people there to see the renewal of this land by a dedicated group of people who want to bring the sanctuary of a peaceful kingdom of wild animals and a renewal of the land itself.The dutch worked the land too death when they were colonizing that area and during Apartheid . and the Springbok ( sp) an animal that sounds a bit like the kangaroo in Australia… was killed off almost to extinction. ( I understand from Margaret. M. that the soccer team in Africa is named for that animal springbok ….her, M/ Beck,s description of her experiences is worth getting the cd just to hear her delight in her interactions with those animals.
    i remember you saying you could not go to Africa. because of the inoculations you would have to take. and that was not possible for you to do.
    So do get this cd and listen to her tails of her adventures.
    it might be the next best experience since your visit to Disneyworld Wild Africa.!

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