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12TuesdaySeptember22014AfricansafariadreamcometrueforFortSmithboyByMEAGANWOHLBERGMostpeoplewillneverbeabletorecountthetimeanelephantpushedatreedownnexttotheirtentintheOkavangoDeltaofBotswanaorthesurprisingmomentababylionlickedthesweatoffthebackoftheirneckinSouthAfricabutTyMartenofFortSmithwillbeabletosharethosetruestoriesfortherestofhislife.The12year-oldstudentatJBTElemen-taryschoolfullledhisdreamofvisitingAf-ricaoverthesummerwithhismomMarleneEvansspending25daysinfourcountriesonsafaritoseetheanimalsofhisTVshowsandbooksupcloseforthersttime.WhenIwasreallylittleIalwayswantedtogotoAfricasaidMartenwhosemomsaidhechosethecontinentfortheirrstmajoroverseastriponhisownbecauseofhisin-terestinthewildlife.Elephantsgiraffeshipposrhinoscroco-dileszebraslionsandcheetahsallrealandwildwerejusttheclickofacameraawayfortheyoungboywhowentonseveralsafaristhroughSouthAfricaZimbabweBotswanaandSwaziland.Martenspenthis12thbirthdayinZimba-bwe-arguablyhismostmemorableoneyet.StillaskidsdohewasworriedhisspecialdaywouldgobywithoutmuchcelebrationontheedgeoftheKalahariDesert.Hewassur-prisedattheendofthedaywhenabirthdaycakewasmarchedoutofthekitchen.HewasalwayssoworriedbeforeweleftifhewasgoingtohaveacakesaidEvanswhoaskedtheguideifhecouldtalktothelodgeskitchenstaffaboutmakingsomethingforMarten.InthemiddleofthedeserttherecomesachefwithawhitehatandwhitecoatwhobringshimacakeandtheyreallsingingHappyBirthday.OhIjustgotgoosebumps.ButhisfavouriteplacetovisitwasBo-tswanawhereheandEvanstookguidedmo-koroboatsthroughtheOkavangoDeltapastwadinghipposandsunbathingcrocodiles.WegottosleepintentsinthedeltaMar-tensaid.Itwasreallynice.Therewerelotsofanimalsandinthenightyoucouldhearthehipposgruntingandthewarthogs.Andtheelephantcameandknockeddownthetreerightbesideourtent.WethoughtitwasastormoutsideEvanssaid.HerippedupthetreesandwasrightoutthereOtherhighlightsofthejourneyincludedridingandfeedingelephantsinZimbabweplayingwithlioncubsinSouthAfricaandvisitingVictoriaFallsthelargestwaterfallsonEarthandoneofthesevennaturalwon-dersoftheworld.ThetwoalsovisitedSowetothesouthwest-erntownshipsofJohannesburgapredomi-nantlyblackandworkingclassneighbourhoodthatwasthesiteofhistoricuprisingsagainstracializedlawsalongwiththeapartheidmuseumNelsonMandelasmemorialandareplicaofthejailcellMandelaspentmanyyearsinsideasapoliticalprisoner.ItmademeappreciatehowluckyIamMartensaidofthewholeexperience.EvanssaidMartenprovedhimselftobeagreattravelerandthetwoarealreadyplan-ningtheirnexttriptoVietnamnextsummer.NowthatIknowhesoldenoughhesgoingtotravelwithmeandweregoingtotraveluntilhedoesntwanttotravelorImtoooldEvanssaid.Twelveyear-oldTyMartenofFortSmithmakesanunexpectedfriendinSouthAfricaalioncubwhodecidedtolickthesaltoffofhisneck.Thelioncubsliveseparatelyatasanctuaryuntiltheyareoldenoughtojointheirprides.MartenandEvansgetupcloseandpersonalwithatrainedelephantinZimbabwe.TheElephantWhisperertakesMartenandEvansfortherideofalifetimeinZimbabwe.MartenvisitswithafamilyinBotswana.NORTHERNERSYOUTHPhotoscourtesyofMarleneEvans