As featured on Conservation Journal.
A lilac-breasted roller glides gracefully through the air. Near the riverside, a weary leopard opens his eyes ever so slightly from his resting place on a tree trunk at the sound of a squawking red-billed hornbill below. Beyond this riverine scrub, a Maasai giraffe takes a mouthful of prickly acacia thorns while a dust devil silently spins along the horizon, stirring up perfect vortexes of soil. Here, the state of the world seems perfect- and being in and amongst it creates a very apparent sense of mindfulness.
Going on an African safari isn’t meditation as such, though it’s fair to say that the effects can be very similar: it nourishes, it enriches, it heals. There is, invariably, a sense of freedom that dawns upon you when you’re aware that you’re moving through relatively untouched land, in a vast space where millions of wild creatures roam and who call the savannah home. You realise it more when you scan the land to as far as the eye can see, taking in breathtaking fairytale-like scenes, which all transforms into a magical show during the golden hours.
Out on the plains, we’re at a heightened sense of awareness; we bring our attention to what is in front of us. Nothing is forced or artificial. We’re present, in the moment, actively feeling, experiencing. We breathe in the landscape with openness and we’re filled with awe, evoking an instant sense of peace within.
Then of course, there are the encounters with the extraordinary wildlife that wander the plains. First-time sightings are unforgettable, especially the first time you come across a wild cheetah or a pride of lions. Seeing these impressive predators in their natural territories invariably leaves many in awe, marveling at the cats’ majestic presence and distinguished beauty. We see nature’s mesmerising perfection in front of us, and we’re conscious about what is before us- a wild creature, a perfect being, free, and in a place where they belong. We gain another perspective of how things are in their completely natural and harmonious state, and we are enriched.
The savannah gifts us with incredibly diverse sounds of nature, which all have a fascinating way of showing the intricate balance of things. From the hauntingly beautiful cries of an African fish eagle echoing through the air, the low rumbles of a herd of elephant that seem to reverberate across the ground, or a yelping chorus from a dazzle of zebra, they form a complete orchestra, creating a perfect musical score that matches the astonishing beauty of the land.
As the day closes, fiery-red streaks adorn the sky, and the silhouetted acacia trees grace the foreground, while many creatures start to move around in the cooler air. Large birds of prey fly towards the trees to roost for the evening, and a quiet settles in. The moon lights up the land and billions of stars appear above, creating a magnificent tapestry of depth and sparkle. The hyena start to make their whooping calls that soothingly cut through the night air, and a lion roars. With all of nature’s splendour, it’s difficult not to imagine that perhaps, this was the environment in which we were always meant to exist: in and amongst the animals, in the wild, and being part of the land.
It’s as though every scene is a masterpiece, a work of art waiting to be seen. Once witnessed, the impact it makes on visitors is lasting- and sometimes, for life. The French call it mal d’Afrique, a malady that refers to a love and connection with Africa that leaves you longing to return for the rest of your life.
It can start off being the trip of a lifetime- but for those especially receptive to nature’s magic, and the ways it touches the soul, it becomes more than just a visit- it becomes a connection to another home.
As featured on Conjour.