on safari *south africa*
Continuing our South Africa adventures…
For me, being on safari was less about capturing the best photographs and more about absorbing it into my whole body. The smells, sounds, emotions, the knowledge of our guides and the proximity to these wild animals.
I sat relaxed in the high, open Landrover, breathed in the rush of air on my face, let my eyes fall gently over the landscape and felt such privilege and joy to be there. Rather than hurting my eyes trying to spot everything, I let those with good eyesight do the searching. I felt immense gratitude for the loved ones around me who explained where to look when animals were spotted. This saved my eyes for the most important moments – the ones where I leaned forward, or turned around and curled up like a kid in my seat, my mouth hanging open or in a child-like grin, sounds of awe escaping my lips. As our group sat quietly talking and taking photos, I would try to take in the details, thinking to myself "I’m legally blind and losing more vision each year, and this is what I’m filling my memory bank with. I am so lucky!". Sometimes I still didn’t find what was pointed out to me, but I was so bowled over by how much I did see that I didn’t mind. I was warned not to expect to see everything, or indeed The Big 5. With my vision, I lowered my expectations even further, with a calm acceptance that whatever I did see would be wonderful.
I saw the Big 5 (Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, Rhinoceros and Leopard) with my own eyes!!! Memorable moments…
Danced in my seat and sang (badly) Hakuna Matata when our small plane landed on the unfenced airstrip and a family of warthogs ran along beside us. Laughed the loudest at the joke that we had reached a zebra crossing when a herd strode across the track in front of us. Relaxing moments on the African soil as we stopped for sunset drinks on our drives. Marvelled at the impala’s ability to spring so gracefully from a stand still. The look of contentment on the lions’ faces as they rested on full bellies from the day’s kill. The cracked grey skin, hairy chins and worn tusks on the old elephants and being almost close enough to touch them. Entertained by the antics, guttural noises and yawning prowess of hippopotamuses swimming in a waterhole at sunset. Choked up when our thoughtful guide took my shoulders to turn me in the right direction to face the hill over which his village was – to know he had figured out how to help me meant the world. The cute giraffes and their ungainly gait – the one that stood calmly watching us while he chewed his food, always moving his jaw to the same side. Seeing the elusive leopard and its nose twitching as he raised his head to the breeze. Sadness at the cruelty of an animal trap that had caught the leopard the week before, but relief that the work of the rangers had saved it. Symbiotic relationships between small and large animals. The groovy chameleon as he appeared to dance on our guide’s hand. The wildebeest that bucked around happily in front of us after apparently "scoring with the ladies". Correctly naming different antelopes. Fascination with the prevalence of poor eyesight among mammals and how they compensate or behave as a result. Admiration for the guides’ knowledge of animal behaviour and respect for them when a female elephant started to charge at us, and his noises stopped it.
Many times I thought to myself. This is what we live for. Travel. Love. Experiences. I’m so very grateful.