About three weeks ago there were fewer guests in camp than usual. There were therefore a handful of guides who were not taking game drives that day.
Six of us took advantage of this free-time and headed out into the bush for a walk, covering a distance of thirty kilometres and lasting ten hours.
We had a number of reasons for staying out for most of the day:
The first: Pure Enjoyment. We all wanted to explore areas of the Londolozi bushveld that we had not yet had a chance to fully appreciate on foot; areas we could not get a vehicle to; areas where many animals but only a handful of people had ever been.
We were all excited about the idea of spending this amount of time on foot. Who knew what animals we would see, what interesting tracks and signs we would come across, or even what route we would end up taking? What happened would ultimately be up to the bush and the moment.
The second reason was to gain more experience and knowledge. As many of the people reading this blog will agree with, the best way to learn about the bush and especially about animal behaviour is to spend as many hours as possible in the field, observing the wildlife.
Maintaining one’s curiosity is the surest way to stay fresh in any field.
In an area that is home to many potentially dangerous animals, we encountered a number of these on our journey.
When walking in the bush one becomes part of the greater ecosystem and hence is more vulnerable. One’s senses need to be on alert the whole time to the many sounds and signals the bush provides, in order to minimize the chances of a dangerous encounter with one of these large animals.
Over the course of ten hours we observed elephants on ten separate occasions, two buffalo bulls on another, six lionesses and a male lion on a kill (which warranted an aggressive response) and a male leopard strolling away from us, looking back for only a second at the seven men watching him in the distance.
The most significant element of the experience for me was the fact that I was walking on natural paths created by the animals themselves over the months and years, and are used, each day by countless inhabitants of this place, from bushbuck, nyala, kudu and wildebeest to lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino and elephant. It is a powerful feeling to place the soles of your walking shoes where iconic African animals have walked so many times before you.
The photographs in this post were all taken with an iPhone as a DSLR camera would have been too cumbersome an object to carry for so long; the pictures serve to show you all the many diverse landscapes we walked through as well as some of the tracks and signs we found.
The walk was a humbling experience and we all exchanged similar sentiments back at camp. Having spent many hours in the bush, us guides know how beneficial silence can be for the psyche; it allows one the space to appreciate the bush and feel gratitude. We were reminded over and over again through those hours of walking in silence, with only the natural sounds to listen to, of the privilege we are afforded in living and working out here. Being able to be in an untouched, healthy natural system each day has a palpable healing effect on the mind and body!