Ranger James Tyrrell and I were hacking through the bush trying our best to find a leopard.
James would often cut the engine to see if he could hear any sounds that may serve as indicators as to where the leopard was.
I had never given the importance of pausing and listening that much credit, but it was something that I was learning very quickly; it is completely necessary out here in the bush. Pausing allows oneself to evaluate your surroundings and tune in to the subtle cues of the bush that may lead you to your reward. This is mirrored in life.
Out in the wilds a rookie like me may ignore the squeak of a diminutive squirrel from high up in a tree, or the cry of a hornbill, or assume that the impala that is alarming further down the ridge is just rutting. Oh little did I know that these sounds are great indicators for the art of the possible – in this case a leopard sighting.
With Jamo not being too convinced by the alarming impalas, the sudden chatter of monkeys certainly pricked his ears up. After driving in the direction of the calls, we would again turn off the engine, taking time to re-asses the sounds. After several seconds, the sudden alarm calls of Kudu and more intensified monkey barks were heard so we revved up the engine, drove towards the drainage line, and then started out on foot.
After walking through the drainage line for several minutes we paused on top of a termite mound when Jamo suddenly crouched low. He whispered to me that he had seen a white flash in the deep shadow at the base of a bush close by. We stared intently through our binoculars towards where he had seen the movement, and there, only about 30 meters away from us, was a leopard! It was lying low, flattened behind a grass tuft, hoping unsuccessfully to avoid detection.
The leopard now knew that we had spotted him, so he started walking off. More bushes moved a bit further to our right, where a rhinoceros and its calf were also passing slowly by. This was getting better and better.
Once back at the vehicle after the spectacular sighting, and after my heart rate had calmed down, I realised what I had learnt from these wild animals. More times than not, humans are eager to dive into things head on. By the simple act of allowing time to pause, listen, self-evaluate and reflect on one’s thoughts throughout the process, one can create a journey that is far more successful than expected.
The trick now is to put this into practice…