All good things must come to an end. I imagine that when the day of my departure from Londolozi eventually arrives, I’ll look back at my time here and smile. Over the years I have stored up so many happy memories and created many great friendships. Since I became a ranger I’ve had many unforgettable sightings; however, my most cherished memories of time spent in the bush will forever be the times that I was on foot. The feeling I get when walking in the bush is something I cannot compare to anything else. Walking in the bush takes on many different faces so I thought I would highlight a few reasons why I love walking in the bush.
#1: Engaging the Senses
Walking in the bush is a special privilege because it allows one to experience the African wilderness away from the Land Rover. To be on foot in the bush is to see and feel the natural environment in the same way that the animals do. The moment that you step away from the vehicle, your senses are heightened and you are no longer an observer but a participant in the environment.
Being a participant in the bush really engages the senses. As you walk along slowly you will notice the smaller details that could easily be overlooked whilst in the moving vehicle, such as the small toe mark of a leopard that previously walked the same path as you are now. While walking, your ears will detect all kinds of sounds; sounds that combine to create that peaceful bushveld hum that visitors to Africa never forget. One’s eyes and ears are not the only sensory apparatus employed on a stroll in the bush; taste, smell, and touch also play their roles. Incorporate all the senses together on a walk and you will gain a newfound appreciation for the bush.
#2: Encounters with Africa’s Wildlife
One of the main benefits of engaging one’s senses while walking in the bush is that it improves your chances of encountering animals, both big and small. I really enjoy pausing and listening to a group of birds calling and trying to spot them using my binoculars. In addition to finding tiny birds, using one’s senses can help you find some of the larger, iconic African animals too.
There are clues as to the whereabouts of these animals scattered all over the bush. The footprints left behind by a big rhino bull as he walks can be analyzed to gauge their freshness. The sharp smell of a leopard’s scent mark can indicate that a leopard may be nearby. A distant snap of a branch breaking could mean there are elephants up ahead. By using the clues nature provides, one can plan one’s route through the bush and hopefully get a chance to see these amazing animals on foot without disturbing them. Many of my bush highlights involve finding an animal while out walking, viewing it, and leaving it alone without it ever becoming aware of my presence. It is this concept on which the whole ethos of tracking at Londolozi is built.
#3: Time with People
Most of the walks I’ve done in the bush have been alongside others. Sometimes I’ll go off tracking with my friend and tracker, Life Sibuyi, and he will show me how to spot all the small signs of the wild and hopefully a leopard or two as well. Other times I’ll go out walking with a group of rangers on a morning off in order to explore a remote corner of the reserve. These walks are usually punctuated with a coffee break in a beautiful location and a couple of laughs. Then, of course, there are walks with guests. Whether it is a short foray into the bush or a ‘track and find’ mission, I love sharing my passion for walking in the bush with enthusiastic guests from all over the planet.
What I’ve found is that there is something truly special about spending time with people out in the bush. Something about walking in nature resonates with people. A group of people seems to be drawn closer to one another while walking in the wild… it’s a shared experience that brings everyone closer. And, by the time the walk is over, everyone feels a closer connection to nature as well as each other.
Studies have shown that time spent in nature is one of the best antidotes for stress and anxiety. A walk in the African bush is so much more than just a Sunday stroll. Walking the same paths as animals have for thousands of years, hearing the myriad of sounds of the bush, and spending time fully immersed in nature gives one a greater perspective on life. Of all my memories made at Londolozi, many of my most cherished ones will be the coffee breaks and laughs with my fellow rangers in far-flung riverbeds, tracking lion prides and leopards with Life, and being able to share the incredible feeling of walking in the bush with guests. My time spent on foot in the bush has helped me grow as a person and hopefully, this blog will motivate you to get out wherever you live and savour the unexplainable joy of a walk in nature.