Humans, we have evolved to make use of open spaces. As the environment on Earth became drier, a habitat once dominated by woodlands and forests was widely replaced by open plains. Our ancestors roamed these grasslands on two legs, which provided the height advantage to see over the long grass. Bipedalism freed our hands to manipulate tools and food and enabled us to carry objects. The lack of trees providing security meant we needed to develop the ability to run, and fast, to escape any of our natural predators. We relied heavily on our senses, forward-facing eyes have given us incredible depth-perception, needed for hunting with spears and bow-and-arrows and gathering of fruits and berries was made easier with our colour vision. Our senses of smell and hearing would have been all too important in surviving a world where we were exposed to our natural predators, where the light of fires at night were a beacon of hope that we may survive until the morning.
Now, looking back to the lives of our ancestors, we understand why experiencing the African bush is such a spiritual experience. We are taken out of our usual world, where we are surrounded by, and reliant on the technology we have developed since the days where spears with a stone blade were high-tech. We delve into a world where suddenly we need to use all our senses to truly experience our surroundings, the sounds of birds singing, frog choruses and the rasping call of a leopard in the darkness. The colours of summer with all the fruit and the wildflowers and the birds in their breeding plumage.
This is what a safari should be about. Not the rush to try and find all the animals you think you are supposed to see, but the opportunity to take the time to appreciate everything the bush has to offer, because there is so much more to it than the Big 5. Let us focus on a more holistic experience, the kind of experience that a place like Sabi Sabi has had over 40 years to perfect. The type of experience where you are not only exposed to all aspects of this beautiful environment, but where you will probably even start to appreciate them. Appreciate the little wonders that we often overlook, the relationships between the different organisms we see, the reasons why things happen the way they do, the insects and smaller creatures that are just as important in the ecosystem functioning as the antelope and the elephants.
The strongest connection, I believe, is when we venture out of the lodge, not on an open 4×4 safari vehicle, but on foot. You need to have your wits about you because all at once your body, mind and consciousness are taken back thousands of years to when our ancestors roamed these plains. It is the most incredible feeling to hear only natural sounds, not the hum of a diesel engine or the chattering of people. To smell the mud from the wallows where buffalo and rhino have left evidence of their presence and the scent of the Silver Cluster-leaf trees trying to attract pollinators to their flowers. So when you return to the lodge, overlooking the vistas, and you reflect on this new-found attentiveness, you will continue to notice the intimate details around you, because you have learnt to do so, and you have learnt to value them for their place and their purpose.
It is a powerful realisation that there is so much more to this planet than meets the eye, and that we are so much more connected to the natural world than we might have thought. If you can take the time to open your mind, to draw your attention away from your busy life and allow yourself to feel that age-old link, you unexpectedly feel that you somehow belong, even if you come from the opposite side of the globe.