The shock of the African bush can drop you hard out of your busy complicated life, allowing miracles to happen. That said, you usually go through three rewilding phases to enjoy a whole bush experience to its deepest levels. First there is Panic, then Patient, and finally if you work it right Peaceful.
Phase One: Panic
Anxiously, I board the game drive vehicle ready to punch another bucket list item. The ‘Big 5’, is brilliant marketing. In my viewfinder I will find Lion, Elephant, Water Buffalo, Leopard, AND that chubby horned Rhino. Supposedly it is becoming quite rare.
The first hour is okay. I see 100’s of Impala. Also other animals have been reluctantly recorded by my ‘point and shoot’. But the Big 5? At least there was that tiny blond spot at full zoom. Assured it was a lion, I guess that counts. Yet, by hour two I’m wishing a few 100 Impala would morph into a Leopard.
GOOD GRIEF, I have saved like crazy for this trip. I can not go home without the right pictures and stories to tell, right? Sure the Ranger said, “Enjoy a whole bush experience.” BUT I NEED PICTURES OF THE BIG 5 AND I NEED THEM NOW.
Phase Two: Patient
After a few hours or days in my case, you finally realize this is not contrived entertainment. This is nature where real wildlife are where THEY want to be. The trick is to have your time and place be the same as theirs.
Believe me, it is always a surprise, so be patient.
Some people drive faster, looking for red tail lights indicating a pack of paparazzi vehicles to join. Others drive slow hoping to be the first spotters for the best pictures. There are printed guides, today & yesterday sighting maps, and those disappointing stories of others who saw what you did not… at the same place!
Some things do help, but mostly it is just randomly converging at the right time and place. Luckily this realization calms me down enough to enjoy the ride. But it is still like finding needles in a haystack.
Patiently trusting the dreaded statistics lessons, I tell myself the numbers will work out. But in the back of my mind is that Leopard who has not shown herself. Yet?
Phase Three: Peaceful
“With this haystack the size of a small country, will I find those 5 Big needles?” Though this feeling is hard to shake, the Ranger is right. ‘Enjoy a whole bush experience’ is starting to work. Sounds kind of corny, I know. Like something your mom might say.
So, let me put it another way. ENJOY ALL THE OTHER NEEDLES YOU FIND ALONG THE WAY. Sure, there is nothing quite like the Big 5. But they are only a bit of frosting. Now open wide for the cake! Each needle big and small can be an experience almost as special as being in awe of a Lion. And there are millions of them.
For example; watching dung beetles for an hour the other day was an amazing needle. Weird I know but fascinating. AND we still saw 4 of the Big 5 plus 3 cheetah without the panic. Another time we noticed Leopard tracks leading to a kill site all mapped out in the dirt. No Leopard but what a precious needle.
Our favorite is patiently sitting at a waterhole. Taking it all in. Flora, fauna, amazing clouds, majestic views, raptors on top of trees, and yes even bugs. Watching what is and seeing what develops. Oh, one thing you will always spot are those Phase One-ers tearing past at the wrong times.
The beauty of it all?
You start feeling peaceful and part of something bigger than your selfie! ‘Enjoy the whole bush experience’ brings that peace; like a sunset or standing on top of a mountain or staring into a flame no matter how big. There is just something about being truly connected and part of nature.
I guess, it is like being a small but important thread of a beautifully intricate tapestry.
So let’s strive for Phase Three and not just in the bush! Life is much more than our selfish pursuits and bucket lists. Peaceful, almost an old fashion word, is a ‘state of being’ worth striving for. Even while surrounded by those panicking Phase One-ers.
Enjoy the day and do some good