The Symphony Of A Safari
A gentle knock at your bedroom door causes your sleepy eyes to flutter, you acknowledge that you have heard it with a whispered “good morning” before falling back into your billowy pillows for a few minutes longer. Your body then slowly begins to awaken, peacefully stretching under the delicate weight of your duvet, after a dreamy night’s sleep surrounded by the music of the African wilderness. You eventually sit up, rub your rested eyes and begin to smile with anticipation for the imminent adventure that awaits you. Outside, the sun hasn’t quite touched the horizon yet, but subtly crowns the silhouettes of the trees with a soft golden haze. As you get yourself ready, the wild is also preparing for the day, like an orchestra softly warming up its instruments while everyone finds their seats. The birdsong begins to get a little louder and as you stand looking out at the exquisite wilderness just beyond your patio, the reality of where you are begins to sink in again. The deep navy-blue sky slowly starts to turn a dusty blue, the luminescent white stars begin to fade away, while the moon remains in place, just as bright as before. Just then there is another knock at the door, it’s time to go and explore this incredible wild world…
As you walk up to the heart of the lodge, the smell of fresh coffee welcomes you, while the sight of countless culinary delicacies entices you, a feast for your appetite as well as your eyes: baskets of hot bread straight from the oven, an array of homemade jams and spreads, a kaleidoscope of colourful fresh fruits and truthfully every other breakfast delight you could think of. Once you have enjoyed your first meal of the day, your guide begins the assembly process and leads you out through the front entrance where a vehicle is waiting for you. You climb aboard and get settled into your seat, sitting high up off the ground, the anticipation now building even more than before. The engine starts, the powerful shudder travels throughout your entire body, jumpstarting you into the moment, you begin to pull off and watch as the lodge becomes smaller and smaller in the distance behind you.
The flora is still dense and closer together, hiding what is just beyond the border. However, as you drive further on, the vehicle suddenly breaks through and drives directly into the most breathtaking open-ended landscape, the sun now just peeking over the horizon and gently brushing the land with its rays of effervescent gold light, joining the moon who is still settled happily in the morning sky. Seeing Africa at this special time of day is a gift, watching its transition from night to day and the performance it creates is beyond breathtaking. As you drive deeper into the wilderness, the part of Africa you are visiting begins to make itself known: the lush green vegetation, towering palm trees scattered amongst iconic African trees and the crystal water ways blinking in the morning sun, all encapsulate what the Okavango Delta is. This ancient water world is one of Africa’s most incredible offerings and a deeply spiritual place for all who are lucky enough to experience it.
The sky suddenly takes on a subtle grey appearance, a soft blanket covers overhead, cooling down the temperature and hopefully enticing certain animals to come out of hiding. As we are driving alongside the winding waterways, the car comes to a slow halt. Just then, you see rustling in the bushes just ahead, a motion that catches your eye and you suddenly hold your breath. From out of nowhere a majestic being emerges, a graceful spotted beauty, with amber eyes that pierce the soul. You soon realize there is not just one but two, two leopards walking out in front of the car. What you have encountered is a mother teaching her cub to hunt, a moment never to be forgotten, a true privilege. The mother moves quietly through the vegetation, stopping now and then to perk up her ears and listen, her cub always just a few steps behind waiting for her signal to move forward again. An athletic golden body covered in definitive spots, a regal, mysterious and elusive cat, right in front of your eyes.
After leaving this beautiful encounter, there is another waiting only a few kilometers away! We hear a muted trumpet call, the kind of sound that alerts everyone at once, and one that makes our guide smile with excitement and slowly move off in a new direction. Elephants may be a standard sighting in Africa, but so many things about them always hold an air of magic and never seems to fade: their regal nature, their strength, their astonishing size and their undeniable wisdom. These tusked titans incapsulate the living memory and soul of Africa, deeply and spiritually connected to this ancient land. They also hold an unspoken, unworldly relationship with each and every living thing they share this land with, all carrying the heart of Africa within them. Just then, the driver pulls up to a clearing and where a huge herd of these supreme giants suddenly come into sight. They are guarding two small calves, concealing them between the pillars of strength which are their legs. As these behemoths move right past the vehicle in tight formation, so close you could touch them if you extended your arm, you suddenly make eye contact with one of them, the connection unworldly, the feeling indescribable. The babies are difficult to see as they are kept close under their mothers, but you do not get frustrated, you are beyond thankful for the permission they granted you to let you witness them in their homeland. The entire encounter is one that will remain in your memory for years to come. A serene experience, to see such enormous animals move with such grace and precision, a truly special memory gifted to you by mother Africa.
Following this incredible morning out in the field, your guide says it’s time to head back to camp. On the way, while winding around a tight corner, the car comes to an abrupt halt, almost skidding completely off the path. A pack of wild dog have just run out right in front of the vehicle, they are on the hunt and your guide quickly springs into action. The vehicle tries to keep up, but the speed and agility of these painted dogs is beyond comprehendible. Your guide is skilled and manages to stay close to them for a few minutes, giving you the opportunity to see how well these dogs move as a team, however as quickly as they were found they suddenly disappear into thick vegetation, never to be seen again – unless they allow it. Impressive is an insulting understatement to these hunters.
You arrive back at camp with childlike excitement and motivation to find even more beautiful things later on. You enjoy a lunch on the deck overlooking the spillways and then head back to your room for swim in your plunge pool and a peaceful rest on your freshly made king bed. After a few hours you walk back down for an elaborate afternoon tea spread, before heading back to the vehicle for a continuation of this morning’s adventures. However, this afternoon’s excursion is going to be a slightly different, as you are driven directly down to the water’s edge to board a traditional mekoro. You climb aboard and are immediately immersed in the tranquility of the scene surrounding you, the rippling water making the softest of sounds as you begin to move away from the shore. Seeing the Delta from this perspective is extremely special, the slower pace and the peace it brings about is unlike any other experience. In the serene silence, you hear only nature around you. You spot tiny reed frogs decorating the long stalks that grow from the water, and marvel at the carpet of emerald green lily pads scattered over the water’s surface. The world slows down tenfold, your mind escapes into a world untouched by the world’s urgency. After floating down the channel, the mekoro comes to a stop and you are collected on the banks by your guide and vehicle to head back to camp.
On the drive back, you cannot believe what suddenly appears in the distance. A pride of lion are feasting on their evening meal, the remains of a young elephant carcass, whilst their tiny cubs practice their hunting skills on a group of confused guineafowls in the background. All of a sudden, one of the male lions begins to make a sound that comes from deep within his soul, like the beginnings of thunder in the distance, slowly moving closer and closer to where you are standing. The roar quickly becomes deeper, cleaner and more intense. Just then, all of the other males begin to join in, including the cubs who do their best to hold their own against the booming voices of the adults, a symphony of lions make music together, sending waves through your body, shaking you to your core, he volume and power indescribable. You go to grab onto the vehicle structure and your hand vibrates intensely, causing the rest of your body to shake from the intensity. All of this emotion condenses into a single tear which falls down your cheek, the intensity of the moment manifesting itself. This moment is an eye opener to the spiritual meaning and importance of Africa and all its inhabitants. The power of its animals is to be respected and appreciated constantly and never doubted, as nature was always intended to be.
Heading back to camp you start to lose yourself in the moments you have experienced. You watch the sunlight filter through every branch, birds big and small take flight in the air around you, listening to the sounds of the wild, watching how the entire scene around you flows in perfect harmony. This wild world, untouched by human hands, is a symbol of the way the world is supposed to be. There is a magic here in Africa, a magic that is only realized after immersing yourself in it. It is more than just a trip, it is more than just a vacation, it is a realization, an awakening, an enlightenment. The meaning of life is still a highly debated topic, but when engulfed in this world of natural beauty and spirituality, you begin to get an idea of life’s intention beyond the life you think you know.
Once back at camp after a spectacular day of absorbing Africa’s wonder, you stroll back to your room to refresh, as the sun slowly begins to sink behind the trees and casts a pink shadow on the path. Once ready, you head back to the main area where a welcoming fire awaits, the clementine flames dancing against a now dark, velvet night sky. Staring into the mesmerising fire, your mind begins to wonder: It is easy to get lost in the fast-paced schedule of daily life, a loop which traps us, shielding our eyes to the real world and earth on which we live. A place like Africa makes you aware of how essential it is to be plugged into the natural order of things. This magical place also offers another illuminating experience, connection, not just with the earth but with people. On safari, you create an undeniable and immediate bond with those around you, those who see what you see, experience what you experience and feel what you feel. Connection is what makes us human, and disconnection between people is a devastating and ongoing issue in our world today. You begin to think, if everyone could sit where you are sitting right now, realize what you are realizing, how drastically could the world change?After experiencing this wonderful evening, sharing stories and reminiscing on the journey thus far, it is time to settle in for the night. You rest your things on the table and move over to the bathroom where you run a hot bath to get ready for another dreamy night’s rest. As you lay in the water, watching the steam rise up around you, you reflect on the world just beyond your window. Your worries melt away, your mind is cleared, and your soul is fulfilled. You climb into bed, a mountain of soft pillows and blankets ready to welcome you back, and begin fade into sleep before another early morning adventure tomorrow. As you begin to drift, you listen to the wild around you, the lullaby of the bush: owls hoot, crickets chirp, frogs sing, and, in the distance, you hear the eerie yet beautiful looped call of a lone hyena looking for his pack. All of these sounds slowly guide you into a deep, peaceful sleep…
After a trip like this, you are not the same person as you were when you arrived. You are changed, more in tune with the world, but most importantly, with yourself. The way you see life has taken on new meaning. Africa is a gift which every person should get the chance to receive, a healing and enlightening gift, one, which if shared with enough people, could truly make all the difference…
Jeannette and the Safari Architects Team