How long does the elephant have left on planet Earth? When will our greatest land mammal cease to wander?
Our notion of progress is tied to continuous industrial development. A notion that has been exported throughout the world. We’ve led ourselves to believe that the point of humanity is to build factories and convert nature into economically viable investments. But is this our true calling? Is this the path towards true enlightenment and natural harmony? What is the point of all the hard work and sacrifices of our ancestors over the millennia? Will we ever sate our need to consume? Or has a history of detachment from nature shaped us into a new type of animal, one who’s needs can never be met.
As more and more animals face extinction, it is up to us to ask ourselves what the point of our species is. Are we here solely to consume? Moving from one land to another until all resources are converted into dollars. And if some progress but others falter, is progress truly a progression?
Cohabiting on the plains of the Serengeti, zebra and wildebeest graze side by side. By enlarging the herd, there are more lookouts for toothsome predators. They may have different stripes, but when united for self preservation and faced with death, the differences fade away.
Just another lesson from the animal kingdom, one that we must embrace if we are to save our home from the perils of climate change. Happy Earth Day!
When the sun finally set on our first day on safari, I knew I had made the right decision. To me, going on safari seemed like one of those things only rich old white people did, not young stinky adventurers. But in this case, I think I was duped by the khaki fashion designers and I was happy to be wrong.
After sourcing a budget version, which switched lodge accommodations for camping (exactly what I wanted), it became feasible. After researching the sights on our itinerary, it became impossible to stop dreaming about.
The glowing orange sun was disappearing when our guide announced it was time to head back to camp. We arrived at tent city, stuffed our faces with delicious fresh food and curled up into our sleeping bags. As I drifted off into an exhausted sleep, I was lost to the wailings of hyenas, the snorts of water buffalo, and the trumpeting of elephants. Perfect.
I had dreamed of going on safari all my life. I wanted to be surrounded by animals, indifferent to my existence. I wanted to be wrapped up in the wild, cut off from the world and its rules.
We, humans, employ our logic and rationality on an irrational world. We seek truths and answers to push us from one day to the next. But our answers are only that, ours. Our lives are guided by our collective subjective interpretations of the world around us, forming what we perceive as objective truths. But our truths are fragments, silhouettes of a fuller picture. The only objective truth we have is the one we are born into. We are alive.
It was nearing the end of the day when we climbed back into the Landcruiser. We had been driving for hours through the open plains of the Serengeti National Park. We had seen cheetahs sprinting and playing in tall grass, giraffes picking the choicest leaves off the tallest trees, and elephants bathing in fresh springs.
I got in the truck and climbed onto my seat to poke my head out through the open roof. As our driver threw the engine into life, we shot off down the baked dirt road. There I was. In the middle of the Serengeti, surrounded by some of the most exotic animals here on Earth. The wind rushed through my hair and dust burrowed into the crevices of my skin. I looked around in every direction as golden light fell, cascaded across the tall water starved grass.
In my mind, I zoomed out on where I was. I floated high up into the sky, looking down at myself as I became a speck upon a great continent. We all became specks. Specks, all connected through the same flowing energy of our home planet.
I came to, just as a truck further ahead shot dust into the still air, leaving it to hang suspended in the setting sun. Best day ever.
The Great Migration is an epic event of nature, heralded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Taking place between Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, close to 2 million wildebeest make the giant loop in search of water and greener pastures.
During their constant search for survival, they bring new life into the world and lose lives at the end of their cycle. As the favourite meal for most of Africa’s major predators, wildebeest travel in giant herds with a swarm mentality, working as one unit for the preservation of their species.
Lessons from the natural world.
The bright colours of the Maasai people guided us towards their small encampment. After having just spent a week in the dust covered plains of the Serengeti, the Maasai robes stood out. We wrestled our moral qualms with disingenuous tourism into submission and forked over 50 dollars to visit one of their villages.
First off, we were welcomed with most unusual throat singing and dancing. Then the rest of my group was guided into the village for a tour but I stayed behind. I had noticed a few of the Maasai guys sizing me up. Before I knew why, I was being challenged to a jumping competition to which I graciously accepted. For some reason that still alludes me, as I handed over my camera, I was handed a wooden stick to hold while I jumped up and down. I learned that my height (almost 6’7) was a hot topic of conversation among the locals and the growing crowd wanted to see if the rumours were true. I crouched down and leapt into the air, bouncing up and down. But as I looked over at my jumping partner, suspended in the air above me, I knew I had been outdone. With a heavy heart I confirmed their suspicions, white boys can’t jump.
“If you look over there, you can see zebras, you can also see a lot of wildebeesties.” Each time this was said by our colourful Tanzanian tour guide, I couldn’t help but laugh. Coupling the name wildebeesties with their funny old man faces turned the wildebeest into the most comical animal on the Serengeti. It wasn’t until I wrote this post that I typed wildebeesties into Google and found out that it is a perfectly acceptable plural form. That may be so, but I’m still laughing.
While on safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, I was truly excited to see a hippo. I’d grown up under the belief that they were just big hungry hungry goofballs. I don’t know if it was the cartoons or the board games.
The first hippos I saw were running through tall grass in the early morning light and they sure could they move. So far, so good.
Then it all changed, when later in the day we were brought to the hippo pool. This was one of the few places we were allowed to get out of the truck. As soon as I stepped outside I could smell it. A pungent manure-like scent and it was coming from where I was headed. I walked closer, trying to breath through my mouth, and came to a lookout where down below this is what I saw. Hundreds of farting, belching, poop covered hippos.
The sun was high in the sky as we wound our way through the labyrinthine roads of the Serengeti. We came upon a pride of lions relaxing in the shade of some small acacia trees. As we watched, hoping for action, a young male sprung to his feet. He flew through the air with laser like precision and within seconds he had covered the distance to us. He whipped around the back of our truck and directly at a nearby unsuspecting gazelle. The gazelle, looked back once, and then nonchalantly bounded through the air to safety.
When I had finished photographing the whole scenario, I turned around to celebrate our experience with my fellow explorers only to find them cowering in the back seat.
“Wow! That lion totally just used us as a decoy! Wait… what are you doing down there? Did you get any photos?” I asked hopefully.
“Are you crazy!?!?! I thought he was coming for me!!”