During the last part of our trip, we got to visit the long-awaited and much anticipated safari zone at the Black Rhino Lodge. I have been looking forward to this part of the trip ever since I heard about the South Africa Learning Journey. I was excited at the amazing opportunity to see the stunning animals up close, in person.
Today, we went on two safaris, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We saw a variety of animals including elephants, zebras, impalas, baboons, lots of rhinos, and a buffalo and hippo. It truly is a unique experience to see these animals face to face when we are so used to seeing them only in pictures; it is almost indescribable. I feel as though this is the perfect way to end our trip here in South Africa. It allows us to reflect on our experiences here, during our much-needed relaxation, as well as seeing South Africa’s many wonders, the wildlife, in person.
If you have been in the ocean when a whale breaches you’ll know the feeling of being completely humbled. That feeling of connection with the earth and the animal in front of you, it makes you feel so incredibly small, but in the best possible way. Seeing an elephant is just the same, but on a scale about fifteen times as big. Elephants are strong, and can crush without effort, but they don’t. They walk the earth taking what they need and leaving the rest alone, peacefully living in harmony with the environment they are surrounded by. It’s a majestically humbling experience. As the four gentle giants crossed the road in front of our jeeps, on our first safari, the world just kind of stopped. Every expectation, want, and need just slipped away in the presence of these animals. For me, the sight was overwhelming, and it brought me to tears. It saddens me to think that these animals can be subject to such torture by humans, when they are so incredibly peaceful.
Lions are just as incredible, not in a humbling way, but in an empowering way. When Russy, our guide, got the call that a lioness was spotted, our Jeep took off. Speeding down the winding roads, dust billowing up behind us, excitement in the air. However, that rush is transformed when the lioness is spotted. Everyone is quiet, as the strong cat, undisturbed walks down the path. The lioness has so much physical strength, she could kill in one single bite; but she doesn’t. She simply continues on her way, ignoring the jeeps and cameras. The lioness knows her strength, and knows when to use it.
You can learn so much from observing animals. The elephants are humbling. Lions are empowering. Impalas are mighty. Zebras are observant. Rhinos make you appreciative of people who want to save the earth. We can all remind ourselves how important these qualities are while watching the animals.
After seeing the power of oppression and destruction that human kind has wielded, in the the form of apartheid, it is hopeful to be immersed in a place untouched, for a few short days. Seeing the vast valleys and peaks, unharmed by humans, filled with thriving ecosystems and gentle giants, gives me hope. Hope that humans have humanity, and that there are people dedicated to preserving nature.
On our last early morning safari ride, the sun rose over Pilanesberg Park and I finally realized the power of gaining a new perspective. A new perspective can change the way you see anything from money, to humanity, to even simply the sun.