A walking safari is a sensory explosion. Spending time amidst the elements will leave the trails and stories of each encounter poetically inscribed in memory. With the Khwai River flowing all year round, the opportunities to collect memories are never ending, a biodiverse sensory feast. Being on foot reveals a whole other dimension – a sensational world of subtlety, beauty found in the small, coupled with the anticipation of larger game around each bush.
Learning to read nature by sight, sound, touch and smell, we tuned in to our roots, connecting to the earth in intrinsic ways long forgotten.
Treading with mindful steps, leaving the lodge by sunrise and led by an experienced guide, we traversed ancient animal corridors in a profound and personal encounter with the wild. Learning to read nature by sight, sound, touch and smell, we tuned in to our roots, connecting to the earth in intrinsic ways long forgotten. We became lost in our immediate vicinities, our guide Brendon directing our attention to the train tracks of the millipede upon the sand, and the scuff marks of a swallow as it collects mud to build its nest. He transported us to the past by reading the signs of nature, instilling awe at what may have happened moments before, sensing our surroundings and listening for sounds, recreating the activities of the wild. A pile of fresh dung indicated the recent presence of elephant, winding their way through paths imprinted in their minds.
The iconic cry of the fish eagle, prevalent in the Khwai area, snapped us back into the present, eyes searching in the trees for a sighting of the caller. We found ourselves lucky to find the majestic bird sitting on the branch of a Camelthorn tree, proud and bold in stature and sound. Learning that our lodge, Mogotlho was named after this tree gave the sighting a sense of significance, as if it were a gift especially for us. The tree is apparently a favourite for elephants, its pods a tasty treat, savoured in its’ shade. Perhaps this is where the elephant was off to, another pile of dung indicating the next instalment of its journey. Even though we did not see any elephant, the knowledge and signs that it had been there gave us a sense of its mighty presence, its story lingering in the surroundings.
The highlight of our walk was learning about the “Little Five”, the lesser sought on safari seekers wildlife lists. The search began when stumbling across a leopard tortoise in the middle of our path, unhurried for its destination. Brendon challenged us to find the other 4 before we returned to camp, and a visual hunt ensued. The buffalo weaver graced us with its presence, followed by a rhino beetle leaving its trail right next to the home of an ant lion, which are scattered throughout the bush. The elusive elephant shrew remained in hiding, an outcome of 4 out of 5 of the species, but a 100% rating of enjoyment.
For the remainder of the trip we looked at the bush through different eyes, our perspective now encompassing all our senses, noticing and appreciating subtleties and beauty of the small.
Three hours disappeared and it was time to return to the lodge. Filled with memories and fresh knowledge, we returned altered in some way by our experience, with awareness and heightened curiosity. For the remainder of the trip we looked at the bush through different eyes, our perspective now encompassing all our senses, noticing and appreciating subtleties and beauty of the small. Submerged in the wild, a walking safari is the epitome of intimacy – a true connection with nature.
by Sarah Pringle