Safaris & the Art of Being Yourself

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – e e cummings


This is not a topic that concerns animals, but it is one that they so naturally teach – the art of being yourself.

It is a topic that separates us little bipeds from the wild world of our animal brothers and sisters. Sure, who knows really what a woodpecker mum gets up to when hidden inside her nest. But I doubt she is worrying about whether she is being a good enough mother, or if her feathers still have their youthful lustre. She is beyond even the stage of acceptance – she simply does not think about it. Sure, she doesn’t quite have the brain structure for such neuroticism. And we do, which gives us the task of overcoming self-doubt and learning to accept and embrace, all through life.

On the subject of neuroticism, let’s take my morning face, for instance. There is nothing like a 5 am game drive, I discovered on our safari at Mara Plains Camp in Kenya, while trying to pose naturally for a camera, to make you doubt yourself.

You might have had the coffee and the hot water and lemon and the muffin, but your face does not lie when it still desires an hour extra under the sheets. When the cold air blows and mascara rolls silently down the side of your face, you are presented with that great challenge – man versus nature, self versus other.

Bundled in khaki scarves and windbreakers with extra buoyant morning hair, do you ignore the reflection in the mirror and focus on the great male lion shaking his silky mane in the golden light of dawn?

Yes, you do, and you think nothing of it.

There is no time for ego on a safari. Only awe. Getting back to nature in any way strips you of the me-me-me thoughts, because suddenly you find yourself in a phantasmagoria of scents and sounds and sights. Attention shifts – the elephants call on you to be present for them. One look down and you could miss the grand show of flapping ears or a little one’s first steps.

Embraced in the right way, a safari is a truth-seeking journey. A simplifying and a refocusing of life. It is learning to concentrate less on yourself and more on the exciting world around you, which, in turn, helps you to be more yourself.

It’s that look after a long day out in the savannah and bush, a day spent riding horses in big cat country and bumping along in 4X4s over river beds and along dusty dirt paths. It’s the freckles popping on your sun-kissed nose and the mud on your boots. It’s the tired red eyes from hours of looking through a camera, darting from one eagle to another. It’s the peace that comes with it all – having let go, having jumped in, wholeheartedly – and it’s the smile that shows not a care in the world.

That look is the look of someone on safari, of someone who has stepped into themselves.

Thank you for the lesson, Mara Plains Camp.

Take a look at a few images from our safari to this beautiful part of Kenya – on the northern border of the Maasai Mara – below.

Six Ways Londolozi Will Touch Your Soul

It’s been used to refer to the esoteric belief in a soul being able to travel outside the body – and beyond, far beyond. But soul travel is also about the kind of journeys that touch the heart, that go deeper, that stir something in the traveller. Journeys with purpose, with soul. Journeys that transform.

It’s a way of going through life, not only vacations, but it’s something that’s easy to forget when hopping flight after flight, waking up at unholy hours, or getting a little too enthusiastic with the sundowners.

For us, soul travel is about extraordinary adventures that push us to be our most courageous, that immerse us in new worlds. It’s about connecting with others and ourselves in ways that lead to greater awareness. It’s about those moments that we never forget, that make us feel something. As they say, people may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

On our recent adventure into the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve of South Africa, we encountered several of these moments, exploring the pathways of a place called Londolozi. We discovered the many ways this corner of Africa can touch your soul and how a voyage outward can lead you inward.

Here are six ways that Londolozi will touch your soul

Quiet

The stillness of the wild lets you hear the world better – the sweet calls of birdlife and the odd roar from the wild things, the rustle of trees and the flow of shallow streams. But it also lets you hear yourself more clearly. And that’s where the change begins.

Nature

Among the trees and hills of the great outdoors, you notice that there is space for all things. For the big and the small, the fierce and the gentle, the loud and the still. You see more clearly where you belong among it all, and that you are very much a part of the living world, rather than separate from it.

On game drives and walks, you find yourself faced with your greatest joys as well as your worst fears – the slithering and the venomous, the fast and the toothy. And you learn to rise above, to trust, to adapt, to accept. More than that, glimpsing the infinite beauty of earth’s plant and animal life up close is a symphony of its own, one that moves the viewer with each performance.

Yoga and Meditation

Guided by Londolozi’s yoga teacher, on a deck hugged by thick green tree life, the ancient art of yoga works its magic, relaxing and restoring, and uniting mind, body and soul.

Spa

Through energising and calming massage treatments and energetic bodywork, the Spa therapists at Londolozi work similarly to the yogis, bringing you back to yourself and resetting your attention so that it can focus more clearly on the substance of safari life.

Community

There is perhaps no clearer way to shake up the self and ingnite epiphanies than to meet people from completely different walks of life. People living in ways strange to you. It’ll make you take a deeper look at your own life but it will also awaken you to the vastness and variety of the world – of life outside your own town, own family, own self.

It may spark empathy, compassion. It may attract or upset. Impress or confuse. But spark it will.

Connection

Talking, laughing, smiling, walking, eating and simply being with the people who call Londolozi home – the people behind the scenes and in front, the rangers and photographers, the writers and chefs, the gardeners and housekeepers… that’s when the soul really responds. When you arrive back from an early morning game drive to the traditional songs and dance of the men and women who have come out to greet you, to welcome you, tears fall not from sadness but from an overflowing heart, a heart that has found a home.

Discover more about Londolozi Private Game Reserve here.

Cycling with the Wild Things of Kenya

No matter how many times I get on a bicycle and head out on city streets or country roads or mountains trails, it is always Einstein I see. With his big lawless mop of white hair and his goofy “spent too much time in the lab” smile. And I hear his words about how cycling is just like life. “To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” the great physicist said.

It’s useful advice should you ever forget how to ride a bicycle, or, simply, how to do life. How to keep your balance in the continuous play.

You truly feel this balance when you’ve conquered something, like incline after incline, and when the smooth ride of the flats leads into a fast and glorious downward soar. It’s a feeling that is all the stronger when out in the wilderness, in big sky country like Kenya’s Chyulu Hills at ol Donyo Lodge.

Here, vast stretches of uninterrupted land surround you in every direction. Wild animals roam beside cattle and their Maasai herders – cheetah and lion, wildebeest and elephant.

Perhaps the most profound part about getting on that bicycle in a wild terrain like this is knowing that animals are out and about, while you move among them on two wheels.

The joy is in being closer to the land – as compared to game drives – and in finding yourself looking up at a journey of giraffe only metres away from where you stand. Because, needless to say, you will have to stop at some point and just take it all in.

The joy is in being able to move your body, your legs, and to feel not merely like a bystander, an onlooker, but a player, a member.

Our guides knew just where to lead us, along the sandy paths in the flat scrubland. We followed them to a giant boulder beside a thick canopy of trees (definitely a good place for a big cat, considering the bones scattered below) to catch the last rays of the day shining through an unruly swathe of clouds that looked for a moment like wild-haired Einstein staring right back at us, reminding us. Keep going, never give up.

The guides knew where to find the magic but they also knew how to keep us safe. In addition to that, it is said that due to decades of Maasai roaming the plains and living in and around the wilderness here, the predators have become used to people – used to knowing that they should stay away. On foot, they recognise us, but climb on a horse or into a game vehicle and watch the dynamics change.

We all ride for different reasons – some of us simply for exercise, for fitness, and some for that intense feeling of being alive. Alive among lions, giraffe and zebra, well that’s even better.

Discover more about ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya here and in our blog, 10 Questions with ol Donyo Lodge’s Jackson Lemunge.