“The light of oneness is available to all of us, present in hidden aquifers where life’s waters continue to flow, waiting in a living silence for us to notice.” ― Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Pemba has the biggest, most constant smile I’ve ever seen on a guide. It’s one of the things I remember most about our safari in the Nambiti, at Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge in South Africa.
On our game drives through the reserve, we’d talk now and again, and then lull back into a content quiet in the warmth of the day, beside giraffe moving across the open plains (be still, my beating heart), or black rhinos browsing and lions drinking from shallow pools.
In the silence, we’d look over at each other and smile. I saw Pemba’s smile more often than I heard him talk. And talking was no problem for him. His beaming face simply took over, recognising the need for quiet, while communicating all there was to communicate. And I understood each message, each unspoken sentiment. How fortunate we were, especially, as wild animal after wild animal, bird after bird, crossed our path: wildebeest, zebra, elephant, kites and eagles.
On these drives, we’d often not come across another vehicle. Back at the lodge, on a remote cliff overlooking the Sundays River below, hectares of wilderness surrounded us. Only a few other lodges exist in the vicinity and are wholly out of sight. At times, we were are all alone on earth. Or so it felt. And it struck me: when last did I hear this… silence?
Back home, even at dawn or in the middle of the night, there was always a hoot and a honk, ocean waves rolling or birds trying to claim their spot on the balcony. Absolute silence was rare and quick to pass.
Sometimes it was my mind to blame: its tricks interrupting the stillness. But locking eyes with an adult male lion, watching him stalk off after an unsuspecting warthog through the tall grass, my mind found stillness. And in the stillness, the sounds I’d not been able to hear revealed themselves: a dove’s cooing, crickets and the breeze through the trees.
Were I one of the wild things, I’d have picked up so many other subtleties, but I was thankful for the silence.
I was thankful for a guide like Pemba who understood and a lodge like Esiweni, where with only five private villas and a small team of staff, the peace would settle over us everywhere we went: while we lay in bed looking over the wild expanse or taking lunch on the deck in the sun, around the pool in the afternoon or at sunset drinks beneath the lanterns of a tree that leopards curl up in for quiet time of their own.
Maybe you forget what silence feels like from time to time too, but it’s worth the hunt. Because what you find there is the softness of life that sometimes escapes us. The space and freedom present, but sometimes hidden. Sometimes it’s inspiration and an epiphany that finds you. Sometimes, it’s simple: peace.
“You’re very perceptive for a guy who can go a whole day without talking,” she said, peering up at him. “That’s why I’m perceptive.” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride
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