My mother taught me that all good stories should start “Once upon a time, in a far away place…” and when I was curled up in bed listening to the stories that she wove around me, little did I imagine that one day that would be a fairly accurate way to reflect on my childhood! Years ago (or, once upon a time) when I was bustling round in my first decade which was spent in a, now, far away place, I remember thinking how incredibly slowly time moved. When one birthday finally came around the twelve months between it and the next one seemed infinite! Somehow as I have grown up time has accomplished a strange feat of speeding up with me. I feel like I have only recently started at Garonga but in June I will have been here for three years! Temporal mayhem at its best. Time is a commodity that humans value very highly. To give someone the gift of your time is often the most precious thing that we really have to offer. Yet time operates strangely here in the bush.
I often tell my guests that nature teaches us patience. The animals don’t operate to our schedule (and seem to be pretty relaxed most of the time about complying with their own), and there is something wonderfully soothing about spending time in the company of an animal that is going about its business with no temporal pressure at all. These days we rarely take the opportunity to just be. We always seem to need to be doing something. Coming on safari takes away that need. It reminds us that just to sit and watch, or to sit and listen can be key moments of our day, indeed sometimes they can be inspirational moments in our lives.
Never underestimate the power of a sunset on your soul. Taking the time to watch the day end has wonderful restorative properties. ©Nick Barrett
With everything that has happened in the last 12 months time is something that I certainly do not take for granted. Every moment spent in the bush is a moment when something remarkable might be seen, and you never know what the future holds or when you might get the chance to see it again. I try to live every moment to the fullest and to appreciate the incredible privilege of being both a guardian of and a guide into nature. I was recently chatting with my brother in a similar vein and we got to reminiscing over his various visits to Garonga. Nick has been coming to visit since I started at Garonga and I asked him to share a few of his favourite moments from those visits.
There is nothing quite as special as sharing something you love with family!
It just so happens that some of his favourite images are from sightings that I like to think of as “soul food”. There are few things more relaxing than spending time with elephants (especially the bulls) or rhinos. These mega-herbivores have few demands on their time; food is usually plentiful and, aside from humans, once they are fully grown they have little to no real predators to worry about. The more time that you spend with them the more your eye is drawn to the smaller details. Something that always captivates me about both elephants and rhinos is the textures that they possess. At first glance they might appear similar, both large and grey but on a closer inspection an elephant’s skin contains deep, almost furrowed wrinkles, whilst a rhino’s skin is smoother somehow, more dimpled than truly wrinkled. Interestingly the differences are not just aesthetic, an elephant’s skin is far more sensitive than a rhino’s which is why you never see ox-peckers on an elephant’s back. On rhino’s my eye is drawn to the random clusters of softness that you can find when you look at them closely. There is something wonderful about seeing an animal that is so tough but that has tufts of hair on its tail tip and fluff lining the edges of its ears. As for elephants, with their size it is hard to know where to look first, but there is something about the contrast of their smooth ivory and heavily folded skin that draws the eye. Likewise their faces capture the attention – wide, sweeping planes, deep textured wrinkles and long elegant eyelashes. I find that time spent with either of these species is like a free therapy session, it helps to put our lives in context and soothes any rough edges.
At Garonga we believe firmly in a balanced safari, mixing the wonders that are the big five with the smaller marvels that we find in the bush. A true safari for the soul incorporates time spent relaxing around the pool, enjoying a massage and getting to know the smaller denizens that we share this world with.
Finally, there is something that as humans we always find captivating about a predator, perhaps they are a reminder of our own mortality, but whatever it is a sighting with them definitely gets the adrenaline pumping. Nick has always visited me in the South African summer and the contrast between the dappled coat patterns of leopards and cheetah and the lush vibrant greenery surrounding them never fails to bring a smile to my face.
I truly love my job and whoever joins me on my vehicle, I take great pleasure and pride in introducing them to the wonders of our part of the world but I have treasured in a different way getting to share my passion and my life with my family when they visit and I hope to continue to do so for many years to come!