A knock on my door forces me out of a sound sleep. It is still dark outside and I am reeling from a 6 hour time difference and several shortened nights. I want to stay under the downy cover because I know it will be cold, I’ve done this drill before. I put on leggings, zip up my jeans, and double up on socks. I pull my long sleeve shirt over my head, next a sweeter, vest and jacket, aware of the fact that I will peel off most of these clothes before noon.
It is a brilliant, fine, crisp morning. We pile into our jeeps with blankets on our laps, cameras on our blankets, and binoculars in our hands. This day like every other is brand new with promise. The African bush is teeming with animals engaged in the act of living life, and around every bumpy bend, we could find ourselves witness to a timeless, sacred, morning ritual. Fully awake now, I join the others in scanning the expansive terrain for slight irregularity of color or a sudden movement.
The earth is a familiar ruddy red Georgia-like clay scattered with brownish green grasses and short scrubby tress. There are surprising spatters of reds and yellows, blossoms from last weeks rains. Miles and miles of serenity and then there is a sharpening of focus. I see the eyes of an animal at attention and can sense the quickening of heart beat, both his and mine’s. The jeep closes in and we try in vain to capture this incredible beast on camera image.
Throughout the week, I see many varieties of animals and the intense sense of awe continues to astonish. The feeling is reminiscent, yet superior, to the thrill of that first glimpse of silvery fish reeled from the water on your line. Zebra seen in the zoo, elephants in National Geographic, lions on television, and baboons in movies serve only as icons to help identity what’s right in front of me.
Remembering an old John Denver song and the line, “I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly”, I realize how blessed I am to be viewing animals behaving naturally in their God-given home and I think of how rich I am.