“Quick – behind that bush” called Sicelo, the leader of this wilderness journey and one of the three Imfolozi Wilderness Rangers.
Apparently, Rhinos are quite short-sighted, and the bush was a safe place for us to hide behind and not be seen. Was he serious? Was it really safe?
We had just walked within 20 metres of three White Rhino and had startled them. They had not taken kindly to the interruption of their afternoon rest in the hot sun and expressed their grumpiness by getting up and charging at us.
As the three Rhino came to a bemused standstill, probably wondering where the strange looking creatures had disappeared too, the three Rangers, Sicelo, Snothi, and Nontobeko, stepped out from behind the bush waving their arms wildly and shouting at the Rhinos. That was very amusing to watch!
The Rhino’s trotted off with a few snorts, of what could easily be interpreted as indignation … It was an exhilarating experience and a story that myself and the Spirit of Africa Journey participants love to tell.
As part of the 21-day Spirit of Africa Journey, we spend three days and three nights in the Imfolozi Game Park in Kwa Zulu Natal. After spending a night in the nearby game park lodge, which is within the borders of the park, and where Hyenas wander around freely at night, we drive for about 30 minutes and then walk into the interior of the park with our 20+kg backpacks containing all of our food, clothes, pots and pans, sleeping bags and roll mats (we have no tents!) and once our sleep sites are found (we spend three nights at either one or two different sites), we swap over to day-packs and walk with these.
During the day walks, shortly after an early breakfast until just before sunset each day, we get to see Giraffe, Elephant, Rhino, Monkeys, Crocodile, Buck, Buffalo, Lion, Hyena, and many birds and insects. Seeing and identifying footprints in the dry riverbed and trying to get people to identify all the different animal ‘poo’ is great fun. Being up close, sometimes within a few metres of these animals, is an awesome experience, as it was with the three charging Rhino!
The cooking is done over a campfire. We collect our own firewood – which in itself is quite an experience, as behind every bush and around every corner there is always the possibility of coming face to face with a dangerous animal – even a lion! During and after the evening meals it is time to sit and listen to the night sounds of the Hyenas, Lions, and even the Leopards calling – both a chilling and thrilling experience.
Being out in this wilderness for three days and nights, without the distractions of phones, social media, computers and the general noise of ordinary life is a very new experience for many people and allows them to really tune into themselves in a new way. We have nightly shares of the days’ experiences and insights and there are nearly always emotions that come up during these sharings. Then one gets a sight of a Lion or is charged by a Rhino, emotions are sure to come up.
The ‘night security duties’ also bring up people’s emotions. Apart from the Rangers, everyone gets a turn to be the camp security guard. Once bedtime comes around, which is generally about 9.00pm, although this not really known by most, as any watches or clocks are not permitted, the night duties begin. Each person gets to sit by the small campfire and every ten minutes gets to walk the perimeter of the camp area and shines the powerful torch beam out into the darkness. The idea being that if any eyes of any dangerous animals are seen in the light, the rangers are woken up. And eyes to get seen, especially those of the Hyena’s that like to prowl around. It is always interesting to explore the footprints in the dry river bed and in the mornings and discover how many animals actually came close to us during the night.
One of the most magnificent sights on any wilderness journey is that of the Lion. Of all the African creatures, this is, for most of us, the one that can instill the most fear and exhilaration at the same time. Seeing one, or even a pride of Lion is not something that people always get to see when out walking in the wilderness, or even whilst on a driving safari in somewhere like Kruger Park, the biggest of all the Game Parks in South Africa. In Imfolozi, we generally do get to see Lion, even if only sometimes from a distance and seeing them through binoculars.
And just so that this wilderness experience does not get to sound too romantic and laid back, in August or September, when we visit, it can be hot, sticky, dry and very tiring, especially during the times when we are walking with our heavy 20kg plus backpacks. Although, as I pointed out when we were being charged by the three Rhino, the backpacks are only a heavy burden when we have our attention on them!
Part of the whole experience of being on the 21-day Spirit of Africa Journey is doing some personal development exploration and work, and myself and my team of facilitators and guides, like Sicelo, share insights, lessons, and teachings to support this process. One of the things that I teach is awareness and how to stay focused on our surroundings and environment whilst out in the wilderness or on a safari drive or cruise and how this outer awareness can help us to take the focus away from things like heavy back backs and other burdens. I use this is a metaphor for other aspects of our lives too.
Sicelo shares his insights and knowledge on ‘Ubuntu’. This Zulu word means: ‘I am because we are’. This can be seen and demonstrated out in the wilderness as everything depends on something to survive. It is a great concept for people to grasp and even start to bring into their own lives.
Other memories and stories from the 21-day Spirit of Africa Journeys are often shared, with stories of the times and experiences in and around Cape Town with co-facilitator and sacred sites expert Dean Liprini from Sunpath Tours, our time spent in the Botshabelo Village Orphanage, which is situated outside of Johannesburg, our driving and boat safaris in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, our visit to Zimbabwe to see the majestic Victoria Falls and our time spent on the banks of the great Zambezi River in Namibia.
All of these experiences are part of this great, life-changing experience …
Adrian Hanks, who lives in Australia, is the organizer and main facilitator and guide.
The next 21-day Spirit of Africa Journey starts in August 2019.
There is a maximum number of 8 people for each journey. For more information go to the website. www.SpiritofAfricaJourney.com