The power of listening

Sabi Sand | July 2020

“Listen to the voice of nature, for it holds treasures for you” – Huron

If there is anything, I have learnt from this lockdown period, it is that stillness and quiet allow us to listen to our intuition and to Nature where its voices begin to speak louder to us, if only we choose to tune in. 

Being on safari is one of the most exciting adventures one could ever dream of, immersing oneself in a complete sense of wildness, unknowing of what to expect from the surrounding wilderness, yet so often many tend to bring with them the need for doing, rushing and stirring. We are so used to the conformities of constantly needing to move and to do, that we don’t find time to be still and to be present in the moment. 

The life of a guide may seem very laid back and relaxed in comparison to some careers, however we as guides sometimes also fall into this pattern and it can easily take preference over what is truly important. There have been a few days out in the bush over the past few weeks which have opened my eyes (and ears) to this idea and I have begun to feel more and more in tune with Nature and following my instincts to be still in order to gain the best experience. 

One of the first occasions where this became apparent was when I came across some leopard tracks along the road not too far south east of the lodges. I got off the vehicle to study the tracks in which to gain an understanding of this magnificent creature’s movements in previous hours of the day. I paced up and down looking to find which way it had gone, however there became a moment where I allowed myself to just stop, listen and be still. The seconds passed by as I listened to the songs of the bush, breathing in the crisp fresh air and focusing on the sounds around me, then, between the chorus of birds I heard a nearby rasping sound. One in which you would imagine a handsaw shifting back and forth through a block of wood except with the volume of a chainsaw. A leopard! 

I quickly got back on the vehicle and moved toward where I imagined the sound to have originated from. Around the corner and there he was, Nyeleti male leopard. Pacing along the road on a territorial patrol, vocalizing and scent marking as he continued on his path…

A few weeks later, on another brilliantly beautiful morning in the Sabi Sands, I decided to head east along the river from the lodges not looking for anything in particular but hoping to find something interesting along the way. As I moved through the arches of a leadwood tree along a small open clearing and close to a rocky outcrop, the golden rays of light burst through the canopies and I felt a strong sense in me to stop and take in the present moment. There is nothing more wonderful than to bask in the delightful warmth of the sun on a cool winter’s morning. I sat there for about fifteen minutes as I sipped my coffee and listened to the sounds around me and with no alarm calls or signs of a predator nearby, I decided to continue along the river. I find that it is within these quiet moments that we are able to listen to our intuition the most and on this morning, something was telling me to change direction completely and move south toward a place we call Camp Pan. The thoughts in my mind took me back to the way I had found the Nyeleti male in the same area and a strange sense in me thought that if I went back there, I would find a leopard.

I arrived at Camp Pan and stopped once again to listen. The wind began to blow stronger and the dried leaves rustled as they brushed along the ground making it a little bit harder to hear clearly. About four minutes passed when I started to hear a few impala alarm calls but due to the wind I couldn’t quite pin-point which direction the sound was coming from. As the calls became more incessant, I turned the vehicle to face away from the wind and in that moment I could both see and hear the herd of impala just west of my position. I drove toward them all, looking around hoping to see a leopard moving away from the very aware herd, however there was nothing. For a few moments this confused me, when a leopard is busy hunting and are then seen, an impala will snort an alarm call which then flaws the hunt. Typically, the leopard would then move away in surrender, often with a very unsatisfied look on its face.

This wasn’t the case.

I circled again watching as the distressed herbivores continued to stare towards a large bushwillow and it was there that I fixed my eyes on the spots of a leopard! The Schotia female had just caught a male impala and had dragged it into a thicket! I couldn’t believe it! What made this even more exciting was the knowing in how I had reached this point and found this leopard. It was intuition. Perhaps a bit of luck, but in my heart, it felt as though I was drawn to this area at the right time. If it weren’t for the moments spent to stop, listen and be still, this sighting may have gone completely unnoticed and we may never have seen her or the cubs feeding.

With no hyenas in the area, Schotia female walked back toward the lodge area where her two little cubs were stashed and began to lead them back to the carcass. They were then able to enjoy a full meal before nightfall.

Although I have experienced a few more accounts of this sort recently, this story in particular really lead me to thinking about the way in which we do things and live our lives. I believe that there is so much power in listening. In stopping to take a moment for ourselves and to be present. Our lives may be in constant movement, but listen to yourself and ask yourself if you are truly living? Are you taking the time to be present and appreciate the current breathes you are taking?

We may not all spend our time in nature, however we can all afford the time to listen. Be it to someone you hold dear to you willing to share their stories, to the sounds of your surroundings or to your inner voice and intuition which is guiding you toward your next adventure… and if your next adventure happens to be a safari in Africa, remember to let go of ‘the rush’ and make sure to slow down, be present, stop and listen. You may find that special sighting you’ve always dreamed of in doing so.