“No matter how few possessions you own or how little money you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich beyond measure.”Paul Oxton
The eyes were scouring across the African savannah, in search for a pale yellow patch of fur or a slight movement of a branch, when suddenly, out of nowhere came an intimidating herd of elephants next to our jeep making it and the beings inside it seem quite insignificant. That was our grand welcome to Thanda.
Nature and the environment has always remained, one of the most significant factors when making life decisions. A college cannot be all concrete, a residence needed its expansive green view, a job needed the outdoors with an odd starry night. These were pre-programmed filters in my head when making those decisions. Despite this love for nature, my first job at Schlumberger, I have to admit, was in the oil field as a ‘frack engineer’, and this required some hardcore karma cleansing. So after quitting Schlumberger, I decided to volunteer with African Impact at Thanda Game Reserve. Thanda in Zulu means Love.
As a photography and conservation volunteer at Thanda, our job was to understand the dynamics of a reserve and its inhabitants, educate the local communities about the significance of their ecosystem, routinely clean out portions of the reserve and finally build a database of photographs for African Impact. This would typically mean two game drives a day (a 5AM & a 2PM), five hundred photo edits a week and heaps of machete cut grass with a few thorny scratches across tanned limbs. All this made me feel at home with a strong sense of belonging, and it all began with our very first game drive.
After our orientation, we excitedly, set out for our first attempt at spotting wildlife. The eyes took some time to recover from the routine chaotic urban views, to adjust and enjoy the lush serene jungle. It felt like I was thoroughly looking through nature for the first time, as opposed to the usual looking through it. I started to notice the details and began appreciating the order that has evolved to such immaculate perfection.
Yes, we did get startled by a large herd of elephants at less than a trunks distance, (as seen in the feature image) as they rummaged trees creating their own path and walking like they owned it (which honestly we were happy not to contest). And this did get our hearts racing and shutters blazing as we clicked solo and family portraits, but what stuck with me from that day was not the ele’s at touching distance but a teeny little joker butterfly. As seen in the image below, it is thriving on some second hand nutrition, shared by our generous herd of elephants.
It made me realise how well all of these beings fit together? How flawless is this natural order and how much have we disturbed it? How much of it is damaged, and how much of it is lost beyond repair? The following month was a fascinating adventure understanding the nuances of nature and the insignificance of man. I look forward to sharing some Thanda filled stories in the next few posts.
“The gracious acacia and its welcoming bow, ushered a fertile mind, for the savannah to sow,
leaves, feathers, stripes and spots, spotless details leaving striking thoughts”-infinite explorer