Who is going to take the first jump?
Our hearts beat in anticipation as we watch in silence, the sun is rising over the Masai Mara, its warm hue lights our faces, each muscle of the leopard, slinking, crawling, belly to the ground, downwind of his prey.
A flurry arises as the birds frantically twitter in warning, excitedly above the warthogs head as he crouches on his tiny knees, his antenna-like tail pokes the air as he intently chomps on the grasses of the African plains oblivious to the world around him.
The excitement of the bird's warning heightens, our breath draws faster, the silence deepens, and each muscle of the leopard is defined in its’ ripple.
Will he catch his prey?
Every inch of our being is present in the anticipation, chests rise and fall in rhythm with the earth, each breath building on the next as in that moment there is only you, the leopard, the warthog, and the birds, there is nothing else, all of life falls away and at that moment you disconnect from the world and reconnect with yourself.
And that’s the gift of the raw untethered land that is Africa, as you mindfully witness the circle of life quietly, yet dramatically unfolding before your eyes.
The Awe and Wonder You Are Seeking is Inside of You
Across the plain, the long hairy beard of the Wildebeest gently droops towards the earth as he meanders hundreds of kilometers from the Serengeti in Tanzania, willowing along as 2 million animals, one behind the other.
Unwittingly or knowingly they follow nature, the grasses, and the rains.
There is no questioning about the life-threatening challenges that lay ahead, there is no complacency, they simply wander, walk, and sometimes run, babies playfully jumping as they follow their mothers.
Hippos wallow, seemingly oblivious to the danger that lies beneath the intrepid waters as the Migration flows. Herds pace the shore of the Masai River looking for the least dangerous crossing point, as a cluster of Zebra call from the other side.
Who’s going to lead, to take that first jump?
Who’s going to brave their life to lead their babies, their families, and their fellow travelers to the other side?
The tension builds in the Safari Jeep, a sense of anxiety even, as crocodiles of immense proportions gather, merging from the muddy waters. The width of their giant bodies takes your breath away as their beady eyes peer from underneath the gnarly waters and then you hear it, the first splash, and off they go, hundreds and hundreds of Wildebeest and Zebra fighting the current to get safely to the other side.
As our hearts beat faster, urging them to swim, the unthinkable happens and a Zebra loses his footing.
Our silent voice screams ‘No, no’ as he is dragged away, his large body rolling, disappearing under the water, and then emerging in the jaws of the crocodile, his scream rises through the air above the chaos of the crossing and you know his life is slipping away.
To our left a lioness lingers, hiding in crevices of the river bank awaiting an easy lunch, but today is not her day, as she witnesses the crocodile eating her potential prey.
A gasp rises as a baby Wildebeest is carried downstream on the current, fighting to get to the other side. His cries of distress echo through the air, and as hearts race, you can feel the spectators from around the globe willing him to find his feet. He struggles, floundering in the intensity of the current, finally, he stumbles up the river bank, wet and shaken.
A quiet cheer comes from the crowd and relief fills the air, he made it and we can breathe once again.
There’s a falter in the crossing as a group of Zebra nervously balk and come to a sudden halt. You can feel their trepidation as they pace the bank, watching the still unfed, vicious crocodiles. The waters break into a swirl, and we witness the magic of nature unfurl as the Hippos rise, bolstering to create a safe passage, a barricade between the crossing and the crocodiles.
Our hearts smile and explode as the awe and wonder of nature fill us and we know on some level, something has shifted and we will never be the same again.
See the World with New Eyes
Jaws drop, eyes widen, and faces open as the vast expanse of the Masai Mara and its’ residents steal hearts.
The perfection in the imperfection is realized as we witness the essential role of the vulture and the hyena in the ecosystem of life. Carcasses lay abound across the plains as Lions finish feasting on their prey, a pack of Spotted Hyena pace, laughing as Vultures swirl awaiting an easy lunch.
In just a few hours there will be no trace, as these scavengers of the wild consume every bone and morsel, stomach filled for another day.
The sun is setting over the Mara, as we arrive back at camp, our senses awakened by the plethora of giraffes, elephants, Gazelle, Antelope, and game see us tired, excited, and feeling fully alive.
There are no words that adequately describe the magic of this natural wonderland.
Leaning back drinking in the last remnants of the day, an ice-cold G and T in hand there is movement on the river bank as the barrel-like body of a male Hippo emerges on the sandy crescent-shaped bank. His stumpy short legs carry his large body across the sand as he scans the edges of the water intently for danger. He comes to stand, soldier-like, halted, and on guard.
Three more Hippos follow positioning themselves like soldiers facing the water around the edges of the crescent, then to our delight our day gets even richer as a mumma hippo raises her large body onto the sand, leading her baby onto the shore. She positions the baby on her left close to the wall of the river bank, protecting him from anything that may lay beneath the muddy waters, ready to steal him away.
As she moves across the sand, the other females fall in behind, cocooning the baby in safety they move as one up the bank.
Speechless, we quietly marvel at the wonder of life.
As published in Living Now Magazine