We’re in the African bush on foot. It’s getting hot and tummies are rumbling for breakfast, but none of that matters as all eyes are on a small piece of twig in the hands of Abelana Safari Camp head trails guide John Fouche. He’s just pulled it out of a pile of old elephant droppings and subsequently explains to a rapt audience how he can tell how old the elephant was that ate it, and whether it was a bull or cow. Jaws are dropping. The man knows his onions. And poop, it seems.
Walking with John amongst the koppies that surround the camp is a revelation of almost biblical proportions as he points out the smallest nuances in the environment and weaves fascinating facts about them into riveting stories. It’s “wow” moment upon “wow” moment as you learn the intricate connections between planet, flora and fauna and how life in all its amazing glory thrives in this often hostile yet stunningly beautiful part of the world.
Branches break somewhere to the right as a magnificent kudu bull is startled by our movement. The birdsong is almost overpowering, as is the hum of cicadas – the quintessential “thrum” of African wilderness. You can almost taste wild as you walk along well-trodden paths carved into the sandy earth by the relentless movement of countless animals. Above you tower ancient sandstone outcrops called “koppies”, beneath your feet is rock laid down billions of years ago. Around you untamed Africa unfolds beneath an epic sky. It’s breathtaking and humbling all at once.
Walking here at Abelana is like an instant attitude adjustment as you realise that without John, up ahead with his rifle and boundless knowledge, you’d be done for in a matter of hours. It’s a realisation that simultaneously shrinks egos and opens eyes as you connect with the mother planet and thrill to the joy of being alive. Africa will do that to you in a heartbeat, and you’ll love her for it.
At last, three hours after leaving it as the sun was beginning to rise, the camp appears ahead, between the rocks of ages past and we are all immensely grateful, and thankful to John for sharing his passion with us and showing us a whole new side of the African wilderness.
Sharing is something Abelana prides itself on. The word “abelana” means “to share amongst each other” in the Northern Sotho language. This morning we have all shared something truly special that will never be forgotten – the spirit of Africa. And as we tuck into a hearty breakfast we are counting down the minutes until our next encounter, out there, amongst the amazing landscapes of Abelana.