For many years I guided visitors into the African wilderness, an experience they paid a tidy sum for. I was constantly aware of this fact and always tried to satisfy their needs but at the same time attempting to get them to find true wilderness.
© Oh what fun it is to ride... Safari out of Jao Camp. Okavango
By Leigh Kemp
I learnt a great deal about human nature and our attitude toward the wilderness and our fellow man. At times it was frustrating and at times downright depressing.
On most safaris I would find a moment to stop, be still and listen to the space. During these precious moments there would invariably be one person who would make noises or irritate the senses in some way. At times the others in the group would join in. This is what saddened me the most. The fact that we have moved into the realm where we are fearful of rediscovering something long-lost or we find it silly to contemplate silence is a reality of our society.
Today we claim to experience the wilderness from air-conditioned rooms where our every material need is satisfied, not realizing that the more fancy the lodges become the further we move from the calming of our souls.
Today it is not about the wilderness experience but rather the bragging rites. When did we decide that it was right to take legal action for a perceived bad experience in the wilderness? When we decided it was okay to bring the luxuries of home in. To stay at a lodge that has reaped awards for its design, and appeared in glossy magazines, is the ultimate badge of acceptance into society...
There is a huge difference between a wilderness experience and a safari ..... a safari is what is sold as the real thing today. It usually encompasses award winning safari lodges - air conditioned and pampered. A wilderness experience is where you actually experience the healing qualities of nature within - physical and emotional. Safari lodges are often counter-productive in that they feed the ego.
During my guiding years I attempted to satisfy my own longing without impeding the expectations of the guests. This was, at times, a fruitless exercise. Over the years I have, however, captured something of what I yearn for. It is the shapes, the colours, the textures, the patterns, the seasons and scents that enthrall me.