REKINDLING LOVE FOR NATURE
I have recently worked on a natural history film about the Serengeti that showed the interconnectedness of the natural world and the intricacies of ecosystems. With the production, I used to say that to protect wildlife and Nature, we needed people to care. Something that could not be done just by teaching but rather had to be felt and experienced, whether on safari or through documentaries. Well, my family got to experience both.
In the middle of the rainy season, my mum’s side of the family came to visit. While they were expecting lions and elephants, they were not expecting to connect with themselves and the place on a deep level - to grow roots and open hearts.
In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught - Baba Dioum
For years I wondered how I would feel having my family, especially my parents and sister visit me. To see them discover the land I fell in love with over five years ago and to accompany them to learn another part of me - one that I am still discovering every day as I merge more and more with Nature.
Well, it was fantastic and reassuring. My 6-year-old cousin became a sponge and tuned with Nature very quickly. My mother took a botany journey to her childhood through the plants she encountered. Nature has this, if you present yourself with an open heart, she will take you on a journey of a lifetime.
This way, I witnessed how reconnecting with Nature works with people of different ages and life experiences. Throughout our safari into the most remote areas of Tanzania, we immersed ourselves in raw Nature where we had no sight of other cars or civilisation - and our closest neighbours were a group of hyenas that nested a few meters away from our tents.
Living an experience of this kind is already spectacular and life-changing, but what I believe was the detonator to help my family rekindle a love for Nature was making use of the five senses throughout the trip - something that our guides initiated and we fondly followed.
Everywhere we looked held a story that captivated us. Everyone's eyes lit up with each break of down, and the eyes kept mesmerised throughout the day as we came across different landscapes, wildlife and species interactions.
Interestingly, when discussing what our favourite sight of the day was, none of us repeated a story. My little six-year-old cousin will always remember observing a couple of male lion brothers share a small wildebeest for lunch, and I will always remember the smile on his face when telling me the story.
My sister, however, was intrigued by how climate change was affecting the ecosystem as she could see through the car window how the grass was drying out (in the midst of the rainy season) and animals, such as wildebeest in migration, were starting to be affected - which is pretty hard to see.
It is the beauty within us that makes us possible to recognise the beauty around us. The question is not what you look at but what you see - Henry David Thoreau
Nothing tells more about the whereabouts of hippos than their strong smell sensed from far away. Their muddy and stinky ponds are one of a kind. However, not everything we smelled will be forever remembered with such fame. We smelled the curtains of rain from the plains kilometres away that gave us hope and reassurance that wildlife would prosper and we smelled the extraordinary culinary skills of our chef in the camp that patiently waited for our arrival.
In the evenings, we walked up the Kopjes (isolated rock hills or small mountains that rise abruptly from the surrounding plains and are used by big cats to gain visibility of their surroundings, prey and threats) to smell the fresh air and the freedom that comes with being in a place like that.
Whenever it rains, and its earthy scent - the petrichor - hits my senses, memories come flashing and I go back in time - Shon Mehta
And so, we also learned through touch. On the walking safaris, we got to stop and appreciate each of the bones and feel the presence of the animal once gave life to them.
We also felt the wind in our faces, the sun on our skin and the Earth under our feet. The palm of our hands held a map of our soul, and the tracks we left behind reflected a map of our rekindled love for Nature.
Touch is the first language we speak - Stephen Gaskin
Taste was all around us. From animals having a feast to us enjoying the tastes of Africa. The flavour of coffee in the morning which beans came straight from the highlands outside the Serengeti, and the refreshing leaves we would eat on walks - which is to me, a very interesting way to learn about the environment.
But taste also comes metaphorically. Many of the family members brought a notebook and wrote down the highlights of each day and the most fascinating adventures they had experienced. A few years from now, whenever they are called to read their journals, they will re-taste and re-experience our time together in the Serengeti.
We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospection - Anais Nin
We are forever distracted by technologies, worries and hurries. Yet, when we follow and accommodate the pace of Nature, our senses come alive, and with that, we are able to hear the sounds around us. Our tents were located in the Barafu area of the Serengeti which is a kopje area on the east side of the park. Our closest neighbours were hyenas, lions, mongooses and dung beetles.
Especially in the evening, once quietness took over the buzz of the meal we shared on the table, we blended in with Nature, we were one, and we could hear hundreds of sounds wrapping us as if the sounds were a cosy knitted blanket coming to cover us to keep us warm at night. There was no place we ended and Nature started.
The quieter you become the more you are able to hear - Rumi
In every walk in Nature, one receives far more than one seeks. Being aware of how our five senses are participating in a given experience can help make the experience more memorable. For this, I am extremely grateful that my family got to walk in Nature with me and rekindle their love for Nature in the short grass plains of the Serengeti. I hope this inspires other families to reconnect with Nature through the five senses - a journey that will enrich your wildest self.