We have recently returned from Mindful Safari 2016 – and what a truly amazing time we all had!
Where to start with the highlights of our six day retreat? Arriving at Hoedspruit airport in a De Havilland twin prop aircraft, after a flight over the Drakensberg Mountains, we were soon whisked to nearby Lufafa Ranch and the luxurious accommodation which is for the exclusive use of Mindful Safari guests.
It is something of a relief to leave behind our normal lives behind and find ourselves in a place where you don’t have to make any decisions – a balanced program of game drives and meditation sessions seems to suit people wonderfully. You can also put away your wallet for the week, having paid for everything up front. Most people unplug from their phone for a lot of the time too, having told work colleagues and friends not to expect to hear from them.
All you have to do is make yourself at home – no great hardship in chalets as beautiful as these, with a constant procession of giraffe, hippo, wildebeest and numerous other animals strolling by to the watering hole. Sometimes when you’re enjoying your own outside shower.
One other point worth mentioning is that if you’re single, Mindful Safari is a great way of travelling without feeling like a spare part. We’re all part of the same group, on the same page, wanting to do the same thing. There are a couple of twin rooms, if you’d like to bring a friend, such as the one below, or you can luxuriate in your own chalet.
We set out on our first game drive the evening we arrive. What surprises most people is just how close we get to the game. These are wild animals in their own territory and we can get to just a few feet away from them. How so?
The thing is, these animals are very familiar with Landrovers approaching, and are unfazed by them. They don’t associate them with humans, unless we stand up – so we never do! Our hosts and rangers are also familiar with the individual animals we encounter, having lived among them, in some cases, for decades. They know exactly what an elephant is communicating by the way he glances over his shoulder, or by the position of his tail. Or the family dynamics in a pride of lion.
Learning some of this during the course of our visit means that every game drive offers the possibility of fascinating insights as well as awe-inspiring encounters, like some of the following, all of which I took from back of a Landrover using my phone – so please excuse the wobbliness. You would almost certainly do a better job of this than me with the available talent!
Game drives have to rank among the most naturally mindful of human activities. You are not thinking about business decision or events in your personal life when travelling along a dirt track with the possibility of a lion or elephant around every corner.
This year, some of us were incredibly privileged to catch sight of an elusive aardvark during an evening drive. A creature usually found only in crossword puzzles and other word games, the aardvark is so rare that the one we saw was the first our safari host, Claudia, had seen, in nine years at this reserve! Unfortunately I can’t provide any photographic evidence: caught in the headlights at 9 o’clock at night, by the time we recognised what he was, he had gone!
Meditation sessions make a very natural fit with the mindful quality of game drives, as well as our withdrawal from the daily grind. There was something very peaceful about sitting by an African riverbed at dawn, contemplating how interconnected we are with nature, our ever cell derived from the earth, the oxygen we breathe dependent on trees and plants – we don’t so much come into nature as emerge out of it.
When witnessing, first hand, how life for most beings on planet earth is a daily quest for food and drink, it also feels so real, sitting beneath the canopy of ancient trees, to experience gratitude for our lives of privilege and freedom.
Something about being in this place has the effect of quite naturally awakening our compassion. I was really touched when one of the guests this year told me that being witness to all he had seen made him want to be the best person he could be. Yes, I thought – me too! That’s one of the curious and moving things about this experience. We withdraw from the world in order to return to it less jaded and stressed and with fresh gratitude, energy and purpose.
The dates for Mindful Safari 2017 are from Saturday 12 August to Friday 18th August. This may seem many months into the future. But we’ve found that a lot of people like to book landmark trips well in advance. Five of the ten chalets have already been reserved, so if you’re interested, contact Barbara Turner right away. Barbara manages all the bookings and can also arrange flights and add-ons, such as visits to Victoria Falls and/or Cape Town, both of which are well worth a visit. You can find costs and details on how to reach Barbara at: http://www.davidmichie.com/safari.html
Mindful Safari is the experience of a lifetime. If it has been a while since your eyes shone with uncontrived excitement, or since you felt genuinely awe-struck in the presence of nature, or deep peace abiding in the boundless tranquillity of your own mind – perhaps that time has come!
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In case you missed it, my two minute invitation to join me on next year’s safari is below: