We’re just back from Mindful Safari in Africa, and I’ve had a lot of messages from people wanting to know how it went. I’m very pleased to be sharing a few photo highlights here.
This year’s Mindful Safari was held at Clive’s Camp and Xidulu – private game lodges on the Makalali Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park in South Africa. These family-owned lodges are not available to the public, and it was our very great privilege to enjoy staying in such exclusive and luxurious surroundings in the middle of the bush.
Each morning we’d wake just before dawn and make our way to the beautiful thatched rondavel – round hut – at Clive’s Camp, which served as our place of meditation. There I would give a few instructions, before we meditated, ending as the sun’s rays stretched across the veld, warming our faces.
There is something very special about meditating in an open setting in Africa, with the dawn chorus of birds in the trees around us, and the primordial sounds of the bush – the whooping of a hyena, or barking of a kudu.
Morning meditation was followed by coffee and cereal, fruit or rusks – a South African standard, and my own favourite start to the day! Then, with our minds clear and calm, we’d climb into the Land Rovers and set out on our morning game drive.
Because Makalali is a wildlife conservancy, not a zoo, you have to seek out the animals, and from one day to the next you never know what you’ll find. Keeping a close eye on the bush is a wonderfully mindful experience – there’s little chance you’ll be thinking about your tax return when there’s the prospect of discovering a lion round the next turn of the dust track! During the course of our 6 days we saw all a wonderful variety of game – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, kudu, jackal, hyena, giraffe, hippo, eagles, vultures, starlings, African Hoopoe … the list goes on!
Some mornings we’d stop for a coffee break in a clearing, such as a dry river bed. Being the middle of winter in the lowveld, there has been no rain for months. This makes animals easier to see in the bush – and more likely to visit the watering holes at both Clive’s Camp and Xidulu.
Even on quieter game mornings, the extensive knowledge shared by our hosts Claudia and Robin, and our game guides, Patson and Frank, was truly fascinating. We learned so much about the interdependence of all the different species of animals as well as the precarious balance of nature. We also came to understand more about current trends in conservation.
One morning, Patson demonstrated how burning elephant dung is a traditional remedy for headaches. The variety of digested plants and roots eaten by elephants produces a smoke which you then inhale. Two inhalations to get rid of a headache. Four to get high! There were plenty of jokes about getting into the import-export business with elephant dung. Personally, I don’t see it catching on!
After the morning game drive, we’d return around 11 am for a hearty brunch prepared by the lovely Lucy, who catered wonderfully for all dietary requirements.
This was followed by time to relax. Some people enjoyed simply pushing back and watching hippo at the watering hole. Inspiring quotes and suggested contemplation exercises were provided for everyone to spend some reflective time in the tranquil comfort of their own rooms. It was also nice to be able to freshen up in the outdoor showers, which are attached to each chalet. One afternoon under the shower, I watched Dudley the Wildebeest ambling by, followed by a herd of zebra. What a unique experience!
Afternoon meditation sessions were from 3 pm – 4 pm. During the course of the 6 days people were introduced to a variety of different meditation types. The powerful benefits of the practices were outlined. And I put special emphasis on mind watching mind meditation, and also on compassion-based exercises (tong len). Mindful Safaris are intended for meditators of all kinds – lapsed, newcomers and seasoned practitioners. As Heraclitus once said ‘No man ever crosses the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.’ So too with meditation. There is always something different to observe and experience.
Learning how to cultivate this mind of awareness carries through beautifully when we get onto the back of Land Rovers and head into the bush. We can observe everything with fresh eyes. And not only eyes. We learned how animals depend on sound and scent sometimes more than sight: by the time you see a predator, it may well be too late. During the course of our time, we heard leopards cracking the bones of a waterbuck, elephants pushing down a tree and giraffes crunching through the branches of a thorn tree. We learned to recognise the smell of potato plants blossoming at sunset and the sweet, clean smell of dawn each new day. A wonderfully holistic, mindful experience.
Evening game drives were really special. On most of them we were accompanied by our Mindful Safari mascot ‘Snack’ – the little dog adopted by our wonderful safari hosts Claudia and Robin. Snack took a keen interest in all the animals – what a life of adventure she leads!
Around 7 pm we would return to Xidulu to relax by the campfire, enjoy a glass of wine, and wait for another gourmet meal to be served.
It was fairly early to bed and early to rise on Mindful Safari. But what a truly memorable experience. Here’s some of the feedback from the Mindful Safari-goers:
“I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but have been blown away with every new day. I think the whole trip was run well and my only regret is that I wish we had longer to enjoy this place more.”
“You have provided me with the most memorable experience possible on planet earth! I appreciate the high level of professionalism, extensive knowledge and amazing kindness that all of you guys have shown us in our short and fantastic stay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”
“In summary, location, accommodation, hospitality and sumptuous food, the entire experience, I give it 10 out of 10. When can I come back again?!”
“I have learned and gained insight into me as a person, body, mind and spirit. The lessons David led provided me with wisdom and insight. I feel very much more insightful into happiness and compassion.”
“How could you not be mindful of the African bush and all it offers. Wild animals, birds, peace and tranquility. Married together with David Michie’s insightful guidance and wisdom, this was an amazing trip of a lifetime!”
Mindful Safari only happened thanks to a lot of hard work from a co-ordinated team of people. In particular I’d like to thank Barbara Turner, for managing all the logistics with such amazing efficiency. Claudia and Robin for being such wise, capable, friendly and professional hosts. Patson and Frank for their tracking skills honed over decades. Lucy for all the delicious food. Every member of staff at both Clive’s Camp and Xidulu. The owners of Clive’s Camp and Xidulu for allowing us the very great privilege of staying in their family homes. And all the guests who came on this inaugural Mindful Safari. It was one of the happiest and most memorable weeks of my life – and it could never have happened without you. My heartfelt gratitude to you for your trust and support.
I gratefully acknowledge Claudia Schnell and my wife, Janmarie, for some of the photographs used in this blog.
For anyone interested in taking part in Mindful Safari 2016, please check out dates, prices and who to contact at: http://www.davidmichie.com/safari.html
If you know someone who may like to join us, please ‘Share’ this blog.
And if you’re interested in reading some of the insights gained on Mindful Safari, I will be blogging about these in future weeks – please click the Follow button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!
Discover Africa. Come home to yourself – on Mindful Safari!
(Pictures above: Patson, David and Frank; Claudia, David, Robin and Barbara)