Experience Nature
What is the value of nature? How can we capture it?

Nature’s impact

In two previous posts, I discussed the value of guided tours opposed to unguided tours. Follow the link to The Essence of Guiding – 1 and The Essence to Guiding – 2 if you have missed these posts. Today I would like to elaborate on the impact of nature on the human mind.

Lasting impression

Every single one of us is different, so we all react to nature in a different way. Some might seek the adrenaline rush, while some try to find peace in nature. The following example illustrates this. Imagine you sit in an open game drive vehicle with an elephant only a couple of meters away from you. The huge grey head of the elephant towers over you; a giant that is able to turn your vehicle over in a heartbeat. In a sighting like this, some feel anxious, others nervous, or scared, in awe, amazed, happy, or even humbled. But perhaps we all feel a combination of these mentioned emotions to a different degree. Surely without a doubt, we can conclude that nature has the ability to leave her imprint and make a lasting impression.

The marula and the elephant

It is February, and with the abundance of water and food available, the animals have dispersed. It is a season of vibrant activity, and the abundance has attracted the migratory birds. There is enough for everyone. The marula fruits are dropping to the ground, where they will ripen. As like many other animals, elephants are fond of these fruits. They can be seen hours on end picking up the small round fruit. Using the two finger-like protrusions at the end of their trunk, they toss the fruit one by one into their mouth. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this task, imagine you are searching for small pieces of rock candy sugar. After having found a piece you throw it into your mouth. And then you patiently continue your search for hours on end.

Setting the stage

I am out on a morning game drive with only two guests, both of them highly educated. At some stage, we notice a lone bull elephant feeding on marula fruits. We slowly make our way and stop a fair distance from him. I switch the engine off and we sit quietly observing him. There are no noises to be heard, only the sounds of the bush. The elephant is feeding patiently, calmly, and seemingly content with the fruits. And slowly, step-by-step he makes his way around the tree. Now he has come so near that we can hear the regular flopping of his ears and the chomping sound of his mouth. Totally at ease, he moves even closer, accepting our presence. Finally, he comes so close, that we can hear his slow and regular breathing. At last, when we are only a few meters apart, he signals for us to move. Just a little nod of the head and swing of the trunk is enough to make us move.

I start the vehicle and slowly back away, leaving him feeding peacefully on the marula fruits. This sighting made a deep impression on all of us. My guests told me that they read The Little Prince. However, there was one passage they did not understand until now: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (From the book: The Little Prince, written by Antoine de Saint – Exupéry.)

Creating an opportunity for mother nature

There was not much this time that I had to do as a guide. Surely, I anticipated the behaviour and movement of the elephant and positioned us accordingly. Furthermore, I read the behaviour of the elephant in order for us to switch off the engine and sit there in silence. We respected the elephant in his environment, and he accepted us in his life. The actual impact this sighting had was not my doing; I had the honour to aide in its moment. As a guide, I am there to help create opportunities for mother nature to do her magic. Sometimes I can speak for her, but she is, in the end, the centre of attention. What I could not explain with words, mother nature had done in silence. My guests now understood the meaning of that one passage from The Little Prince.

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The elephant helped us understand the value of nature
Leaning against the marula tree.
Completely relaxed with our presence this elephant granted us a glimpse in his life
Coming closer, step-by-step.
Only meters away before asking us to move
In search of the marula fruit under our vehicle.