Written by: Ben Coley
I am not a religious person, but I am more than happy to admit that unusual things happen in nature on a daily basis. There are many mathematical theories that try to account for this, such as the Golden Ratio (based upon the Fibonacci sequence where the next number is the sum of the previous two) for example which can be found again and again in our world. The ratio of 1:1.618 can found in the design of sea shells, the arrangement of sunflower seeds, multiple facets of the human body, hurricanes and even growth forms of trees.
There are other unusual coincidences such as the phenomena we see at sunset and sunrise: did you know that when you see the sun hit the horizon, it has already set – you are actually seeing a refraction of light from the sun below the curvature of the Earth. What we see is akin to a mirage but it just so happens that the amount of light refraction is equal to the size of the sun and thus we see no difference to the naked eye!? What about a total solar eclipse? Ever wondered why we sometimes get a perfect occlusion? Well it just so happens that the size of the moon is 400x less than that of the sun, but the sun is 400x further away. The end result – a perfect fit when the moon passes in front of the sun!
These are scientifically provable incidences but there are some things that simply cannot be explained. I am by no means assuming, nor denying, a higher force but the longer you spend submerged in nature, the more they seem to occur. For me, nature has a sense of humour. Rule number 1 of guiding: Never use absolutes such as ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘without exception’ etc. If you do, nature will bite you within seconds. I remember a moment when viewing a cheetah where I was asked if they climbed trees. I obviously replied “no”. Within 10 seconds, the cheetah leapt into a fallen tree to scan the horizon! Of course, climbing a felled tree and scaling one standing like a leopard are two different things but the principle remains the same. Maybe it was nature telling me that I don’t know everything, but either way, its mockery did not go unnoticed!
There are other unusual occurrences that I have experienced time and time again. For example, sightings are often harder to come by on a Sunday than any other day. Whether this is true or that we look for more meaning on potentially meaningful days, remains to be seen, but the frequency is uncanny. The bush also seems to reward good people. I remember taking an amazing lady, who had many troubles in her life, on safari. She gave me a list of what she wanted to see and I believe that we saw all of it and more, many of which were spectacular sightings. I also had a repeat guest who does a lot of work for conservation. He loved leopards and every time he came to stay we had multiple viewings of unusually high quality, including seeing four leopards in one sighting!
Perhaps the most significant of these experiences to me is the birthday phenomenon. The past two years, the bush had gifted me wild dog sightings on my birthday, despite not having seen them for months prior to then. Why? I cannot tell you but I am very grateful for the bush gods for their generous offering. When my birthday came about last week, I told the students this story and suggested that they bring their cameras as we would not doubt see something spectacular! Unfortunately at Karongwe there are no wild dogs and thus any sighting would have probably been divine intervention, but we had repeatedly been bettered by our resident male leopard and if there was ever a day for us to get a good look, it had to be today!
Sure enough, as we approached the end of our morning drive, our elusive leopard was spotted (no pun intended!) but we were probably a good 15 minutes away. On any other day, I knew the chance of him still being visible upon our arrival was small, but I had faith that today was different. As predicted, we found Tsavo exactly where he had been left, lounging on the rocks of the Karongwe River basking in the morning heat. We managed to get a great view of him and the students were able to get excellent pictures of the animal that we had spent countless hours in pursuit of. I afforded myself a knowing smile: the bush had delivered once again. Why? I do not know but I have to believe it is because of my passion for this great wilderness. It means so much to be to be out there on a daily basis and maybe, just maybe, some higher force (whomever or whatever that might be) is repaying my commitment?!
I may have passed on a wealth of knowledge to the students over the last month but I am unable to explain how this works. Perhaps it is luck, perhaps there is more to it? Whatever the reason, I am grateful and I cannot wait to see what the bush has in store for me next year!