The Mardi Gras (call it what you will) migration season is, you know, when the two million wildebeest, zebra, eland and Thomson’s gazelles arrive along with thousands of excited safari travelers and their guides. In my opinion, The Migration is nature’s greatest celebration. Yes, there are a lot of tourists and yes many of them (and their guides) behave like ill-mannered gibbons at an eat-all-you-can banana buffet, but for the most part it is just so exciting to be part of the earth’s exuberant celebration. The abundance of the herds, the hunting prides, the quiet spots away from the madness where the grass blows on the East African wind recalling and kindling the ancient memory of wild in us all.
Last year at this time, people around the world who had dreamed of coming to Africa to see the thundering herds of planet earth’s greatest spectacle, were preparing for their trips. They headed to outdoor stores to buy completely unnecessary ‘Out of Africa’ clothing in an attempt to Merylise or Robertise their outfits. Others stocked up on books and read voraciously about Africa, her people and her wildlife. Many just dreamed of what was to come – of what it would be like to sit amongst the gnuing herds, to follow the prides through the grass, to hear, smell and see the awesome spectacle of a river crossing.
This year, however, it has all changed. Travelers wait for the green light to travel to mystical Africa, their plans on hiatus – not knowing if the bucket list trip of which they’ve so long dreamed will ever come to pass. All around them, for the first time in history, Homo sapiens faces a threat to every single one of its members. All of us are looking for healing – physical for the victims, psychological and spiritual for everyone.
For me, wilderness is the best place to look for the mental and spiritual healing we need to survive this collective trauma. There is something about the unchanging way in which nature has continued despite our human catastrophe that is so grounding, so comforting. Right now, as we grapple with the global pandemic, the mighty herds of the migration are thundering their way north and west into the woodlands of the Serengeti’s western corridor where the carnival of the rut will take place. It gives me enormous comfort to imagine the bulls, testosterone levels rising, setting up their postage stamp-sized territories and herding the long-suffering cows into them – focused solely on procreation; all of the participants utterly oblivious to the struggles of those strange bipedal things that appear from time to time in diesel belching vehicles.
Further north, in the Mara Triangle, the long rains are dumping their rejuvenating load on grasslands. Seeds will sprout in the rich, black-cotton soils, perennials will offer new leaves. A verdant sheen will blanket the land – all this, albeit unconsciously, in preparation to receive the zebra, wildebeest, eland and gazelle of the migration in a few months’ time.
It should also be a time to prepare for the thousands of tourists who had planned to come and experience the excitement; tourists whose continued fascination with the crossings, gorging prides, massive crocodiles and gobsmacking abundance allow the Mara Serengeti to remain the wild place that it is.
From Angama Mara, the magisterial views of the storms rolling in are another reminder of our human insignificance to nature. Whether or not this plague will clear soon enough for people to visit the Mara this year is unclear but the wild has no intention of putting anything on hold – the rains will fall, the hooves will gallop north. I, hope that you, like me, are able to take comfort from the fact that nature will continue with or without us and while she might not be waiting for us, she will be here in all her majesty and wonder when we, humanity, finally triumph.