Pursuing the African Dream | African Impact Blog

Author: Peter Carellini

Africa was, simply put, my dream.  I’d wanted to go since I was a child. To be here in Hoedspruit still feels like a dream, one I fear I may wake up from, back in the USA. The other night I had a highly realistic dream that I’d missed my flight here, and that realism caused me to awake at 4am in panic. I was unable to sleep for the rest of the night, so to say I enjoy being in South Africa is a huge understatement. My continuous joy came to an absolute peak in Kruger National Park.

I’d been told of Kruger’s magnificence by many, and signed on for a weekend trip there ASAP. Let me preface my brief tale by stating that I’ve long learned in life to temper my expectations; to acknowledge that most of, if not all of the dreams in my head can exist only there. I am completely content with this truth, and do not look upon it with cynicism. Nor, however, do I prevent myself from embracing the true magic sometime present in this world.

“Africa was, simply put, my dream.”

On our morning drive, I told myself quietly to not expect a magnificent diorama. After all, these were animals, and to expect them to put on a show in plain sight was mentally both arrogant and condescending. That being said, as the day went on my enthusiasm couldn’t help but erupt at the sight of a baboon line across the road, or a whirl of vultures decorating the sky. I would not dare to ask for more, or disrespect these animals by expecting such.

I sat back in my seat as we pulled up to a watering hole housing some few dozen impala, relaxed at a warmly familiar sight. What I saw next drew me to tears.

Two male lions and cub resting in the shade

Two male lions and cub resting in the shade, spotted on a game drive by photography volunteers around the Greater Kruger Area | Photo courtesy of Sophie Brown

My guide directed his hawk-like eye to the shadows of a baobab. He whispered something that I couldn’t believe to be true, but my eyes told me otherwise: lions?! Yes! There they were, lounging under the shade! Wow – I most definitely did not expect that. As it was, the sight was incredible. Predator and prey, hanging about routinely as if they were in the schoolyard. How cool is that? Even this moment I could soak in for a whole day.

The buffalo then came from the west. If you’ve never seen a buffalo, despite the seeming mundanity, they behave in a way that is wholly unique to them and characteristically charming. As the shuffling mass came in, a deep excitement carved its way from within – the kind that forewarns you that what you are about to see is special, that an unforgettable moment is brewing. This army of buffalo blended into the beige sea of impala, all the while being overlooked by two sturdy lions. The world seem to silence itself. What else could possibly join in?

When the twenty elephants emerged from the bush behind the watering hole, to join their fellow beings, my eyes started leaking. I was humbled. Unequivocally humbled. Beautifully made insignificant, but nonetheless permitted to witness life at its greatest before me. What did I do to deserve this privilege? I thought being in Africa itself was stellar, but to see a sight ripped from a dream? Elephants are my favourite animal! They’re godlike in a way that words can’t do justice..

I crept forward to soak in a vista so magnificent that I had to constantly swivel my head to even remotely comprehend its magic. I would trade nothing, nothing at all, to sacrifice this moment. I continued to cry bulbous tears of joy. I didn’t know how else to express myself, so overwhelmed with emotion was I. I didn’t want to express myself any other way. How can you, when that image in your head presents itself in reality? Nature’s shining grace. Earth’s infinite magic.

Herd of antelope

A herd of antelope at a watering hole during our photography volunteer game drive | Photograph courtesy of Sophie Brown

There are times when dreams do not come true, but amazingly, there are times when they bounce to life with more vigour and colour than you could have ever imagined. If you love and admire animals, if you cherish a natural planet that is being ravaged by unchecked capitalism and apathetic greed, and if you have the means, you should come to Africa. Venture into a world of unimaginable beauty, of purity delivered by nature herself. You will see things you were told as an adult did not exist, and as a child believed you would see with wonder and love.