Wild Trips: Animals ……. They know….
The more I look into it and the more wildlife encounters I have, the more I can’t avoid the fact that something else is going on. Animals know; they know on a level that we seem to have forgotten. Stuff happens depending on the vibe of the group. The encounters fit the people I am with. And the more I discuss this stuff, the more I hear different stories that confirm the same thing. Animals know. They know who we are, in a way that we have lost. We apply logic and reason and we cut off from our true nature and so we forget or mask or simply don’t pay attention. There is a universal energy that passes through us, that joins us. Animals can see and feel it.
Gombe stream. It’s the most beautiful national park. Steep forested slopes that descend into the world’s second largest body of fresh water, Lake Tanganika. Clear and deep, 1.5kms deep in fact. Over 75kms away, on the other side, you can just make out the shadow of the Congo. From Kigoma, it’s about an hour and a half by private boat to Gombe. (Considerably longer by boat bus.) About an hour into the boat ride, the villages stop and the trees really start. Hill layered upon hill, green upon green. Most covered in trees and thick vines but occasionally a vivid emerald peak shines out behind. All grass. They don’t know if the hills were always grass or whether the trees were taken and fires have kept the saplings from taking hold again. Wildflowers and butterflies thrive up in the open areas. It’s a bit of a journey but worth it. Gombe is home to the longest running continuous study of primates. The descendants of the chimpanzees that Jane Goodall first studied in this remote corner of Tanzania are still monitored here every day. Jane and her researchers have made paths that criss-cross throughout the park. They traverse the incredibly steep slopes. Buttress roots form thigh-shaking steps but the over-hanging vines give you something to heave yourself up with. You need to be fit to explore Gombe. If the chimpanzees are at the edge of their range, you can be pulling yourself up these slopes for hours. If it has rained then they are incredibly slippery too. I found myself on all fours, grasping for the next bit of vegetation to aid my fight against gravity. So I am young-ish, fit and healthy and also exhausted, 5 hours to the chimps. Another day in Gombe. My eyes are bright and alive from the exhilaration of it. On the way back down the perilously slippery paths my guide excitedly tells me that Jane is visiting in 3 days. She visits usually just once or twice a year. (The rest of her year is spent travelling relentlessly around the globe trying to raise money to improve the environmental situation for humans and animals alike.) I absorb this information and ask the obvious question. ” How on earth is this (albeit dynamic and robust) 80 year old lady going to haul herself up the slippery Gombe slopes?” My guide smiles and in a matter of fact way says, “the chimps will meet her at her house.” As if it’s the most normal, natural thing in the world…. Jane visits when she can, it’s random, even she doesn’t know when the opportunity will arise. And its Africa. It’s necessarily random. Yet whenever Jane visits Gombe, the chimps meet her at her house. (House in the loosest sense of the term you understand, she is not a lady to value material possessions.) So the next day we trek the chimps and they are 3 hours away. The next, they are 1 hour away and then in the morning of ‘Jane arrival day’ it takes just half an hour to reach them and when Jane’s boat arrives they have mooched down ready to greet her, as predicted, by her house. Animals, they know.
I read the brilliant, ‘Elephant whisperer’ – a must for any animal lover. Too many tales to recount here but there is one that sticks in my mind and illustrates my point. Anthony’s elephants, although rescued, are wild. They have a huge range and often are not seen for days, despite constant safaris in the park. Anthony’s conservation work often takes him away for long periods of time. Interestingly, the elephants take it upon themselves to meet him on his return at the park gates. On one particular occasion he was due home. The elephants were observed coming out of the bush and heading towards their normal rendezvous point. Then un-expectantly they turned around and headed back the way they had come. This happened at exactly the time Anthony missed his flight. He managed to get on one the next day and the elephants appeared as normal to welcome him home….
It’s not just primates and elephants, of course, dogs do it. They have been recorded as their owners leave or even think about leaving to come home. They become excited and often go to the door to wait for their pack leaders return.
So questions….. How do they know? How do Jane’s chimps know she is coming? How did Anthony’s elephants know he had missed his flight.
And then there are other bits, more subtle, perhaps but still a knowing. A knowing that you mean no harm. That you won’t stretch out and grab; that you will show respect. I have sat on the sand 10 metres deep beneath the waves and smiled, my heart full of joy, as Manta Rays dance about me. Skimming my head with their wings, studying me with their huge eyes. I have squealed with delight as a mummy dolphin and her baby have swam round and round me…. Clicking constantly, the message – I am sure, “have you seen how lovely my baby is?”
These encounters only come when the vibe is right. When your energy tells them you are ok. When they know how special you think they are. When they know you respect them. That you want the encounter on their terms. When it’s not about the picture. Not about ticking off the list. It’s about the opening of the heart. The understanding of the sameness, the oneness. That our future and happiness is inextricably linked with theirs. With nature. That we are not screens nor concrete nor material stuff. Happiness does not lie with what you have, what changes, but with what is…..