They tell me the sausage tree hasn’t flowered for years. It is now. Two fat crimson blooms, deep as trumpets, hang down and waggle in the hot wind. A sugar bird dips its beak into the nectar, then throws back its head to swallow. Only two blooms as yet, but tomorrow rain is promised. I sit in the dappled shade of a jacaranda and over there a coral tree waves fire blooms at the sky. It’s super hot today and the sky is wide and blue with just faint brushstrokes of cloud. I look up and all I see is colour, bright primaries, nothing muted or almost there, but loud in my eyes, almost blinding.
I woke early this morning, around 5 am and opened my curtains slowly. There she is, Shiloh the Peaceful, a heavily pregnant Nyala, a deer in a land of many different species of deer. Her body is light tan, softly streaked with white and she has chosen the safety of this small reserve to give birth. Her herd could be anywhere but she needs solitude for the task ahead. I could reach out and touch her, she is so close to my window. She looks at me. I look back but she isn’t alarmed and soon her head returns to the ground, to pick the watered grass, her nourishment. Keep safe, I whisper. She would make a fine breakfast for a hungry leopard and there is a big male that walks this place at night. Many other deer have made this place their home. Little hunched Bush Buck, jumpy Impala and, now, Shiloh the Peaceful.
Swifts cut through the blue above my head whilst petrol blue blackbirds scuttle along the ground. On a walk through the bush yesterday I saw grasshoppers as long as a Scottish housemouse, green at first until they spread their crimson wings. When the rains come so will the spiders, the scorpions, and the snakes. When the new arrivals gathered this morning for a power point induction, we learned the guidelines for a safe and happy stay here. Some have come for a few weeks, some a few months, a few for longer, but the rules around wildlife are always the same. How to behave in the wild is not a matter of choice, but of survival. All of us gave our full attention, needless to say.
When encountering anything with venom, claws, teeth or trunks, don’t change shape. That’s the nutshell of it. No flapping of arms, no running, just very slowly back away, or, in some cases, stand absolutely still like in musical statues. One guide, whilst out in the bush came face to face with a cheetah. Although raw terror shot through him and every natural instinct was to run, he knew better. Standing completely still and in silence, he waited as the cheetah came towards him brushing the skin of his leg and moving on down the dust track. Easily advised, this standing still thing, but the truth is that any movement, any attempt to run would have been disastrous. However, not one single wild animal has the slightest interest in humans, beyond curiosity. They don’t fancy a human for lunch, nor do they carry ill intent towards us, nor do they think and reason as we do. They run entirely on instinct and will not harm any of us unless we do something foolish, like flap or run.
We are all wise to remember that this land is their land, not ours.