How One Blind Man Experienced Safari in Africa

by Sandy Salle on November 26, 2014

During one of my transfers in South Africa from the Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge to Marataba Safari Lodge, I asked my driver, Wikus (who was the head field guide at Marataba Safari Lodge) if he had any interesting stories from his days as a guide. Of course he did! But one story stood out the most that he shared with me . . . it was the story of a blind man who experienced safari in a completely unique and utterly moving way.

I’ll try to retell the story as best I can here:

Approximately 15 years ago, Wikus became a safari guide and during one of his first game drives as a certified guide, he took a family out into the bush for their first African safari vacation experience. The family included a husband, who was blind since birth, his wife and children.

Before they headed out into the bush, the blind man felt the entire surface of the 4X4 vehicle from the front to the back, so that his family could relate the size of the wildlife they were spotting to the size of the vehicle.

After evaluating the vehicle size, they headed out into the bush. One of the first animals they spotted on the drive was a beautiful male leopard.

“What is it?” asked the blind man.

“It’s a leopard – which is pretty much a big cat,” said his wife.

The blind man outlined the shape of the cat through the air with his hands but he outlined more of a domestic house cat size.

“No silly, this cat is huge! It’s as long as the hood of this car,” responded the wife.

So the man, outlined the cat again, only this time much larger!

“What color is it?” he asked.

“Well it’s tan with black spots,” said Wikus.

“Just look forward and tell me what you see,” said the wife.

“I see just darkness,” said the blind man.

“Perfect, that’s the color of his spots. Now look up at the sun. See that warm color? That’s the color of his fur,” noted the wife.

The blind man’s face lit up with joy before he asked “what do his spots feel like?”

“Well you can’t feel his spots,” said Wikus. “They’re just part of his fur.”

“Actually he can feel them,” said the man’s wife. “He can feel the temperature changes from color to color.”

As they continued on their journey, Wikus spotted an elephant enjoying an afternoon snack. The elephant looked toward the vehicle and gently walked around its perimeter.

After the elephant did a graceful lap around the vehicle, it stopped right next to the blind man. Then, it lifted its trunk and placed it in the man’s lap . . .

“Wow, what’s this?” exclaimed the man.

“Uh, that would be an elephant,” said the woman in surprise.

“How big is it?” said the man.

“Big. Maybe double the size of this car,” said Wikus.

A smile grew on the man from ear to ear and he was petting the elephant’s trunk for several minutes in complete shock and excitement. After some time, the elephant gently backed away and continued on its journeys.

“Well, we can go home now – I think I got what I came for!” said the blind man.

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