It takes only 1 trip to the Kruger National Park of South Africa to not only fall in love with nature, but to learn from it. The immense animal kingdom of the savannah has many lessons to teach us, if only we take the time to listen. From leopards to lizards, here’s what I learned in my 4 days of immersion:

You always have a role to play. The food chain and natural order make for a complex system, but they ultimately teach that every organism has a part to play in the health of the environment. In my trip, we witnessed a leopard eating a small impala whilst nestled in a tree, as well as a hyena begging for scraps and vultures watching closely. This single interaction displays the ultimate fact of the wild: in every situation, there are role players.

The leopard is the predator, the impala the prey, and the vultures and hyena the clever scavengers. In the human world, I believe the principal is the same. Whilst we don’t have roles like predator or prey, we have titles such as mother, friend, listener and mentor. In every situation we have a role to play, and I believe that accepting that role brings us one step closer to peace. If you are a friend, you must accept that your role is to support. If you are a mother, you must accept that your role is to love. In the same way that a predator doesn’t feel guilty for playing its role in nature, we should accept our roles in our relationships and organisations.

Patience is always rewarded. The morning after the leopard’s kill, we found the same cat eating the last remains in a new tree, surrounded by hyenas on all sides. They had been waiting the whole night for something to eat. The leopard did not willingly share anything, although it couldn’t help that it accidently dropped a leg onto the floor through a misplaced bite. The hyenas immediately relished the opportunity and found themselves full. A whole night of waiting finally reaped a reward. There were surely many moments where even the hyena doubted its luck, but eventually its patience was rewarded. At the end of the day, it’s patience that will grant us happiness.

With the right people, anything is possible. A pride of lions had been stalking an unsuspecting heard of buffalo for nearly 2 days. We arrived on the scene with 4 lions confronting a bull on one of the main roads of the reserve. The buffalo had chosen their strategy well: the mothers had gone ahead with the youngest, whilst the strong bulls separated into groups to ward off their predators. With teamwork, the group of young bulls chased away the lions and granted their herd safety. In life, few things can be done alone. A lone buffalo would’ve easily fallen prey to the pride, but as a group they protected each other. In the same way we as humans must build our own herds. We must choose people who will protect us and love us in the face of danger, otherwise we’re easy prey as well.

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee