Remember the thrill of seeing your favourite live music on stage for the first time? Chances are you owned albums, had read countless articles over the years; and felt as though you knew them, because they spoke to you through rhythms, lyrics and harmonies, which you’d long come to love and understand. Now imagine how you’d feel encountering ‘live’, for the first time, a powerful wild Orangutan up close or swimming eye to eye with a gigantic singing Humpback Whale.
As you stare into the eye of a creature with a brain bigger than yours, that shares your basic DNA but also has the ability to instinctively navigate a planet’s oceans, you’d expect to be deeply moved ... and so you should. My first Humpback Whale encounter was while snorkelling at the surface with a film camera. I’d recently learnt to dive and was mesmerised by this 10-tonne animal’s buoyancy control, as it eyed me and drifted upwards and sideways, in my direction.
The whale came to a halt metres away and looked straight at me ... I choked up and was overcome with a flush of emotion, hidden, thankfully, by being face down in cool water. There are those who see encounters with wildlife as a moment - those who would go, just to be able to say they’d done this. I’ve dived with sharks, tracked Nepalese man-eating Tigers on foot, bush-camped alone in remote forests in Madagascar, woken to the eerie calls of Indris and nearly been swept down waterfalls, in pursuit of rare monkeys in Indonesia. Though despite thinking I could maintain a cool demeanour, my whale encounter was surprisingly overwhelming, because I’d been building to this moment all my life. I know enough about wildlife not to take any experience for granted.
These days it seems all too easy for anyone to jump in with a whale but if that’s all there is to it, you may as well throw a glass of water over your head while watching a doco, sitting in the comfort of your own living room.
It’s not the same as the powerful emotions you can feel when you have that once-in-a-lifetime close contact with a wild creature you’ve come to properly appreciate. Journey in the company of people who are deeply connected and it will offer you a window into their affections, a chance to see through different eyes, a world you wouldn’t otherwise comprehend. Like music, it’s a personal thing and the journey starts long before ‘the moment’.
Archaeologist Chris Carter even explains “the standard visit to Maccu Pichu sees it without meaning. When we end up there, we’re not surprised by what we see. That’s not to say we’re not overwhelmed ... but we’ve learnt the whole story of Mayan civilisation. The effect is profound”.
Veteran Orangutan conservationist Garry Sundin has raised almost a million dollars for their protection. “Orangutans are thinking animals” says Garry “... when you look into their eyes, there’s an understanding, an empathy more human than anything we can imagine”.
“They are the only tree-living ape and without them, we have no forest, no animals and we all suffer environmental problems - it doesn’t only affect Indonesians who live there, it affects us all”, he says. Despite struggling against the odds, villagers that live in remote communities supported by Garry, have devoted their lives to conserving their priceless natural heritage. They endure intolerable heat and interminable wet. There are no government grants; there’s no social welfare; and no protection from international business syndicates destroying the forests nearby.
This should be reminder enough that any wildlife adventure is a privilege, not a right. Communities world-wide work tirelessly and enthusiastically, loving to share their insights with us. It’s a way to communicate with the outside world, to raise funds for their work and continue protection. But don’t we also simply owe it to ourselves to make the most of any experience?
If you’ve ever seen live music you didn’t already grasp, you’d know it’s not half as sensational - in hindsight, you might even wish you could go back and do it all again. We strive for authentic, fulfilling travel experiences, so why wouldn’t we want the impact it has on us, to be just as genuine? After all, the ultimate high is a buzz that’s life-altering and what is adventure, if it’s not the challenge to discover more about ourselves?
Wildlife Adventures with Wildiaries and Outer Edge