‘I am blind, however liked happening a must-see safari’

Lucy sniffs rhino dung with James Mwenda

Sniffing rhino dung on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya

Going blind made me fear I’d by no means have the ability to take pleasure in a vacation once more. What could be the purpose of sightseeing? And but, I’ve simply been on one of the vital wonderful journeys of my life.

Carrying my pretty new strolling boots, I out of the blue understand I’ve chanced on a “midden” – a pungent pile of rhinoceros poo. With each style of wind I get a contemporary whiff.

I’m on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy – a 90,000-acre wild animal sanctuary on the equator in Kenya. The keepers there let me attain out and contact the pores and skin of a rhino known as Baraka. Like me, Baraka is blind

His pores and skin shouldn’t be as clean and lizard-like as I anticipated it to be – it feels tough, like cardboard.

He misplaced his proper eye in a battle with one other rhino – and a cataract stops him from seeing out of his left eye. He must be stored alone as a result of different rhinos would assault him – and his keepers inform me he may be nervous about transferring round. Timber in his huge enclosure have broken trunks and damaged branches, from the place he has walked into them.

I sympathize with him. I used to be additionally nervous after I was requested to journey midway around the globe on a visit which, for most individuals, could be the chance of a lifetime.

Not solely wouldn’t it be very totally different from my standard lifetime of advocacy work for the UK’s blind and partially sighted group – each in particular person and on YouTube – however it will additionally imply forsaking my beloved information canine, Molly.

Baraka the blind rhino

Baraka misplaced his proper eye in a battle with one other rhino

Lucy with James Mwenda and Barak the blind rhino

Assembly Baraka introduced Lucy to tears

I misplaced my sight almost 10 years in the past – after I was 17 – because of a genetic situation. It took me some time to get used to happening holidays as a non-sighted particular person, which I used to view as only a actually costly method of mainly being in my again backyard.

I now know I can nonetheless take pleasure in overseas journey, regardless of not having the ability to see – however happening a safari? Absolutely it is a “should see” expertise?

I felt lots higher after I met my safari information, William. He had taken a blind particular person on an identical journey as soon as earlier than – however, as a result of each non-sighted particular person has various ranges of visible acuity, we nonetheless wanted to get to know one another.

My visible recollections of most issues – together with wild African animals – are virtually fully gone. Those who stay are like a sequence of photographs which have been locked in a drawer in my mind for the previous decade. If I attempt to recall an elephant for instance, a visible reminiscence comes out of the drawer of an animal tapestry my sister had on her bed room wall after we have been youngsters.

So I used to be going to have to start out from scratch and ensure I acquired an amazing expertise from utilizing my different senses. I do know it could sound bizarre, however I genuinely do not miss having my eyesight, and even in Kenya I did not spend time wishing I nonetheless had it.

First, William took me to a museum in Nairobi the place I used to be allowed to the touch stuffed displays. I rely a lot on my different senses now, so to have the ability to attain out and really feel the skins of elephants and giraffes actually helped me begin to “see”.

Lucy Edwards in Kenya with her guide Will

“We have been within the wild Africa of storybooks,” says Lucy – pictured together with her information William

My senses then actually began to awaken as we drove out from town in our four-wheel drive automobile. The bottom grew to become so bumpy as we sped alongside, and the automotive smelled of sand which wafted into my face within the wind. I wore sun shades and put my head out of the window – I actually wished to drink within the ambiance.

On the Ol Pejeta sanctuary, William and the keepers brilliantly described the rhinos and elephants in entrance of us – how they have been transferring, consuming, reacting to us and one another. All of it helped paint footage in my head. James Mwenda, a world ambassador for the sanctuary, crouched down with me and we felt the footprint of a rhino within the dusty floor.

We then put our palms in a pile of dung. A lot of it’s simply semi-digested grass, he advised me. I gave it sniff – it simply smelled of grass that had “gone off”.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

How does a bind woman go on safari?

Visually impaired social media star Lucy Edwards heads to Kenya to expertise one of many largest animal migrations on the earth.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (UK Solely)

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

We drove searching for lions – monitoring a particular collar worn by one of many lionesses who, like me, is known as Lucy. We pulled up slowly alongside her – she was virtually asleep. We have been so shut I may hear her respiratory by way of the window.

I requested William if she appeared just like the lions in The Lion King? That was the final picture of the animals I had saved in my reminiscence vault. Sure – he advised me. And her cubs, shut by, appeared similar to the film’s younger hero, Simba.

Lucy the lioness, and one of her cubs, as Lucy the human listens intently

Lucy the lioness, and considered one of her cubs, loosen up – as Lucy the human listens intently

Lions were spotted on the night safari

The lions have been out looking the Masai Mara at evening

The sensory overload continued on our midnight safari. It appeared as if I may odor a lot greater than within the daytime, and listen to each little sound. I used to be so fortunate to expertise a bush kill.

We had out of the blue heard a loud screeching noise. We drove rapidly, over actually bumpy floor, down right into a ditch. I then listened as two lions chased a fire of buffalo – earlier than listening to the sound of bones cracking and flesh being chewed. It was such a privilege.

We then headed south to the Masai Mara sport reserve – the wild Africa of storybooks. We pulled right into a village of the Maasai tribe and, earlier than I even had the possibility to get out of the automotive, we have been surrounded by native girls making an attempt to promote us carved picket animals. It was loopy. I bartered with them and acquired two giraffes.

Flies buzzed round my face as we walked, and I may hear bells clanking – I used to be advised they have been tied across the necks of goats. In a hut, with the odor of wooden throughout me, I attempted on some conventional Maasai clothes. Tartan patterns and many pink, I used to be advised. I liked the texture and noise of the beaded jewelery which I additionally wore.

Outdoors, I used to be then handled to a tremendous audio expertise – conventional Maasai singing and chanting. A wall of sound was throughout me.

Maasai women try to sell dozens of wooden animals to Lucy when she arrives in their village

Lucy determined to call the picket giraffes she purchased “Lenny and Gerald”

Lucy in Maasai dress with some of the villagers

Lucy was given a standard welcome by Maasai villagers

I actually wished to expertise the sounds and smells of the “nice migration” – when tens of millions of wildebeest and different herbivores, like zebras, make the damaging journey from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya searching for contemporary grass. Predators – huge cats and crocodiles – wait to choose off the weakest vacationers.

Deep in Masai Mara, within the early morning, we discovered tens of hundreds of the animals. They have been throughout us. Herd leaders have been calling out, making moaning sounds. The noise was in every single place – prefer it was in 3D.

I held a small picket mannequin of a wildebeest, as William described the sight earlier than us. Wildebeest have very weak legs in comparison with the dimensions of their our bodies, he advised me, and a few will break bones once they bounce in rivers to cross. The highest is sort of a horse, with horns like a cow and a beard like a goat.

William guides Lucy's fingers over a wooden model of a wildebeest

William guided Lucy’s fingers over a picket mannequin to assist her visualize a wildebeest

Wildebeest moving fast across a shallow riverbed

Lucy heard the pit-pat of hooves and water sloshing as wildebeest crossed a river

The large range set off for one more day’s travelling. I may hear the pit-pat of hooves on the bottom, after which, as they tumbled down a riverbank, the sound of water sloshing round.

Being on safari had been wonderful, however there was one expertise which I had actually nervous about – as a result of I wasn’t going to have the ability to see it. It was the so-called “sundowner” second, when folks sit and have a drink on the finish of the day, watching the sky flip orange and pink because the solar disappears over the horizon.

However when the second truly got here, there was no sundown – it poured with rain as a substitute. I cried completely happy tears. It was as if the world was letting me know that I did not must see the solar.

It hadn’t rained for weeks and weeks, however the heavens had opened only for me. The large raindrops, and the sound they made as they splashed down, felt like an ideal sensory finish to what had been the perfect journey of my life.

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