THE WILDFLOWERS SURPRISED ME

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The flowers were a surprise. Some, like “Lion’s Head,” looked just like the one in my garden at home while others were unlike anything I’d seen before. It was early spring, and unusual-looking flowers bloomed close to the ground, sprouting nearly overnight in lily shapes of purple and yellow. On our afternoon drive, we went through a few damp, shadier spots and drew in deep breaths of a perfume fragrance wafting through the air. It smelled like a heavenly cross between gardenias and an orange grove. When we finally stopped to see what smelled so good, we were surprised to see the tiny, almost insignificant flowers of a wild jasmine vine hidden in the foliage that wound itself around small trees.

I was fascinated by how easily the wildlife blended into the surroundings, perfect camouflage. At first, I couldn't image how zebras or huge African cape buffalos in the open could hide. But when a buffalo stepped into a thicket of woods with trees that have trunks the diameter of my upper arm, the buffalo’s leathery dark brown skin and huge black horns melded with the darkness of the bark. Unless one of them moves, it’s hard for a tourist to spot them. It’s a little like a game. Manda our guide says, “There’s a Cape buffalo.” And we say, “Where? I don’t see it.” He says, “On your left at nine o’clock just to the left of the biggest tree trunk.” Straining our eyes, eventually, we make out the buffalo’s shiny dark eyes and slobbery noses. Then the horns materialize, and we see the entire beast. We’re sure we can find all the zebras within viewing. They can’t possibly blend in. But their stripes turn out to blend with thick stands of grasses that have dark vertical growth. More important, when being pursued by predators, zebras clump together and look like one giant animal so predators cannot distinguish one zebra body from the next.

We’re learning to look more carefully at our surroundings because nature has given the wildlife incredible camouflage skills, and once we realize that this is more like a game where you find the hidden figures, we begin to spot wildlife on our own.

Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com

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Carol Van Brugen