A Wilderness Trail Experience is quite something, virtually impossible to explain. But the feeling of being totally connected to nature, not being the top of the food chain, sleeping under the stars, keeping night watch to ensure no animals come into camp, knowing that no one actually knows exactly where you are .....it's a special experience which underpins our Unearthed Social Entrepreneurial Course and Careers In Conservation Courses run in partnership with the Wilderness Leadership School.  It's a chance to  change of perspective, or a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, and a digital detox like no other

We all search for a break or some time away from our everyday lives. In the modern world of today with fast-paced lifestyles and busy jobs that place high demands on individuals, it’s easy to lose your sense of inspiration or passion in life. When we look at going on holidays to escape the everyday bustle, it is most commonly for relaxation, or to recharge our batteries, maybe to gain a new perspective or to re-evaluate our direction..

The wilderness trails have been conducted for many years by the Wilderness Leadership School, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1957 by the legendary Ian Player. This was the first organization in Africa that dedicated itself to providing a pure wilderness experience, which is an experience like no other, where you are given the rare chance to merely exist for a small period in the most original and primitive atmosphere of the wilderness. Ian Player together with his friend and mentor, Magqubu Ntombela, recognized the necessity for people to truly connect with the natural environment for personal and leadership development.

There have been over 65 000 trailists that have experienced the awe of this trail through the pristine wilderness areas of South Africa, and have found their experience a life-changing one.

This carefully facilitated wilderness experience aims to instil an appreciation for our natural world, and a respect for the needs and laws of the natural environment in the generations of youthful participants from all corners of the world. We had the opportunity to sit down with some international students who recently returned from a wilderness trail and asked them about their experiences, what they learned and their wilderness highlights.

WHY THE WILDERNESS TRAIL?

Josh: Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to experience the outdoors unvarnished; to witness moments that only a handful of people will get to experience? Can you imagine the feeling of being meters away from an elephant with no barriers, gates or fences? To swim the ocean and watch bioluminescent coral bright up at night, or see a giant jewel beetle fly through trees that are over 100 years old?? This is just the beginning of what I got to experience. I undertook the wilderness trail because I wanted to learn why nature is the way that it is. I wanted to make what I have read in books or seen on TV a reality for myself. There is so much to learn about wildlife and nature that once you truly experience it, an entire and unique world is revealed after which you see things from a completely new perspective.

Maunene: I love nature, I love to learn, and I have a passion for Falcons! I chose the trail to experience something completely out of my comfort zone and to experience nature at its most untouched.

Felix: I chose this trail because I was tired of life in the city, I wanted to experience the outdoors in a way that I never have before.

Kesha: I have a love for nature and I wanted to have a hands on outdoor experience. I chose this trail because a lot of the animals that I knew I would see I have only seen in zoos and not their natural habitats. I wanted to see how they behave and survive outside of zoos.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ON TRAIL?

Josh: This was an exceptional experience; it is truly eye opening to be able to immerse yourself with nature. I learned about animal behavior, how to track wild animals and most importantly I learned how to respect animals and their environments in a different light.

Maunene: The trail opened my eyes with regards to our natural environments and how they should be preserved. The no-trace trail highlighted just how untouched the land is, and the importance of preserving it. I learned how to identify a variety of bird calls and how to track animals!

Felix: By returning to nature – nature at its wildest – I found a new way to respect the natural environment. You learn a lot about yourself from the time you spend in the wilderness, you have a lot of time to reflect and re-evaluate things.

Kesha: I found that through this experience I have learned new ways to challenge myself and push the boundaries of my personal skills. The challenges that you face out there, big and small,  really puts where you are and what you have in your life into perspective.

WHAT WAS A HIGHLIGHT FOR YOU?

Josh:  On one of the trail days we had been walking for quite some time in the heat and we decided to bathe in a river and cool off. And whilst we were enjoying the cool water a herd of elephants decided to join us! They were all around us, it was amazing! I don’t think many people can say they have experienced such an encounter.

Maunene: My highlight has got to be how close we were able to get with the wildlife. We were privileged enough to actually walk with them. It’s indescribable the feeling that it stirs in you.

Felix: I got to touch an Inyala’s tail! That was amazing for me. This sustainable trail was an incredible learning experience, and everything I have taken away from the trail..the experiences, the knowledge and a new found perspective for life is invaluable.

Kesha: The knowledge that I accumulated has been what has stood out for me. I now know how to track wild animals, how to identify different bird calls and plant life and I have learned a lot about animal behavior and the value of nature. In Canada we have many protected areas but to be this close with animals that I have only ever seen in zoos – unforgettable! 

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” this famous quote by John Muir aptly describes what taking a walking on the wild side can do for you. There is so much to learn about wildlife and nature as well as from it, and going on trial  is a unique journey for every individual. If you’re looking for that change, for a new perspective and outlook on life and you’d like to stir something in yourself, or you love nature and would like the rare opportunity to experience it in its wildest form - then join us and take your walk on the wild side!

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