Marataba Mountain Lodge is a very special place. Most of us lead busy lives, and there is nothing quite like being on foot in the African bush to help us reconnect with nature and simply ‘be’ in the environment we evolved from.
One of my recent trips to Mountain Lodge, as a visiting student trails guide, started off very well, with numerous sightings on the transfer to the lodge – including of a large buffalo and an elephant breeding herd. The herd slowly made their way way up to the lodge, foraging through the bush, as the guests settled into their rooms and relaxed in the infinity pool, soaking up spectacular views over the valley.
Our first trails walk was the following morning. The guests were excited, if a little apprehensive, about their very first hike in the bush. I explained that our main objective was not to approach the wildlife, but to simply enjoy the experience of being out there. If we happened to come across any animals, then our aim would be to view them without them ever knowing we were there. The guests weren’t convinced this was possible.
We saw lots of buffalo tracks on our walk around Windmill Plains, and then heard the distinctive sound of elephants munching through the foliage. These are the small clues we look and listen for to figure out which animals are nearby. We viewed a large elephant bull feeding on the plains, and by using the wind direction, sun position and cover of the bushes to our advantage, he never became aware of our presence. Mission accomplished!
The next morning, we walked Bushman’s Gorge. This is a spectacular trail, and as one of my guests described it: “an almost a religious experience”. This remark made my day, as I knew then that he was connecting to the environment around him and feeling the healing power of nature. We then enjoyed a rejuvenating swim in one of the natural pools, fed by a mountain spring, on our way back through the gorge.
This is my bigger mission: to help people restore their connection with the natural world; to inspire people to spend more time in nature; to ‘re-wild’ their lives; to feel their souls at peace; and to fall in love with wildlife. By reconnecting with nature, people will want to conserve these amazing wild spaces and the animals at home here.
As the late, world-renowned South African conservationist, Dr Ian Player put it: “Wilderness is for me salvation… You are not human if you aren’t changed by the wilderness… In a wilderness area, you can’t go in by motorcar. You go on foot, on a horse or in a canoe. There’s a big difference between a canoe and a motorboat. In a canoe you can hear everything… and our psyche resonates with it… you go back into… a world where we once lived in, what is commonly called, The Garden of Eden…”
Words by Russell Anderson