I believe that if you have been exposed to nature as a child, the awe and wonder of it can be readily reawakened within you as an adult. Despite eight consecutive years of city living, this is exactly what happened to me when I started a new job in the winter of 2015.
A meaningful travel experience within the natural world has the power of creating one of the strongest connections there is to experience. It has the power to capture our imaginations and feed our desires for escapism, relaxation, transcendence and interpersonal connection.
It’s no secret that Africa captures the hearts of thousands of travellers every year. However, few are fully aware of the area considered to be the birthplace of African wildlife conservation, called Zululand.
Many will talk about their safari trips endlessly, but very few will remember a deeper, more unique and personal experience when they weren’t afraid to take a bigger leap into the unfamiliar with purpose, and get their hands dirty by getting involved in something truly meaningful. How many can say that they have helped to protect the wild animals that so many flock to Africa to see? And how many wildlife species will be left for future generations to see..?
Ethical travellers who choose to immerse themselves in such an environment, while unplugging from their technological ties, return home cherishing such meaningful adventures and carry the secrets of happy travel with them into everyday life. Despite being a South African native born to bundu-bashing parents, my own experience cemented my belief that Zululand is my favourite place on Earth.
It began with an opportunity to join a conservation group called Wildlife ACT in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The team consists of 20 plus individuals who are some of the most dedicated and inspirational people I have ever met.
The introductory week involved seeing Rhinos, Lions, Elephants, Buffalo and much more, just meters away from the vehicle. However, a real highlight was my first encounter with African Wild Dogs, which I since learned are the second most endangered canid in Africa after the Ethiopian Wolf.
Let me paint a little picture. One morning myself and a group of conservation volunteers from around the world, awoke at 4:30am to track some Wild Dogs. The Zululand sunrises alone are something to marvel at. And there they were, playing together, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Then the hunt began.
Just meters away from us they run – darting off in different directions to follow a scent. A Hyena appears – hot on their trail. Our monitor was basically able to follow the Hyena bumper-to-tail as she tracked the dogs in pursuit. Who can say they’ve done that? This entire experience constituted a single morning with Wildlife ACT.
This really brought me back to my Zululand roots. Being among nature conservationists who speak with such passion and witnessing how hard they work towards a common cause, fuelled me with inspiration and vigour. I wanted in.
Emotions were stirred further when one of the founding members spoke about why Wildlife ACT does what they do. A rough statistic shows that around 90% of us will find media around wildlife conservation simply too much to bear, which is understandable when we consider the everyday pressures of First World living.
It’s so easy to feel hopeless about our threatened planet – to avoid the truths and fail to act, when one is bombarded with worldly concerns; the population crisis, the countries at war, global warming; the politics of it all. However, there IS hope because of organisations like Wildlife ACT. I witnessed the commitment of its members first-hand.
It’s no surprise that they have won both and African and World Responsible Tourism Award as well as other accolades, as they are working tirelessly to save our endangered species and natural habitats. And by doing so, they are, in fact, saving YOU!
It feels incredibly grown-up to fully digest this. Just a few days affected me enough to know that wildlife conservation is something worth supporting in whatever capacity we have. I’m proud to say that today it is part of my job to raise awareness around ethical travel.
Africa is the cradle of life, but is under serious threat. The UN projected population of the continent by the year 2100 (just 80 years time) is estimated to be over 4 BILLION people. But let’s not lose hope. There are avenues to get involved and be a part of something larger than ourselves.
Reconnecting with nature and the endangered species that Zululand is home to, has had the most positive effect on my being. As Shakespeare once said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”. It could be, and should be, the key element that connects us all.
- Galen Schultz
- : Hello. My name is Galen which means “curious person” in ancient Greek. I was lucky enough to have been born to bundu-bashing parents who love to travel. Being piled into the back of a Land Rover with my brother and waking up in a different country, was certainly a major highlight of my childhood. I've always been fascinated with nature and feel an amazing sense of connection when immersed within it. I've worked in various fields of interest, but am currently working with an African wildlife conservation group which has been life-changing. Writing and idea-sharing are major passions of mine.
- : https://wildlifeact.com
- : https://www.facebook.com/galen.schultz.52
- : https://twitter.com/GalenSchultz
- : https://www.instagram.com/galenschultz/
- : While wildlifeact.com is not my own website, it is the organisation that I am lucky enough to be working with today. My experience with them is where my story originates, and provides an opportunity for you to get involved and support their work to save endangered and priority wildlife species in Africa.
- : adult_(19_and_over_as_of_31st_december_2019)
- : Adapted from a story I wrote after my first day working with Wildlife ACT! URL: https://wildlifeact.com/blog/wildlife-act-there-is-hope/