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What is a Wilderness Leadership School Trail?Cherryl Curry Steeped in the 65-year history of the founding of the “school” by the iconic Dr Ian Player and his friend and mentor, Magqubu Ntombela, the Wilderness Leadership School continues to conduct trails much as it did on its inaugural trail all those years ago.The logo of the Wilderness Leadership School is the Erythrina leaf and with it, the philosophy by which the organization and the trail measures itself. As the story is told, Magqubu chose this tree as the symbol for the Wilderness Leadership School and intoned that the three points of the leaf reflect the relationship of mankind to universe, mankind to earth and mankind to mankind. It is this inclusive ethos that underlies the process of a wilderness trail.Way ahead of scientific studies of today, these two visionaries recognized the disconnect of people from their natural habitat and the resultant mental and physical issues that this would result in. They saw the trail as a means of reconnecting people of all ages, creeds and race to the natural world in such a way as to forge a bond with nature and their fellow trailists which would extend into future ambassadors for protection of wild spaces.What is a trail?Descriptions range from transformative immersion into wild nature, a life changing experience, personal development, an epiphany of place in the natural ecology of life through to fun, adventure, survival and fabulous animal sightings.
Wilderness trails are all bespoke events, arranged according to demand. Trails are traditionally four-night five day events but can be tailored to suit a groups’ needs. All trails follow a basic principle of simplicity and authenticity. Accompanied by two highly trained armed guides, trails typically take place in big five wilderness areas. These are wild spaces untrammeled by human intervention and where the only paths are those made by wild animals.
Trailists carry in all that is required to survive in the wilderness for the duration of the trail. Sleeping under the stars and cooking on an open fire in one pot; a feature that has met with high review indeed by foodies. With one’s senses honed; night watch is the culmination of a day spent in unison with the African bush. For many, this is a time to reflect and to become inspired. Sitting in solitary watch for wild animals, this is the time most often remarked on by trailists in their feedback. It is testament to the founders that today, perhaps more than ever, the value of an immersion in deep wild nature, is recognized by psychologists around the world as a natural healing modality. The digital detox of shedding all things electronic, even a watch, is the first step towards embracing the connection to one’s primitive self; a condition that escalates over the duration of a trail. As intuition takes hold and senses clear, the evolution of self takes over. The backdrop to all this is the spectacular opportunity to witness the wild in all its direct glory. To be on foot in the tracks of elephants and to smell the pungency of lions at play and hear the yip of wild dogs is to envelop oneself in a blanket of the wild. The guides, who are arguably, the benchmark for wilderness guiding, are trained not to impact the habitat of the animals, but respect that we humans are sharing their habitat with them.