Craig Glatthaar, Wilderness Safaris Business Unit Manager for North America, has just returned from a greatly yearned-for reconnection to Africa’s untamed wilderness. In Botswana, his journey started at Chitabe, where stalwart Ebs was his mentor…
Ebs could tell the track was fresh…the sunken pug marks were half-filled with little pools of water as the large lioness had left the pan’s edge after slaking her thirst. We followed the track around the edge of the pan and noticed a series of sub-adult size tracks joining the matriarch of the Tsame Pride.
Craig and Ebs reading the lion tracks
The tracks led away from the pan, through some dense wild sage and into some long thatching grass. Ebs peered intently into the verdant green fever berry bushes at the edge of the grassy plain. Good summer rainfall meant the bush was a kaleidoscope of dense mosaics, beautiful, but risky business when walking, especially when you had just picked up on the trail of fresh lioness tracks. We had no desire to see thatching grass turn to adrenaline grass.
My eyes, finely tuned by two solid years of Outlook Express, could not tell a termite mound from a tyrannosaurus, but luckily, I was standing beside one of the greats… a shaman of the bush, who has lived and breathed this Edenesque corner of one of Botswana’s most famed wildlife areas for over 22 years.
Before the unreliable tree squirrel started alarm-calling, and the red-billed spurfowl joined the cause for concern, Ebs turned to me and very calmly said, “It’s time we go back to the Landy”. We were still 10 feet from the vehicle when the loud snort of a warthog in distress made us turn. Hot on the bacon-seed’s heels were four lionesses. The young warthog turned on a dime, the lead lioness, the big female we had originally been tracking, could not hold her line and slipped in the greasy clay corner of the pan. Within seconds the chase was abandoned, some embarrassed looking lionesses stared in our direction, and a lucky warthog, sans a few years knocked off his lifespan thanks to the fright of his life, made his getaway.
My heart was racing and my mind was befuddled. How had Ebs sensed the need to institute a rapid exit strategy before we even got the message from the squirrel and the spurfowl? I dare say he “felt” it coming on. I realised here was a man I needed to guide me back to myself. After two years of sharing the COVID pain with my colleagues, and friends on the other side of the Atlantic, I needed to reconnect to my WHY. Adrift in a sea of ever-changing COVID protocols I felt a deep desire to reconnect with nature, something simple…something I could hold onto.
End of the day with Ebs
I came to Botswana with the goal of doing exactly this, to reconnect to the bush that I have loved for as long as I can remember. But I left with something more profound and valuable than just a reconnection to nature.
In increasingly urbanised environment, there is an underlying desire amongst humans to reconnect with nature. It is, after all, where we came from in an evolutionary sense, and what we will always return to in a biological sense. Like a rookie safari goer on their first safari, I had arrived with the expectation of seeing wildlife as my goal, but left with the touching memories of the people on the journey who had changed my life.
Somewhere in the throes of the pandemic, I had lost my sense of humanity and assumed nature was the antidote. I was a blind man, with my sight slowly returning, and Ebs was my guide, in both the literal and figurative senses of the word.
The Wilderness Way is a term frequently used in our business, and I always assumed it referred to a standard or a type of behaviour, acted out by people like Ebs. It is these things for sure, but it is so much more than this…it is a 39-year-old ideal, living in the people we meet on our journeys, and it changes lives.
Deep inside we all have a longing to reconnect with the nature that shaped our place in this world, but it is the human connection that shapes our sense of the divine. I owe all my colleagues I spent time with on this journey more than they will ever know…
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