The Healing Power of Nature


Monica Jooste


I Dream of Africa. I dream of the bush, I dream of my senses being overwhelmed by the smells of wild sage, the cacophony of Christmas beetles, the caress of long grasses against my limbs, and the splendour of wide open spaces.


Over the past few weeks I have been more than usually affected by this longing. A longing to be immersed in the sovereignty of the wilderness. And seeing hundreds of people logging onto virtual safaris, or connecting to our Facebook and Instagram pages, I am clearly not alone. Of course, we’re all likely to be feeling quite restless, so the thought of travelling further than our grocery shop, and discovering new horizons, is an appealing suggestion for many right now.




So what is it about nature that is so alluring? Why is it that after even a short walk in a natural environment, one’s spirits seem lifted? And why do so many of our guests believe their lives have changed after spending a week in our wilderness areas? Aside from the esoteric concepts being bandied around – ecotherapy, green therapy, mindfulness, wellness – there is definitely something about nature that quietens the mind, grounds us, keeps us present and offers perspective.




For many centuries, numerous people of note have advocated for Mother Earth and her healing powers. One such activist was American Indian Chief Seattle, who in the mid-19th Century claimed that “If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit”, and in the same light, Frederick Law Olmsted – who alongside John Muir made a case for saving the beautiful Yosemite, now a national park – said “that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character ... is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect”.




Of course, in that era, there was little scientific fact. However, today the growing interest in the positive impact of nature is even reaching the armchairs of psychotherapists’ rooms and in some countries, governments are endorsing nature experiences as a health policy. Why? Because the evidence is mounting that natural environments can actually help relieve symptoms of psychological, as well as physical distress. Cognitive Neuroscientist David Strayer is one of the many scientists who has delved deeper into the subject, and alongside other scientists believes that “everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers—indicate that when we spend time in green space there is something profound going on”. For more on this, read a fascinating investigation by Florence Williams in National Geographic.




So aside from spending time with us in the far reaches of northern Namibia, where the desert can literally engulf your every sense, spending countless mindful moments tracking a leopard in Botswana or a gorilla in Rwanda, or being offered hours of soulful rest and deep reflection in the midst of Zimbabwe’s most remote bush, how can you use nature to help you through a time when you can’t get to these places? And at a time when there is grief, depression, anxiety and so many other emotions?


According to science, even a window view of a tree helps. Walk in a forest, a park, a garden – anywhere where you can see greenery and possibly hear birds or see wildlife; sit in a place where you can hear a stream flowing; and exercise outside. Your endorphins (your happy hormones) will be more intensely felt outdoors than exercising indoors. Do some gardening if you have a plot, or plant a tree. Spend time with a pet, outdoors if possible. Or find a local bird list online and watch, discover and learn more about these fascinating creatures.




And always remember, while nature is healing us, we can also do our part in being kind to Mother Nature. At Wilderness Safaris, this is our core ethos, and one of the fundamental reasons why our journeys change lives.

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.