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The holy grail of Africa – a future for Europe?

May 16, 2011

After the first night’s short sleep, when three bull elephants chased us away from our open air camp and two hyenas took advantage of our absence to finish our meal, we arrived in the late afternoon at campsite two quite exhausted. However, the sight in front us quickly removed all tiredness.

On the opposite side of the iMfolozi River in Kwazulu-Natal, north-eastern South Africa, a group of more than 200 cape buffalos grazed – thick horned bulls, cows and calves. Amongst them, groups of impalas, zebras, eight white rhinos and four bull elephants enjoyed the lower evening temperatures. An African wild dog postured on the river bank, obviously also enjoying the sunset.

The half-open landscape with grass dominated areas, taller trees and thorny bushes reminded me of some mosaic landscapes in Europe – Iberian Peninsula, Carpathian Mountains and even the Central European lowlands – if it wouldn’t be for the different animal species enjoying the sunset. Once upon a time larger grazers and browsers shaped Europe’s natural heritage in a very similar fashion.

Together with my wife I was invited by The WILD Foundation to join a wilderness trail in the iMfolzi, the oldest game reserve in Africa, a “holy grail” in the history of wildlife and wilderness on the continent, and a sanctuary for both white and black rhino species, African wild dog, elephant, lion, leopard, etc.

Since the establishment of the Wilderness Leadership School in the late 1950s by the legendary Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela, more than 55,000 people have experienced wilderness on the terms of all wildlife. Guided by young people from the surrounding Zulu communities, visitors from all over the world, different ages and occupation are introduced to wilderness. With the successful implementation of Rewilding Europe, this concept may become a reality in the not very distant future on our own crowded continent too.

To read more about our adventures in Southern Africa, visit The WILD Foundation’s blog.

Images: Vance Martin/Wild Foundation

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