While it was happening, I knew it would be one of those memories that would never fade—that would bring me joy each time I thought of it.  And it has. There we were… stalled out in a Land Rover in the middle of a river on Lawrence Anthony’s enormous wildlife preserve. Lawrence had gunned the engine and plunged the truck into the swiftly moving waters, saying “I’m sure we can probably get across.” Since my glass is usually half full, (rather than half empty), I can say that the good news was we made it half way.

There is nothing so cherished in such cases as a good old “Over and Out!” 2-way radio. As Lawrence and I waited for our rescuers to arrive with a wench, we sat in the vehicle’s cab, talking quietly amidst the moonlight-drenched waters, while a Zulu game ranger on the back nervously shone a light around, looking for crocodiles. Fireflies flitted about, creating their endless magic. As I said, it was a moment that brings a smile each time I remember it.

I was in South Africa, visiting Lawrence to do some strategic planning related to the non-profit we had started in 2003—The Earth Organization. We’d been working intensely for 2 years pushing forward the key projects we had taken on at that point for wildlife in war zones rescues, wildlife sanctuary projects in Africa, economic empowerment of indigenous peoples, and, here in the U.S. we were working to bring non-toxic cleanup solutions to various environmental disasters—at that time, most notably, the aftermath and devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But, as with most non-profits, the challenge of finding adequate funding to support our work was, by necessity, taking a lot of time and attention, if we were to move at the speed at which we needed to, if we are ever to achieve our goals of a healthy, thriving planet for all life.

Then one day it hit me—what an incredible resource Thula Thula was (pronounced Toola Toola). This magnificent wildlife preserve, boasting two beautiful lodges and an exclusive, 4-star cabin camp and 4-star tented camp a hill or two away would make a spectacular place to bring small groups on Eco Safaris. These would be educational and over-the-top enjoyable experiences for our travelers, while helping to bring in at least a portion of needed funding to support our conservation projects.

Thula Thula’s history included having been the private hunting grounds of none other than King Shaka himself.  More recently, having been purchased by Lawrence and his lovely Parisian wife, Francoise, it was turned into a no-kill game sanctuary, working to repopulate the area with an abundance of wildlife, and recreating migration corridors for them that hadn’t been there in many decades. It was the historic place where a herd of wild, traumatized elephants befriended Lawrence when he rescued them from certain death by poachers and game control officials, subsequently showing their gratitude by protecting him from a couple of charging bull elephants. It was the place where that same herd found peace and tranquility and, who, (it is easy to believe) showed their gratitude and friendship by coming to him each time he went out into the bush and called out to them; who “magically” showed up at his house within a few hours to see him every single time he returned from a trip; and who, when he passed away 300 miles from his home, perceived he had died and walked 12 miles, in mourning, to his house where they stayed for a few hours. And it is the place where, each year since Lawrence died, the elephants have returned to his house on the anniversary of his death.  (The story is beautifully told in his autobiographical work The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild.

 

The abundance of wildlife and birds at Thula Thula is stunning. Giraffe, zebra, Cape buffalo, crocodile, rhino, hippo, and kudu are just a fraction of the wildlife you can see; and over 600 species of birds have been spotted there. There is nothing like snuggling into a down comforter in your four-poster bed inside a luxurious tent and listening to the zebra in the middle of the night.  Or waking up in the morning to a raucous symphony of birds.

I could go on and on, but, suffice it to say, it is a magical place.

And it was as a result of realizing how much others would love it, that we designed our spectacular Eco Safaris for small, intimate groups to South Africa, that include, among other things, 4 or 5 nights at Thula Thula. We’ve got one safari planned for this year, June 2017. The currency conversion rate is so fantastic between the Rand and the Dollar right now, that we’ve been able to offer it for an incredible discount. Right now, until Feb 17th, it’s 30% off, so if you’re interested… if you are one of those people who says that going on safari is on your bucket list… I strongly urge you, now is the time to go.  I know you’ll create your own lifetime memories that will bring a smile every time you are reminded of them. True pleasure!

 

Comments
  • Diane Wagenbrenner
    Reply

    Wonderful story!!! I can’t wait to go to Thula Thula in Oct 2016, my dream trip!

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