Sisters In The Wilderness
“Will they be lunch for the lions?” asked Mrs Ntombela nervously as her daughter Amanda and Wendy Mkhwanaza packed for the wilderness trail in iMfolozi Game Reserve. “I had mixed feelings about this trip,” said Wendy, “I was excited because it is a dream come true, but also apprehensive.” Amanda adds “I Googled my feelings of fear about what to expect, to make sure I was ready for the experience.”
Understandably, the young women were a little intimidated by the idea of sleeping under the stars, having no toilets, and walking near wild animals. iMfolozi Wilderness area is a very different place to Mpophomeni!
Amanda and Wendy had been invited to take part in a social impact documentary film ‘Sisters of the Wilderness’ which looks at human and Nature interconnectedness and the power of wilderness to develop a new type of leadership based on compassion and respect. The passion project of London based, Ronit Shapiro, Founder of One Nature Films, will tell the story of a group of young women who aspire to elevate themselves beyond challenging life conditions and become a force for good in their communities. They embark on a life-changing journey, within and without, into the wilderness of Zululand where they experience true Nature.
Upon entering the Reserve there was an elephant feeding in a tree beside the road. “It was so beautiful and so massive. Nature had welcomed us really well.” They began the five day hike in silence, with senses sharp, hearing only their footsteps and breath. Before long they reached a rock beside an umthombothi tree (Spirostachys africana) where the guide told tales of conservationists Ian Player and his friend uBaba Magqubu Ntombela who had loved sitting in this exact spot.
Around the fire in the evening instructions were given for the night watch. Amanda remembers feeling terrified to begin with. “I tried to be brave, but there were animals moving everywhere and I woke the guide a few times.” Soon Wendy started to enjoy the nights and the opportunity to observe animals like hyenas all on her own. “I would look up at the sky filled with sparkling stars and imagine my ancestors looking down on me. I did not feel alone or afraid knowing the stars were watching over me.”
Each day they woke early, packed up camp leaving no trace and set off through the bush. One morning a Rhino with her calf heard their footsteps, changed direction and started running towards them! They quickly hid behind some trees until the guide chased the rhino away. River crossings were also frightening as there were footprints of lions and leopards in the mud and the danger of crocodiles. Although they were scared, they had no option but to face their fears and continue.
The days followed similar patterns with lots of learning and sharing along the way. After a few days, everyone felt at home – watching the sun set and observing how all troubles seemed to set with it.
“We felt free – emotionally and spiritually. We didn’t want to leave. Our bags were lighter and so were our hearts. With blisters on our feet and the smell of the wild on our skin, it is safe to say this was the greatest adventure in our lives. We now look at the world with different eyes.” (submitted by Nikki Brighton)