Adventures of a Lifetime

It’s not hard to put together a list of classic encounters with the natural world: journeying across the Serengeti, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro. But the adventures on our list go a step further, helping us discover our place on this planet. From the ancient hunting rituals of the Kalahari Bushmen to the migration trails of polar bears, these ten trips are sure to awe and inspire.

By Jeff Hull

Photo by Taylor Kennedy (Getty Images)

Engage in a 30,000-year-old Hunting Tradition
Central Kalahari, Botswana

Hunting and killing prey for survival became fodder for our earliest sojourns into ritual and myth. For 30,000 years, the Kalahari’s Bushmen have hunted kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, and eland, understanding their prey in a way only possible when a people live in true symbiosis with their environment. They remain in vital contact with this evolutionary imperative. Tour operator Uncharted Africa offers an amazing opportunity: the chance to accompany Bushmen on their initiation hunts and to briefly immerse yourself in the hunter-gatherer culture of the oldest tribe in southern Africa.

Botswana’s Joan/Huansi Bushmen inhabit a remote land roamed by lions, leopards, giraffes, and meerkats. When you visit, you’ll be handed a digging stick and sent afield with women searching for grub—even an adolescent Bushmen girl will recognize more than 200 kinds of usable plants. You’ll sample bush foods like ostrich eggs, wild spinach, and roasted beetles (more conventional fare is prepared by your guide, too). But the highlight is a hunt: A young bushman tries to track a large antelope and down it with a poisoned arrow. In so doing, he passes from adolescence to manhood. You follow the hunters as they read the landscape’s subtle signs and imitate the animal’s stride, imagining themselves as their prey. Afterward, pieces of the catch are burned and ground into ash, then rubbed into cuts sliced in the initiates’ bodies—a symbolic transference of the animal’s survival skills to the hunters. To ensure that the presence of visitors is neither intrusive nor exploitative, each guide works with Bushmen elders to maintain the dignity of the community. This is the only trip of its kind in the world and the only chance to observe  nature’s predator-prey relationship in a manner so little changed from its evolution since the dawn of humankind.

See the Arctic Through a Researcher’s Eyes
Hudson Bay, Canada

Each Arctic October or November, polar bears congregate around Cape Churchill, Manitoba. They wait there until ice shelves consolidate, allowing them to wander onto the sea. Several tour operators lead trips to Cape Churchill, but none come with the encyclopedic knowledge of researcher Charles Jonkel. His Great Bear Foundation is dedicated to the global conservation of bears and their habitats, and he has been researching the majestic animals for nearly 50 years. Instead of packing you into a buggy and driving you around all day, Jonkel’s expeditions let you put boots on the ground and wander around the tundra; you can actually feel the wind, pluck snow-covered berries, cut chunks of frozen ice to build igloos, and read animal tracks on the landscape. Nowhere on Earth is global warming changing conditions faster than in the Arctic, and Jonkel has witnessed those changes firsthand. Seeing polar bears through his eyes provides a rare opportunity to understand the demands of a world in which bears—for now, anyway—reign supreme.

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Issue 25

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