The Wilderness Leadership School was the first non profit organisation in Africa dedicated to providing a pure wilderness experience for people of all backgrounds, races and nationalities. Steeped in a rich environmental history, The Wilderness Leadership School was founded in 1957 by the legendary Dr. Ian Player who, together with his friend and mentor Maqgubu Ntombela, recognised the necessity for people to connect with the environment. Long before ecology had become a vogue catch-word, the Wilderness Leadership School foresaw the urgent need for a large body of well-informed, conservation-oriented leaders, capable of and dedicated to the defense of our planet’s irreplaceable natural resources.
Through the stimulation of a real wilderness experience the School has sought to instill a sense of appreciation for the needs and laws of the natural environment in generations of youthful participants. That more than 40 000 trailists have experienced the awe of a trail through the pristine wilderness areas of South Africa and found the experience a life-changing one is a testament to the power of the natural environment.
Today The Wilderness Leadership School continues to provide an educational experience to thousands of South African youth and overseas visitors. Funds from public trails are used to fund community projects, community trails and training bursaries ensure that the experience is made available to our people from disadvantaged communities, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the tenets of the organisation which is to bring about awareness of the natural environment through experiential education. The concept of wilderness trails was introduced by Ian Player as a means of introducing people from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life to the life changing process brought about by walking through the wilderness on foot and experiencing the wonder of nature at first hand. Dr Player recognized that a reconnection to one’s primordial roots brings with it a sense of awe, wonder and humility that students and adults alike benefit from.