Why being in nature is good for the soul

Posted on 10 December 2014

Nature really is nurturing, and one woman is setting out to prove it. In the meantime, just get out there and feel it.

Red-billed queleas

Red-billed queleas. Photo by Johan Kloppers.

Three years ago I read an interesting thing about birds and birdsong: a study was being launched at the University of Surrey by PhD student Eleanor Ratcliffe into the positive effects of birdsong (I suspect discrimination against crows and gulls) on human beings. Up to that point, many had assumed this fact to be universally true, but the theory was anecdotal. One of the ideas put forward to support the case for twittering and chirruping being beneficial is that we have found it profoundly calming for thousands of years. We learnt that when nature was prettily noisy, it meant all was safe. When the plains and woods fell mute, it meant danger lurked nearby and the birds were keeping a beady eye and their beaks shut tight.

Recently, I spent three days – three glorious, wonderful days – at Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg. I felt unwell at the time, so spent a lot of time recuperating under an acacia near the river, listening to the South African version of birdsong – exquisite accents – and taking in the skies, the scudding clouds and the dassies sunning themselves on the ochre and lichened rocks. I thought of Ratcliffe’s study and wondered what had been concluded. My experience is anecdotal, yes, but I feel it is profoundly true.

Being in nature is, for me, one of life’s fundamentals. When I read some of Scott Ramsay’s experiences in ‘Just You & Out There’ (page 46), I was transported into the thick of the profound, magical moments he describes. Even from the remove of my office chair, it gave me a sense of peace, and I felt compelled to put all nine on my wish list (he also gives contacts to some of the best guides in the world).

However, all of the January issue has gone on my wish list: the beautiful wild horses of Kleinmond (page 64), Kristina Stojilkjovic’s trip to Kerala (page 41), Vuyi Qubeka’s heartwarming Groot Marico experience (page 88), Pippa de Bruyn’s recommended Vilanculos spots (page 26) – so reasonable, you’ll want to book immediately – plus each one of the recommended hot spots with incredible views (page 30). There’s also Justin Fox’s trip to Provence. If you’ve never been there, plan for it – it’s one of the most beautiful travel experiences I’ve ever had, and despite the poor Rand to the Euro, there are ways it can be done reasonably.

I end this letter on a sad note: one of the people I interviewed last year was a man who loved the sea (read: a guide to Simon’s Town). He was a force of nature himself, so it was with shock that I heard of his sudden, tragic death. I was incredibly grateful I had met Bruce Robertson and eaten at his table. I had an exquisite meal there, harvested from the surrounding shores. He was an interesting, accomplished man and one of South Africa’s top chefs. Rest in peace, Bruce.


Get the stories in Getaway’s January 2015 issue.

January 2015

yoast-primary -
tcat - Environment
tcat_slug - environment
tcat2 -
tcat2_slug -
tcat_final -