This interview was conducted by email and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CNN: What does the lockdown look like from your vantage point living in the bush?
Kim Wolhuter: Amid this global lockdown, here in Zimbabwe, we almost feel like we have been living this “lockdown life” for a year already. The only difference is we had the privilege of choice to pursue it, in contrast to the mandatory enforcement the world currently faces.
But again, we chose this life.
Now, during this crisis, we are finding ourselves still alone, but also more together, or in sync, with the rest of the world. We have no telly (television), but we catch glimpses of how others are coping with being forced to be home, and it definitely stirs up an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what we have out here — the privilege and freedom to be outside. We are trading in a commodity that the world had forgotten the value of. What we lack in material belongings, bank balances, convenience and community, we make up for with a deep and real connection to nature, a focus on family time (a lot of it) and a sense of peace that I think the world is missing. We live simply but fully.
Despite lockdown, our isolated lifestyle allows us to be in the bush, feet in sand and enveloped by trees and sky with all the incredible sounds and smells — all while practicing social distancing. We have learned that nature is our essential. We eat, sleep, swim, play, learn and love out there.
CNN: You live in the bush because of your wildlife photography work, but that can be quite risky. Why do you continue to risk your life capturing images of dangerous animals?
Wolhuter: Risk my life? Being a rugby player is risky. Surfers risk theirs simply for that epic wave. Our doctors and health care workers are currently risking their lives every second.
So, what drives them to put it all on the line every day? Some would say madness. I would agree partially, but mostly I think it has to do with passion. It’s no different with me and my work. I feel so wildly passionate about being the best PR officer for my friends, the hyenas, but also for using my platform to help shift mindsets and get every person invested in conservation (even if only from their couches). I risk it because I want to appeal to that innate desire in every heart to be connected to nature.
CNN: In the middle of this human crisis, why should we still care about animal conservation?
CNN: Living so far “off the grid,” what are some of your go-to strategies for making your solitary existence bearable?
Wolhuter: Well, first, I wouldn’t even call it making it bearable. We are living among the natural world without the distractions of sirens, car horns and the buzzing noises of the city. I’d argue all those distractions add stress to somebody’s life. Whereas we, living in the wild, have probably added years onto our lives.
That said, as a family, we have our special little pleasures that make the experience of isolation particularly enjoyable.
One of them is sleeping out under the night sky as much as possible — but especially when the moon is full. We wake up full of dew, to see the setting of the moon and rising of the sun. Another is our sundowners tradition, which includes an alcohol-free beer somewhere wild and wonderful as we bid farewell to the day and welcome the transition to night.
We have the same ritualistic excitement for our morning tea, which entails finding the perfect spot (a grove of baobabs, a part of the Mopane forest or a koppie [small hill]), of which there are many. We enjoy our cup of rooibos and some form of baked delight in the crisp freshness of the dawn. I truly feel that this synchronicity with nature creates in us a deep and real sense of wellness, peace and contentment.
Of course, I recognize we are incredibly lucky. We have this connection with nature thanks to our really big backyard.
CNN: Any advice for those of us who didn’t choose this isolation?
Let’s reconnect with nature in whatever way we can, especially during this crisis.