“If it had been a horror movie, people in the audience would’ve started saying, ‘Don’t go near the shadowy place!’ And of course, as I walked past the shadowy place, I actually sat down just on the edge of those shadows. And my perception was that the water was too shallow for crocodiles. But, of course, the crocodile was in the hole. And the first thing that you notice when a crocodile grabs you is just the ferocity and the pressure of the bite.”— Boyd Varty
Boyd Varty (@boydvarty) is the author of two books, The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life and his memoir, Cathedral of the Wild. He has been featured in The New York Times, on NBC, and in other media and has taught his philosophy of “tracking your life” to individuals and companies around the world.
Boyd is a wildlife and literacy activist who has spent the last ten years refining the art of using wilderness as a place for deep introspection and personal transformation. He grew up in South Africa on Londolozi Game Reserve, a former hunting ground that was transformed into a nature preserve by Boyd’s father and uncle—both visionaries of the restoration movement. Under his family’s stewardship, the Reserve became renowned not only as a sanctuary for animals but as a place where once-ravaged land was able to flourish again and where the human spirit could be restored. When Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment, he went to Londolozi to recover.
Boyd has a degree in psychology from the University of South Africa. He is a TED speaker and the host of the Track Your Life podcast.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can also watch the interview on YouTube.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear an episode about wolf restoration efforts? Listen to my conversation with Turner Endangered Species Fund Executive Director Mike Phillips, in which we discuss the pros and cons of predator reintroduction, radioactive wolves, the extinction crisis, what conservationists most often get wrong, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Boyd Varty:
- The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty | Amazon
- Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home by Boyd Varty | Amazon
- Track Your Life with Boyd Varty | Apple Podcasts
- Boyd Varty: What I Learned from Nelson Mandela | TED Talk
- Londolozi Game Reserve
- Tracker Academy
- The Gift by Hafiz, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky | Amazon
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan | Amazon
- Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello | Amazon
- A History of Apartheid in South Africa | South African History Online
- Kruger National Park | SAN Parks
- Jet, Turboprop, and Piston Models | Cessna Aircraft
- Marabou Stork | Siyabona Africa
- Pulp Fiction | Prime Video
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre | Prime Video
- A Brief History of the Shangaan People | Londolozi Blog
- The Original Leopard Trackers | Londolozi Blog
- The Original Mother Leopard: End of a Lineage? | Londolozi Blog
- Londolozi’s Staff Take a Walk on The Wild Side | Londolozi Blog
- Why are Impala so Successful? | Londolozi Blog
- The Tree of Life | Londolozi Blog
- Popular Quotations without Citations to Prove Dr. Jung Uttered Them | Carl Jung Depth Psychology
- What Makes Crocodiles Such Stealthy Hunters? | Londolozi Blog
- I Am, Because of You: Ubuntu | Londolozi Blog
- 40 Days 40 Nights | Boyd Varty
- Meet the Greater Honeyguide, the Bird That Understands Humans | Audubon
- Guided to Honey | Londolozi Blog
- On Bees | Londolozi Blog
- A Day in the Life of an African Worker Bee | Londolozi Blog
- Ebola Fears Hurting African Tourism | Telegraph
- Podcast: What Being Stung by a Swarm of Bees Taught Me About Humanity | Boyd Varty
- Independence Day | Prime Video
- Londolozi’s Lions: Current Status | Londolozi Blog
- Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez | Amazon
- Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez | Amazon
- What Is Meant by Native Americans and Some Wolf Biologists Referring to a ‘Conversation of Death’ between Wolves and Wild Prey Animals? | Quora
- Watch a Coyote and Badger Hunt Their Prey Together | Smithsonian
- The Kalahari | Londolozi Blog
- Mopani Region | South Africa
- The Shark Magnetic Sense | Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
- Speak the Gospel | Christianity Today
- Internal Family Systems Therapy, Second Edition by Richard C. Schwartz and Martha Sweezy | Amazon
- The Work of Byron Katie
- Healing Benefits of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies | Learn Religions
- Fiery-Necked Nightjar: “Good Lord, Deliver Us!” | Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust
- Raging Fire, Contained. | Londolozi Blog
- Runaway Wild Bushfire at Londolozi | YouTube
- Education vs. Extinction | Mission: Wolf
- Dogs: A Short History from Wolf to Woof by Angus Phillips and Evan Ratliff | Amazon
- Setting the scene. [05:44]
- How the Londolozi Game Reserve came to be, and what happened during Boyd’s childhood that instilled him with a “get on with it” attitude. [08:02]
- Why did Boyd’s father and uncle insist on keeping the property that would become the Londolozi Game Reserve when, at the time, it was considered useless, overgrazed wasteland? [10:18]
- Boyd shares what it was like growing up as a regular passenger/survivor of The White Knuckle Charter Company. [12:25]
- How a man named Ken Tinley and the native Shangaan trackers helped a trio of teenagers transform their expanse of scrub-encroached land into a thriving safari business. [21:03]
- On the ancient lineage of the Shangaan trackers, and how the local wildlife came to trust the human caretakers of Londolozi. [27:05]
- Renias Mhlongo is supreme among world-class trackers — and sometimes the importance of the work outweighs the will of his clients. [32:21]
- Which animals are hardest to track at Londolozi — even if you happen to be Richard Siwela? [37:53]
- Because nature can be unpredictable, how do people protect themselves in Londolozi? [41:03]
- “I don’t know where we’re going, but I know exactly how to get there.” —Renias Mhlongo [42:56]
- How the tracking process has changed for Boyd over the years — from confident child to young adult traumatized by a home invasion and crocodile attack to competent grown-up thanks to people like Dr. Martha Beck and Solly Mhlongo. [45:00]
- What is Ubuntu? [1:02:50]
- Boyd talks about that time he lived 40 days and 40 nights up a tree — the questions he was trying to answer for himself by doing so, the primal fear he experienced while waiting out a storm, the pros and cons of extreme solitude, and if he’d do it again. [1:05:15]
- Stories about bees, the birds who help humans rob them, and the power of the hive algorithm. [1:17:45]
- The dos and don’ts of interacting with lions in the wild. [1:29:42]
- On the eerie conversation of death, modern confirmation of ancient myths, and the inexplicable movements of beasts and men. [1:34:16]
- How did Boyd’s own path toward healing after trauma differ from the way his mother and sister recovered from a trauma they experienced? [1:39:57]
- What is ceremony work, and how can it help someone deal with trauma? [1:43:32]
- What Boyd means when he says “an authentic life infused with meaning is a kind of activism.” [1:46:40]
- How Boyd and I have both been affected by the Work of Byron Katie. [1:52:03]
- Boyd’s first medicine encounter in an Arizona sweat lodge, and what he took away from the experience. [1:56:31]
- Feelings. Nothing more than feelings. [2:02:49]
- Kudus and nightjars and leopards in the fire (oh, my)! What a close encounter with a beautiful predator taught Boyd about Ubuntu. [2:04:14]
- Examining the therapeutic value of spending time with animals. [2:13:05]
- Laurens van der Post poetically described the sound of a lion’s roar. And, in a packed presentation hall at a major Silicon Valley company, Boyd did not. [2:17:57]
- An invitation to visit Londolozi and other parting thoughts. [2:22:10]
MORE GUEST QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“Biologists feel the more time you spend in nature, the more you’ll realize how little we know. There is subtlety and nuance and there are things happening out there that go way beyond our understanding.”
— Boyd Varty
“In these times, an authentic life infused with meaning is a kind of activism.”
— Boyd Varty
“You can’t half-roar at a group of executives. You’ve either got to not do it or go all in.”
— Boyd Varty
“It was a little Cessna that had a quirk. And let me tell you, when it comes to aviation, you don’t want planes with quirks.”
— Boyd Varty
“If it had been a horror movie, people in the audience would’ve started saying, ‘Don’t go near the shadowy place!’ And of course, as I walked past the shadowy place, I actually sat down just on the edge of those shadows. And my perception was that the water was too shallow for crocodiles. But of course the crocodile was in the hole, and the first thing that you notice when a crocodile grabs you is just the ferocity and the pressure of the bite.”
— Boyd Varty
“If you spend time in nature in the same spot, over a period of time, it starts to become incredibly personal. So it’s not just a bird or that antelope, it’s that bird that roosts in that bush and flies down the river bed in the morning and back up the southern bank. And then it feeds for grubs in this tree. And as you start to become more personally attuned to each animal, you start to see that there’s a pattern to their movement. And in fact, then you start to find yourself orientated inside of a series of interlocking intelligences—that is really what the natural world is.”
— Boyd Varty
- Nelson Mandela
- Shan Varty
- Dave Varty
- John Varty
- Daniel Ladinsky
- Michael Pollan
- Anthony de Mello
- Noah Feldman
- Ken Tinley
- Elmon Mhlongo
- Renias Mhlongo
- Mother Leopard
- Josh Waitzkin
- Richard Siwela
- Alex Van Den Heever
- Martha Beck
- Carl Jung
- Solly Mhlongo
- Molly Ferriss
- Simon Sambo
- Barry Lopez
- Francis of Assisi
- Richard Schwartz
- Byron Katie
- Koelle Simpson
- Laurens van der Post
- Francis Ford Coppola
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13 Replies to “Boyd Varty — The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life (#571)”
I love this stuff – keep em coming
Peter Drake Hexham
Like the work of Byron Katie, this was way too much woo woo. Hard to take seriously.
The Killer Bee’s Story, had me in stitches. A fantastic podcast, Brought me back to earth with two feet
Favorite line (so far) Boyd’s definition of Mastery
This has been my favorite episode of your interviews by far. Love Boyd’s storytelling and am off to get his books right now!
Even though I say I don’t listen to all of your podcasts, they tend to be too long for me at times. The ones that I gravitate to just give me life. Listening to a man’s healing, felt healing to me. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this felt like one of the best interviews that I have heard on your show. And you’ve had a lot.
Boyd’s bee story was fantastic! Best quote was Boyd’s impression of his guide: “Oh don’t worry!” Loved it!
Great podcast. Both of you guys a very genuine and entertaining. I spent 2 years in Botswana as a Peace Corp volunteer. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.
Love this podcast. Going to buy the books now for myself and my 15 year old son. Can’t wait to visit Londolozi!
This is really a thank you. I haven’t even listened to the podcast yet! As a Rhodesian, an osteopath and a counsellor – Boyd’s podcast The Second Language – which I instinctively went to, knowing nothing, touched a very deep part of my soul. My African soul, my human soul, and that difficult conversation between boundaries and connection. I sat down at my computer this morning to write a story specifically about this, and first I was given a window back into myself. Tears of relief and memory and gratitude for this being, gently rolled.
You never get boring, Tim! Your skills and tenderness – finding the people, talking to the people, bringing the people – are a gift. Thank you.
This was great – if you want more in a similar vein, you should talk to Allan Savory – he’s controversial in his views on ecology, and was a legendary anti-terrorist tracker in the Zimbabwean bush war (despite not supporting the Rhodesian government’s politics). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Savory
The interview with Boyd Varty was one of the best that I have heard. Dude is an amazing storyteller. The one about the bees had me laughing out loud.
Been enjoying Tim’s podcasts for years. Have a nice collection of quotes and the like. This one changed me…in all the right ways. Thank you.