Boyd Varty — The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life (#571)

Illustration via 99designs

“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.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can also watch the interview on YouTube.

Brought to you by Wealthfront automated investing, Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and Helix Sleep premium mattresses. More on all three below.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#571: Boyd Varty — The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life

This episode is brought to you by WealthfrontWealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as ‘robo-advising,’ and they currently oversee $28 billion of assets for their clients. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. 

Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront account today, and you’ll get your first $5,000 managed for free, for lifeWealthfront will automate your investments for the long term. Get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by Helix SleepHelix was selected as the #1 overall mattress of 2020 by GQ magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering up to 200 dollars off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1 by Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.


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.

#383: Mike Phillips — How to Save a Species
  • Connect with Boyd Varty:

Website | Twitter | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • 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

PEOPLE MENTIONED

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 800 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply to Jon Tapson Cancel reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

13 Replies to “Boyd Varty — The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life (#571)”

  1. This has been my favorite episode of your interviews by far. Love Boyd’s storytelling and am off to get his books right now!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.