Janet A Wilson

Canadian Naturalist and Grizzly Bears

My passion is the wonders of wildlife. I once went on a several-week photographic course with a National Geographic wildlife photographer, and the experience was one of my life’s highlights. I loved it—just sitting quietly and waiting for the perfect moment to capture the action. Growing up in South Africa and living in the wilderness when Tom was working as an exploration geologist, my acceptance of African wildlife in our lives was high, yet in Canada, my acceptance of bears is low; despite bears being wildlife, I don’t understand or know bear behaviour so I am uncertain as to what to expect or do should I be confronted by a bear. Fortunately, that has never happened to me, but a bear has charged Tom. Tom said it happened so fast he had no time to reach for his bear spray. Luckily, it was just a mock charge, and the bear retreated into the bush. Charlie Russell was an Alberta naturalist who spent a lifetime studying bears and once lived amongst grizzlies. We were lucky to meet him in Waterton National Park, and he took us on a hike, hoping we would see bears. He showed us a tree that bears climb and hang out in. Charlie kept a ladder hidden in the bushes,  so I climbed up to see the branches and the claw marks. He said it was unfortunate that we didn’t see any bears that day. He wrote four books about grizzly bears. A documentary was also made of Charlie living peacefully among grizzly bears in the wilderness. He lived a rich and full life. Here is a link to Charlie’s website, https://charlierussellbears.com/

It’s interesting how we become comfortable in wilderness environments we know, understand, and respect. It’s heartbreaking and tragic that wildlife is decreasing worldwide, and soon, some species will be extinct. In my next life, I want to work in the study, work and care of wildlife. I think of Innis Dagg, the giraffe lady; Dian Fossey, who lived among the gorillas in Rwanda and was murdered for protecting gorillas; or Jane Goodale, the chimpanzee lady—incredible women whom I admire.  

Earth Day 2024

As the wife of a geologist, I have certainly learned a lot about what’s beneath our feet and even beneath the waves of the oceans. We’ve hiked up Mt St Helens shortly after it erupted. We also experienced a mild earth quake on Vancouver Island. But it was in Chile, while traveling from Alaska to Argentina that I pointed and yelled, “It’s spewing!” Tom looked up and shouted excitedly, “It’s a pyroclastic volcano!”  Tom, the geologist was driving, so he turned and headed towards the volcano. Roads and border crossings were immediately closed. We were trapped with some other travelers beneath the volcano. That night, we felt the earth rumble and shake just before we heard the volcano explode repeatedly into the skies. What an incredible experience. One of the greatest joys of travel is witnessing the wonders of our planet Earth. April 22 

Adventure Travelling Challenges

On our overland journeys around Africa and from Alaska to Argentina we experienced many types of travel. Relaxing on a beach with no stress was fine for a while but we quickly became bored and sought out adventure travel with its adrenaline highs and fun.  However we did from time to time find ourselves in ordeal or extreme travel which is certainly not fun and the risks are high, such as negotiating landmines, being trapped in a country experiencing a coup, or encountering armed bands of rebels or militia. 

During most of our travels we were in the adventure zone of travel, challenging but with a level of risk we were only slightly uncomfortable with. Here we are taken out of our comfort level but not to the point where anxiety kicks in. This is where and when we felt fully alive, all our senses were engaged, and we wished this feeling would stay forever. 

Some highlights included hiking with Gorillas in Rwanda, driving across the Sahara, close encounters with rhinos and elephants, encountering new cultures such as the Maasai and Himba, scuba diving in clear waters of Lake Malawi and many other wonderful unforgettable enriching experiences. 

This is our sweet spot of travel. What is yours?

Travel Tips

Pack lightly. You are not leaving the planet. You can buy stuff en route. Consult a Travel Clinic before venturing off and buy medical and travel insurance. Learn to take good photos and videos before you leave. Keep a journal. You will forget things and people you meet. People are naturally curious, friendly and helpful. Return the favor.Be respectful of everyone you meet. Our opinions are not that important in the wider world. Be gentle with the planet and the wildlife. If you believe and plan, you can achieve magnificent things.  March 29, 2024 

Journey Across Africa; Before and After

In Cape Town, before we set off, we looked like a sweet couple toasting our journey to Cairo. Eight months later, in Cairo, we look miserable and dirty, and there is no glass of wine! But in Cape Town, we were a struggling couple, even wondering what the hell we were doing and whether we would survive as a couple; never mind, we survived the journey. But make no mistake, in Cairo, as a couple, we are stronger than you can ever imagine. Tired and dirty—yes! Looks can be deceiving; we were best friends, a strong, loving, and formidable team. I was never happier to be alive, thrilled we’d made it, but exhausted.March 22, 2024

International Women’s Day. Himba Women. Namibia

In my journey as a woman, I’ve experienced successes and challenges. As a teenager, I was told I could be a teacher, a secretary, or a nurse. I couldn’t type, so that was out. I learned later that during Apartheid in South Africa, the anti-apartheid organization recruited white, young secretaries. The recruits were trained to be spies and infiltrated the government as secretaries. Some of them have since written their memoir of their experiences. If I had been able to type, I might have become a spy. My memoir will be released next month! Please consider preordering it on Amazon.  March 8th, 2024

Learning to drive off-road in South Africa

We both had to be fully experienced and competent in driving our Land Cruiser across rivers, through deep mud, steep mountains, and soft, deep sand. A track through a rainforest took us 14 hours to drive 30 kilometres (18 miles). During the driving lessons, I struggled with some off-road driving challenges. But I had no choice because if Tom became incapacitated, I would be responsible for all the driving. Soon, I was an expert off-road driver and enjoyed the challenges. Safe travels always. And I would love to hear where you dream of going. February 25th 2024

Happy Valentine's Day, Lima Peru

We celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary in Lima, Peru, which has a park dedicated to LOVE. We spoilt ourselves with a meal at a fancy restaurant before strolling through the LOVE and the water park. What a magical, romantic city to celebrate our love. A visit to the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera houses the most extensive collection of Peruvian antiquities in the world. It has an incredible collection that intrigues even the most jaded traveler; it is also one of the best museums we’ve ever visited. All exhibits are explained in at least 5 languages. Perhaps the most interesting is the collection of Pre-Inca erotic art from the Mochica culture. Due to the graphic nature of the displays, we have decided not to post them on this blog, since we want to keep it ‘family friendly.’ Feb 14th 2024

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi Kenya

As a child, we visited the Kruger National Park. I remember the awe I felt when I saw elephants. These majestic animals are the world’s largest living land mammal. A bull elephant can weigh up to 6.5 tons and can easily roll and crush a car. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the world’s first and most successful elephant orphanage rescue and rehabilitation program. Visiting the Sheldrick orphanage in Nairobi was a highlight. The elephant infant orphans are bottle-fed by their caregivers, and I was touched in a way I never anticipated. The caregiver lives with their elephant until the orphan is old enough to be returned to the wild. It’s true dedication. February 10th, 2024

Friendly Locals and Curious Children, South Africa 

I began my life as a midwife in Africa, and infants and children have always brought me so much joy. On our journey across Africa, while Tom set up camp, I would wander off to a village to buy supplies at the markets or fish from the fishermen and to meet the locals. The kids were always curious and at times excited to meet a mzungu, white person. I always asked the parents before taking photos and they never refused. I had so much fun in the remote villages with the kids and chatting with the moms. They taught me so much about their lives. January 28th 2024

Camping in the Company of a Leopard, Tanzania

Leopards often haul their kill up a tree. When setting up camp at night in the wilderness, my job was to scan the trees for leopards and the surroundings for other wildlife while Tom set up camp. Spotting a leopard with a kill in a tree was thrilling. Tom joined me, and as a couple, we toasted to the wonders of wildlife. Adventure travel to remote locations is exciting, sometimes challenging, but Tom and I experienced the best of it. Learning about the world and each other was our best marriage therapy. We also need to take care of the wilderness for future generations. January 14th 2022

All You’ll See is Sky, South Africa

When learning to drive up an incredibly steep hill, the instructor told me to trust my Land Cruiser as all I would see was the sky. This became the title of the memoir. And every day, we headed into the unknown, and sometimes all we could see was the sky. I could never have guessed how my marriage and my life would unfold. I would not change anything, as all my experiences, the good or the bad, taught me more about myself, Tom, or us as a couple than anything I could ever have imagined.   January 11th 2024