South African-born Peter Meyer, 34, grew up on Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve, which now boasts the Karkloof Safari Villas, nestled in the majestic KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. The now UK-based actor and promotional model is paying tribute to his late father, James, in an inspirational tell-all book titled The Boy From the Wild, co-written by international bestselling author Graham Spence.
Peter’s father visited South Africa from England with his family as a young boy and later returned to create a reserve in the Karkloof Valley back in the 1980s. The biographical book shares intimate and extraordinary stories of Peter’s father and his love for the African wilderness. It also gives a detailed account of Peter’s childhood growing up on the reserve.
I survived rhino attacks, close encounters with buffalo and wildebeest, and had two snake bites before I turned eight. As a boy, I was always looking for adventure and loved pushing the boundaries set by my parents. By the time I was seven, I had been bitten by snakes twice. All I can remember was feeling the bite while swimming in the river. Thankfully both times it was only dry bites and no venom was found in my bloodstream.
A favourite game of mine on the reserve was playing ‘chicken’ with the hand-reared rhinos by skipping pebbles near their feet. One day I think I irritated them and they turned around and chased me. I escaped by jumping down the side of a hill because I knew they wouldn’t be agile enough to get to me. I was also once stuck between a nervous female wildebeest and her baby, and before she could charge I fell flat on the ground to show I was of no threat and the mother accepted my retreat.
When my father passed away four years ago, I knew I wanted to honour his memory by sharing his story. My father spent many years as a young man in South Africa and fell in love with the country. While overlooking a valley the Zulus coined The Valley of Heaven, during one of his short stays, he vowed to someday return to this majestic part of South Africa and call it home. He returned to England to look after the family business as his father became ill.
Thirty years later, after selling the family business in England, my father moved back to South Africa to fulfil his dream of creating Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve. I was very fortunate to have lived the life I had because of the choices he made. He was my inspiration growing up. My family moved back to England when I was nine but I’ve always felt a kinship with Africa and the land I once called home.
It was Liam Neeson who pushed me to put the book in motion. I knew for a long time that I wanted to write a book, but it was only after my father passed away that I could do it as a tribute. When he died, I wanted to spread that inspiration to the rest of the world. Last year while shooting a promotional video for the reserve, someone handed me the beautifully-written book, The Elephant Whisperer by Graham Spence. I fell in love with the book and after reading it knew that I wanted Graham to co-write my first book with me.
While on the set of the movie The Commuter, in which I was an extra, I told Liam about my life in South Africa and that I wanted to share it in a book. He turned to me and said ‘Wow, what an incredible story – go for it!’. And that is what I did. I reached out to Graham and we started writing in May 2017 and published on Amazon in December.
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I have recently become the ambassador for IAPWA (International Aid for the Protection & Welfare of Animals) charity. I was born in South Africa and still consider myself a South African – my roots will always be in Africa. This cause is close to my heart so it’s only natural for me to be an ambassador.
I’m specifically an ambassador for the orphaned elephants of Zambia and orphaned rhinos in the Western Cape. I bring awareness of the rehabilitation and placement programme they have for these orphans. Since becoming an ambassador, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to talk about the amazing work that they do and about the Karkloof Valley Nature Reserve wildlife at events I attend.
I’m in discussion with a big film studio to help turn my father’s story, as well as my own, into a TV series or movie. The big awakening of my life came when my father died – it reminded me that we don’t have much time on earth. I’ve always wanted to be an actor but, because I pretty much lived in hotels growing up, I thought that the hotel industry was my calling.
I was on top of my game in the hotel industry in 2014 when I made the decision to change my career path to follow my passion in acting and modelling. This change has helped me make the bold move to write my first book and in essence pay tribute to the most amazing man I knew. Although I miss my father terribly, I believe his death has changed me for the better.
The book is available on Amazon both in kindle (R58) and paperback (R165). Experience the story at Karkloof Safari Villas’ www.karkloofsafarivillas.com
To win a copy of Peter Meyer’s book, The Boy From The Wild, click here to fill out a form on Garden&Home.