How to be a Guardian of the Wild, with Conservationist Blake Moynes


February 14, 2024

Carly Long

In a world perpetually on the move, replete with notifications, relentless noise, and an unceasing quest for material wealth, it’s easy to lose sight of the inquisitive, wonder-filled, nature-loving essence we all possessed as a child. In a candid conversation with conservationist and reality TV personality Blake Moynes, we delve deep into this sentiment and his profound experiences in wildlife conservation and travel that diverge from the typical North American lifestyle in a pursuit to safeguard our one Earth.

His encounters with primitive nature, diverse cultures, and wildlife offer profound reminders of simplicity, presence, and respect for our surroundings. We discuss following your curiosity, trusting the unknown and losing control, and viewing adventure not merely as a thrill but as nourishment for the soul and a source of invaluable perspective. 

His journey isn’t just about personal growth; it’s about a return to our roots and a deep respect for the world around us—a testament to how travel can be a force for the greater good.

Interview with Blake Moynes

Let’s start at the beginning. Where did your love for nature, animals and the outdoors come from?

I grew up in Burlington, which is about 40 minutes from Toronto. My parents owned a cottage about three hours away, where I’d spend entire summers as a kid, engrossed in exploring various species and ecosystems. While Dad fished, I preferred lifting logs, piecing together ecosystems, and creating habitats. That curiosity about animals and their behavior has been with me since childhood. I would collect magazines and profiles on animals, and I would index them into giant books and read over them. But I grew away from that during high school, getting caught up in hockey and all the things that come with that middle phase in life when you’re trying to figure things out.  

Once university hit, I started getting back into it. I did a two-year outdoor adventure program on the tip of in Algonquin, Northern Ontario, where I got certified in everything from winter survival to search and rescue, avalanche rescue to swiftwater rescue. After that, I got a degree in eco-adventure tourism management. So while I never got an actual degree in biology or zoology, I kept finding ways to attach myself to the outdoors and wildlife—like when I was a falconer, working with birds of prey. From there, I went into a full-time job in test management, which led me into starting the wildlife management division for that company. So I found a back door into it.

So what are you doing today?

Being on reality TV opens doors, and I knew I wanted to use the value I had from that to pursue my passion. So I started partnering with nonprofit organizations in the wildlife space to learn hands-on about different species at risk. Whether their campaign was to get funding or exposure, whatever it was—I just said yes, to everything. It took me from South Africa to Indonesia, all over the world learning from actual professors that have started nonprofits themselves. 

Along the way, I kept thinking about how I could turn these experiences into something more robust, how I could leverage them to help every organization I’ve worked with—which led me to forming the Save Our Species Alliance (SOSA), a for-profit business, built for the purpose of supporting these verified non-profits. I’ve seen what they’re doing, I know it’s tangible work with success and results, so I built the SOSA to sell products that donate percentages to their work, run social campaigns and storytelling, leverage my platform to raise awareness and funding, serve as a spokesperson giving them an opportunity to get their voice out there, and to lead impact conservation trips that connect everyday people to reconnect with nature while channeling the proceeds back into the nonprofits and local communities involved. It all kind of mixed and matched really nicely into this multi-faceted entrepreneurial business concept.

Tell us about the very first wildlife conservation trip you took.

The first wildlife trip I ever took was actually prior to going on reality television. I was scrolling through social media one day and randomly saw that the last Northern White Rhino male died in Sudan. I’ve always loved rhinos since I was a kid, so I clicked on it, read the TIME Magazine article explaining the poaching crisis, and immediately wanted to go and learn more about why it was all actually happening. So I booked a one-way ticket to South Africa on my own and spent three weeks there at the largest rhino sanctuary in the world. We rehabilitated orphaned rhinos, giving them another chance to be wild and live, and it was there that I became obsessed with this work. It gave me the realization that I wanted to go beyond working in the outdoors space and work in conservation in a larger capacity. I didn’t know what that was going to look like, I just started becoming more of an advocate online, showing up for trips, and went from there. 

Blake Moynes in a village standing next to a shark that has been harvested and hung to be prepped to become food.

Do you ever get scared being around wildlife, whether they’re larger than life, like rhinos, or can be perceived dangerous, like sharks?

I get spurts of realizing I’m not in control. As humans, we love to be in control at all times and in a controlled environment. We don’t often put ourselves in a situation where you literally pass that power over, like being with an elephant in the wild and realizing that if it wants to hurt you, there’s nothing you can do. With wild animals, you very much have to work for the bond. Once you’ve had a couple interactions with wildlife where you feel like you’re understanding them, and you can see them watching you, and you’re starting to understand each other’s behavior—there’s something about that rush, that transfer of power being in their environment. When you put yourself in the ocean with a big humpback whale and it’s meters from you, it puts you in your place and offers such a different perspective that you want to chase those moments. 

It’s these feelings and these moments that I’m trying to instill in people through the SOSA. So many people are disconnected from nature and have lost touch with the instinctual respect that we should have for it. There’s so much value in material things. So I’ve been asking myself, how can we reconnect people with nature in a way that’s not through a screen? The answer is to get out and do the things, because that moment is only in that moment. There’s so many different issues that can prevent people from being able to get out there, from money to personal challenges to family, but we need to equally invest in Earth the same way we do ourselves and our family. Without Earth and a healthy planet, we have nothing. There will be a time when it’s irreversible. 

What about the people and communities you’ve visited in these remote locations—what have you learned from them and the way they interact with nature?

It’s such a wakeup call to go to these small communities. My nonprofit partners have formed great relationships with Indigenous community members, so sometimes we get to go and really see how they live day to day, in the simplicity of their lifestyle. We see how happy they are just from the smallest things. I think that’s partly because they don’t have the same type of access to what we have in North America, and the comparisons we’re always making. We are constantly striving for more money, a bigger home, all these things that we’ve been brought up to idolize and put value in. But we can become really unhappy chasing something that’s never ending or almost impossible to achieve. In Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, or the Amazon, they don’t compare anything; they just make sure that everyone in their community is taken care of. I find it interesting that people always idolize the United States as a pillar to live life by, but it’s probably the reverse. We’re not necessarily doing it right here. I see these small communities that put such value and respect in their environments and neighbors—and those are the places where I get the most enrichment. 

When I come home, it’s a constant stream of phone notifications, computer pings, the vacuum, the dishwasher, the highway, the cars, the horns… it’s not like that when you’re somewhere like the Amazon. It’s so pure and natural in these places that when you come back home to North America, it’s stressful. People see me out there with tarantulas and anacondas and doing all these crazy things, but the noise and stressors and anxiety of when I come is what I find crazy.

So how do you think people in North America can find more of that inner peace and genuine happiness you’ve witnessed in remote communities around the world?

I think instinctually we have a deep tie to nature and our environment. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we relied on nature; we had to be resourceful with it and respect it to survive. Nowadays, a lot of us are caught up in city centers—but we do still have that need for exchanges with nature, even if we don’t realize it. That’s why you have moments when you put yourself in a new environment or get outdoors and you get this massive appreciation for what actually truly matters and what has meaning and the beauty of life. (It’s not the materialistic things we’re sold every day.) The more that you’re able to do that and the more intense of an experience you have, like when you’re on a safari truck in the savanna or you see a sunset behind a field of animals, the stronger those moments of appreciation are. 

Unfortunately life has made it more difficult to allow people to get out and explore on a bigger scale, but that is what will create more change for you. I always encourage people to try your best to save up and do something you’ll always remember, something that’s really tangible that you’ll crave to do again. You’ll remember those feelings of perspective the most.

Where are your favorite places for people to get out and have those experiences?

People always wonder about how to get involved with conservation. That’s the biggest question I get—how to do what I’m doing. You have to dedicate your time and show up for these organizations. There’s not a lot of money in conservation, so you have to invest to get a really raw experience.  

The Amazon has become my favorite place in the world. People naturally want to go to South Africa or Kenya to see wildlife, and they’re great, but the Amazon provides a different extreme. You feel so disconnected. There’s no safari trucks when you’re on an Amazon River in an old, wooden rickety boat and you’re just going through that river, seeing the birds, sitting there quietly, soaking in all the things around you—that hits differently for me than Africa ever has. Find an outfitter that will take you down the river or volunteer with a research project like Hoja Nueva

If you want to understand the poaching crisis and what’s really happening with wildlife trafficking, go to South Africa. The Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary is where I visited. The founder, Petronel Nieuwoudt, started the sanctuary over twenty years ago and is now renowned for her work. You get to be very hands-on here and learn in an immersive environment.

If you want to go into the marine world, there’s Saving The Blue and Project Hiu—two projects that are shark-heavy and allow you to get involved with research, tagging sharks, and learning about the shark fin trade from teams that have been on Shark Week and other documentaries. These programs are often in the Bahamas, Indonesia or Baja Mexico so you get to soak in the sun while you’re involved in tangible conservation efforts and interacting with animals, seeing the success that comes from your investment. 

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Follow Blake Moynes | @blakemoynes and @the.sosa.

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Written by Carly Long | @bycarlylong

Photography courtesy of Blake Moynes