I’ve travelled across most of Africa – from South Africa’s Cape Winelands to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, throughout Botswana and Zimbabwe, to the archipelagos off Mozambique, from sultry Lagos in Nigeria to East Africa’s triumphant trio: Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. I’ve spent two decades in a love affair with this continent, mostly as a solo traveller.
She pushes her huge tail down, ducks under the waves with tremendous forces and then, with colossal power, launches her huge body above the water, coming down with a fantastic splash. Everything is quiet except for the chorus of ‘Wows!’ from my fellow boat passengers. There’s a shared anticipation and keen excitement as we hope she’ll do it again… Our luck is in as she once again uses her tail fin to propel herself like an aquatic rocket above the ocean off Kleinbaai, a tiny hamlet on South Africa’s Whale Coast, less than an hour’s drive from Hermanus and regarded as the whale-watching capital of the world.
You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your gators. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group - it's time to drop your backpack and move forward slowly with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you've been waiting to hear: ‘There they are.’
There are few destinations as romantic as Africa. Vast blue skies curve down to golden grasslands that roll to the horizon, framed by distant mountains marching away in shades of navy and purple. Africa awakens your senses: the scent of wild sage, the cry of a fish eagle, and goosebump-inducing leopard sightings. The days are deliciously hot and the nights comfortably cool. African hospitality is warm and sincere, and when it comes to fine dining or lavish luxury, a leading safari lodge is hard to beat.
The arrival of May during my northern hemisphere childhood promised the long, warm and sometimes sunny days of summer. South of the equator, however, things are heading in the opposite direction. Days are shortening and chairs are getting pulled a little closer to the campfire.
Growing up in South Africa, I was lucky enough to make regular visits to private game parks and reserves, like Addo Elephant National Park and the Kruger National Park. My first ‘game ranger-tracker-and-driver’ was my grandfather, who taught us grandkids the value of getting up before dawn, driving slowly, keeping quiet and training your eye to distinguish elephants from rocks and springbok from impala. At about 10, the ‘I want to be a game ranger when I grow up’ phase hit hard, and I amassed a huge collection of dead dung beetles, abandoned weavers’ nests, old warthog teeth and found antelope horns.
It’s 3:30am, -8°C / 18°F and all I want to do is lie down and go to sleep. The only reason I'm keeping my feet moving is my guide, Milton's encouragement.
Namibia is a land of endless blue skies, vast horizons and crisp mornings: pure joy for photography enthusiasts. It is also safe, clean and organized with an excellent infrastructure, making it a favourite destination for family vacations, especially self-drive safaris (that’s travel lingo for independant road tripping - an ideal way to vacation with teenagers).
Today's teenagers are rarely seen without earphones resolutely docked in their ears, fingers deftly generating more text messages per minute than Reuters issues global news updates. Their constant connectivity with friends in cyberspace often disconnects them from the people around them, their parents and even their siblings.
When your Africa safari is booked and confirmed, you'll likely experience a surge of emotions, ranging from the excitement of anticipating a new adventure to the thrill of fulfilling a dream and, perhaps, a tiny tingle of anxiety about possible health concerns (often fuelled by friends or family who have never travelled to Africa).