Donyale MacKrill - Go2Africa Creative Director
When I was 14, I toured Europe with my family. After two weeks, I was desperately homesick for Africa – I missed the bugs and birds, the dust and endless blue skies. I needed the flavours and sounds of a centuries-old melting pot of cultures, and the constant nearness of adventure.
My heart still belongs to Africa 25 years later. This extraordinary continent is my home, play ground and muse – I’ve had the privilege of living and working in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt. My passion for sharing this great continent has taken me across Europe and the USA too.
Where have I travelled?
My life story is the tale of a love affair with Africa - I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, met gorillas in the mists of Bwindi Inpenetrable National Forest and been charged too many times to remember by elephant in the Chobe. I’ve had the gift of time with the Masai in Masailand and the San in the Kgalagadi. I’ve watched clouds of flamingoes rise over Lake Natron and followed the “prr-prr” call to find a rare Pels Fishing Owl in the Okavango Delta. I’ve shared a full moon over the Makgadikgadi Pans with a lone gemsbok and danced to a ju-ju band on a sweltering West African night. After 25 years and as many adventures, the humble, complex and wild rhythm of Africa is still my heart song.
My favourite travel moment
My favourite human encounter was meeting Masai children in a remote village who had never seen a Caucasian woman before. They were especially surprised by my long hair because Masai women shave their heads. After running away screaming when they first saw me, they slowly crept close again, like nervous little gazelles, to stare at me in horrified fascination.
My favourite animal encounter was coming face-to-face with the last living silverback gorilla that Diane Fosey habituated – she was one of my childhood heroes so it was a real bucket list moment to meet the grown up gorilla she once wrote about and observed when he was a baby.
My favourite landscape is on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. You walk up out of a tropical rainforest into distinctly alpine vegetation full of dwarf and giant plant species. Eventually the giants give way to strange twisted trees swathed in hanging mosses and then these too disappear, until only large tufts of grass dot the rocky path. Once the grasses are gone, there is nothing but the crunching of shiny black shards of volcanic rock underfoot, and the mad-eyed crows with their glossy black feathers riding the icy draughts above you. The transition up the slopes of Kilimanjaro is surreal, intriguing and unlike any other place I’ve been.
What I love about Africa
Africa’s ancient landscape humbles and welcomes you at the same time. Here, we humans know how fragile we really are, but we are also part of the natural rhythm of life. There are still wild places to explore between the booming cities and modern infrastructure. This is where mankind grew strong millenia ago – it was here in Africa that we formed communities, developed complex language, began to dance and decorate ourselves. It was here in Africa that we first dreamed of God. So, in a way, everyone who comes here is coming home.
Some African travel advice
Africa is a continent of stupendous diversity. You can eat breakfast in a sophisticated urban hotel and fall asleep on the same night in a wilderness so remote that there is no electricity. The best and only expectation to have here is that you will be surprised. If you stay present and flexible, this continent and her people will open up to you – thrill, charm, humble and quite possibly frustrate you. Most of all, you will encounter a world unlike any other on earth, and you may well have the time of your life.
Where I'd love to go next
My next big expedition will be to Morocco. I’d like to sandboard in the Sahara and explore the incredible archaeological attractions in the country as well as sampling the wonderful cuisine. I’ll definitely take a moment to salute Bogey in Casablanca and visit the street markets in Marrakesh.