I’ve just completed my first trip for the year – not to the wilds of Africa but to the magnificent Spier in Stellenbosch, just outside Cape Town, where I spent a week at the Wild Talk Africa wildlife film-maker’s conference.
Incidentally – Spier is wonderful and although not teeming with wild animals does have a great cheetah and raptor rehab centre and is completely committed to the environment and the ethics of responsible tourism.
In fact, Spier’s recycling programme – at 92% – is one of the best in Africa, if not the world! But that’s a WHOLE other story!
On the flight back from Spier I sat next to a couple of Australian holiday-makers – part of a family group of seven spending 8 weeks traveling around Southern Africa. The Smith family hails from Melbourne and this was their fourth foray into Africa, which they love with a passion.
Not for them the super high-end luxuries of five-star safari camps, but a couple of Toyota camper vans and a massive, loosely planned road trip across South Africa, through the Kruger Park, into and out of Swaziland, on to Sodwana Bay and St Lucia on the KwaZulu Natal north coast, back to Johannesburg before taking off to Tofo in Mozambique, staying in backpacker’s hostels where the camper van couldn’t venture.
It sounded like one helluva trip to me, and an incredible way to get to know the country you are visiting, let alone its wide open spaces and wild places!
Part of the trip was a couple of weeks doing the Kruger Park from head to tail – itself an adventure. And the Smith family’s highlight because they think that Kruger is absolutely awesome.
This Australian family’s obvious love of travel, and the effort they had put into their trip – planning just enough to make it run smoothly, but not so much that there wasn’t room for spontaneity and off-the-cuff excursions – humbled me.
Because although I’ve been to some of Africa’s most incredible safari destinations, there is still SO much of my own country that I haven’t seen, or taken the time to get to.
And so I am planning a whistle-stop tour of my homeland. Me. In my car. By road… The first time I will have really gone out to explore and discover what makes South Africa so special.
A road trip is different in that it allows you to really immerse yourself in the country you are visiting.
I suppose living here I take it for granted that people really want to reach out and touch Africa. And because I am blessed to be able to reach out and touch it every day, I sometimes forget what an absolute privilege it is to be able to do so!
When I head off to the lowveld and the Kruger Park or one of the safari lodges in the Sabi Sands, I usually avoid the highway and take a beautifully scenic route through the Blyde River escarpment down to Hoedspruit. I gave the Australians this route and hope they found the time to take it.
Giving it to them reminded me of how much pleasure I take in the simple act of driving somewhere exciting. And how much the journey is often as exciting as the destination. Which, for me, at least, is what “safari” is all about.