Africa on the Horizon

‘Enforced downtime’ is a very glass-half-full way of describing the life of a travel agent in recent times.  With business on hold late last year, one of World Journeys’ friends Pam Hardy, of YOU Travel Levin, seized the opportunity to head back to her favourite destination – Africa.  Thrilling wildlife encounters, luxurious safari camps and true ‘bucket list’ experiences ensued.  We were so inspired we thought we’d share some of Pam’s story and photos with you in this blog.

Botswana is a place dear to Pam’s heart, and staying at an “Under Canvas” safari camp she was right in amongst it! andBeyond Savute Under Canvas is truly in the wilderness, but with crisp linens on a comfy bed, hot bucket showers in your ensuite bathroom, Swarovski binoculars to use on twice-daily thrilling game drives, and delicious cuisine on an all-too-regular basis.

The famed Okavango Delta is a maze of waterways and grassy floodplains which attract wildlife from far and wide.  It was here at the beautiful andBeyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp that guests were stirred from their reverie for a moment with a reminder of the pandemic.  Pam said “OK, so had to have our Covid test yesterday. Amazing system here in the Delta. Nurse flies in by helicopter, does the swab and flies out. Results were available to pick up from Maun Airport.”. Done!  A great experience in the Delta is being poled through the waterways in a mokoro (dugout canoe).

Pam’s first stop in Tanzania was the delightful Arusha Coffee Lodge, set amongst one of the country’s largest coffee plantations. A little R&R between safaris never goes amiss!  Off again, there was a light aircraft flight to the Ngorongoro Crater, a veritable Garden of Eden.  The legendary andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is perched on the edge of the crater, its stilted mud and thatch suites adorned with antiques and chandeliers – imagine “Masai meets Versailles”!  Views here are spectacular, with the woodlands, swamps and plains below home to prolific wildlife including the black-maned lion, the leopard and hyena.  No wonder this unique biosphere has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another light aircraft flight and Pam was luxuriating in the Bedouin-style tents of andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas. The camp moves around the Serengeti seasonally, bringing guests as close as possible to the drama of the Great Migration.  The lion are abundant, the leopard are plentiful (yet still secretive) and black rhino and cheetah both breed here. In Pam’s words, “Today it was all about the cats. The Serengeti has been so good to us. Love it here”.  Here another Covid test was taken, the results emailed to each guest at the camp.  Easy.

Equally spectacular was Kenya’s Masai Mara and a stay at the andBeyond Bateleur Camp, with the ambiance of Kenyan explorers of old and a touch of vintage safari elegance. Think fine china and crystal, polished leather chairs and delicious meals served under the stars, followed by fireside port and cigars. Here the wide savannahs spotted with thorn trees are ideal for wildlife photography. The Mara, as it is known in Kenya, is ravishingly beautiful. Pam’s photos featured a great shot of a topi, “…beautiful animals with some stunning colour variations”, and lions “….check out the size of the paws of this young male sunning himself on the rock”. If a hot air balloon flight is on your bucket list, this is the place to do it. Pam explains her lack of photos of this experience being due to her desire to just put down the camera and be present in the moment. Spectacular.

And now for an absolute highlight, Giraffe Manor. Set in private land within indigenous forest, this hotel harks back to the stately elegance of the 1930s. However, the most fascinating thing about Giraffe Manor is that a resident herd of Rothschild giraffes visit each morning and evening, poking their long necks through the windows in the hope of a treat, before retreating to their forest sanctuary. Often sold out up to a year in advance, Pam says of Giraffe Manor “I have waited four years for this amazing experience. Worth the wait, oh yes. To be kissed by a slobber chops giraffe called Ed… oh so worth it.

Embracing her passion for animals, Pam also stopped in at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage where she sponsors orphaned baby elephants. “A day of amazing adventures, a private visit to the orphanage had me in my happy place. These babies are gorgeous and are looked after until they can be reintegrated back into a wild herd”. The orphanage also looks after giraffe and rhino, and Pam is now the proud sponsor of a rhino named Maxwell.

We’re sure Pam had to be dragged away kicking and screaming, but it was worth the effort as the next safari was at Sasaab Camp in Samburu National Reserve. This tranquil retreat boasts sweeping views towards Mt Kenya, and the reserve is remote and arid, home to an astounding variety of animals – Pam had an amazing encounter with an elephant herd here. The camp itself has close ties with the local Samburu tribes who are delighted to share their traditions with guests.

All good things must sadly come to an end and, back to reality, the final Covid test was taken back in her Nairobi hotel, followed by a doctor’s consultation the day after to be issued with the required documentation, prior to flying home. Yes, the wearing of masks was required at times, but by all accounts, these new systems and protocols are already well established and executed with minimum fuss, all booked and organised. Yes, travel is possible now and we can at last all start looking beyond our own horizon.

Huge thanks to Pam Hardy of YOU Travel Levin for sharing her safari stories and photos with us.

Footnote:  Pam is eagerly counting down the days to her next trip to Africa this May – there’s no stopping her!