Africa: A Photo Diary
I am often asked what are my favourite overseas experiences and without a doubt my two trips to Africa hold a special place in my heart. Africa...just the name conjures up images of exotic landscapes, wild animals and far reaching adventure. For me, it is often hard to put into words just how my time in Africa changed me as a person, but I did feel a deep sense of affinity with the landscapes and the people. I returned home after each trip feeling a deep sense of contentment and awe at what I had experienced and also an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I am able to live in Australia, which is truly a lucky country.
One thing that struck me was the emphasis on family and community, rather than material possessions. I witnessed children with the widest and brightest of smiles despite seemingly having nothing. The opportunity to be educated is prized as is food and shelter, no matter how simple. A simple photo on a digital LCD screen sends children into fits of giggles and squeals. Our arrival at a school prompts a reception fit for a head of state. Life is precious and valued.
People often ask me whether they should visit East or South Africa and although I have not (yet) had the opportunity to visit East Africa I would say that South Africa offers a softer landing. The driving distances are nowhere near as long and the roads are certainly a little less bumpy. The private game lodges offer a sense of luxury in the heart of the African bush, with world class cuisine, super soft king size beds, jacuzzis, plunge pools and much more. The other added advantage is the ability to get closer to the wildlife, as the vehicles are able to traverse off the beaten path to get within metres of a large male elephant for example. South Africa is also the best place to head if you are short on time, as it is possible to see the Big Five in just 2-3 nights. (Note: The Big Five are not what you might think and include the elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. Aptly named due to their difficulty to hunt in years gone by.) Your safari can easily be combined with a city break in Cape Town, which is an amazing cosmopolitan city not to be missed, as well as the beauty of traversing the Garden Route either through self drive or for a more luxurious experience aboard The Blue Train. And of course not to forget tasting some of the best South African wines with a few nights in the South African Wine Lands.
East Africa on the other hand offers an arguably more 'authentic' African experience with an emphasis on tented accommodation. The Masai Mara or the Serengeti offer vast savannah plains as far as the eye can see- a sense of space that is truly staggering. You could say East Africa offers an experience similar to that depicted in The Lion King. You may not get up close and personal with the wildlife, as you do need to stick to the marked paths, but you will witness staggering herds of wildlife making their way across the savannah. It is quite possible to see 60 plus elephants at any one time, which is a truly breathtaking sight. There is also not the same separation between wildlife and human life as there is in South Africa. It is highly possible that you will witness a Masai herdsman moving his cattle across the savannah in the presence of elephants and giraffe. Of course, one of the biggest draw cards of East Africa would have to be witnessing the spectacle of the Wildebeest migration from June-August every year as they move across the savannahs in truly staggering numbers in search of water and under the watchful eye of predators looking for an easy target.
In South Africa, a typical day on safari usually begins with a wake up call and hot tea or coffee with home made biscuits on the deck before setting off in search of the Big Five. After a few hours traversing the bush, sometimes with the added warmth of blankets and hot water bottles on chilly mornings, you will generally stop in a clearing to reflect on the morning's adventures and enjoy a hot chocolate, tea or coffee and more home baked goodies. Returning to the lodge for a hearty breakfast, you then have free time to enjoy the surroundings. Perhaps a massage, a dip in the pool or curling up in the lounge with a good book. In what seems like no time at all, everyone gathers for a long lunch (it is very easy to pile of the kilos on safari). This usually leads into afternoon tea and the afternoon game drive, which may continue into early evening if you are chasing a particular sighting. At the conclusion of the game drive, usually around sunset, you will again stop for sundowner's. Light snacks served with a Gin and Tonic or Amarula on ice (similar to Baileys) is a wonderful way to close the days adventures. Returning to the lodge you would have the opportunity to freshen up before drinks in the bar. Dinner is often served in a Boma around a blazing fire to the sounds and sights of African music and dance.
Regardless of how you choose to visit Africa I have no doubt that your experience will be just as life changing as mine have been. It is truly a trip for everyone's bucket list and will change the way you view the world around you. Enjoy some of my favourite images below.