Safari Insights: Profile on Journeys Discovering Africa Co-foundersMarch 20, 2019
Journeys Discovering Africa co-founders Patrick and Victoria chat about the thing they love to do most – go on safari in Africa!
What might an ‘average’ day on safari look like for you?
Patrick: It varies widely, depending on what sort of safari it is. On a bush camping safari with family and friends, we will have spent the previous day setting up sleeping tents, a mess tent, showers and toilets after a day or two driving out from home. Our daily routine starts with putting the kettle on at 5 am to fill up the coffee mugs for our dawn game drive, and getting the car, cameras and binoculars ready.
On a lodge-based safari, there is, of course, no need to pitch camp, coffee and snacks are already done for us, and we must just heed a wake-up call and turn up to meet with our guide and tracker.
Then it’s out of camp just before sunrise, and eyes peeled for those sightings in the golden light as the sun rises. This could mean picking up the fresh tracks of a cat or returning to an area where we saw a particular animal the previous evening. It might be a chance encounter as a leopard ambles out of the bush and across the road, or it might be that the guides pick up odd behavior from a herd of antelope or alarm calls from birds or squirrels. Whatever the circumstances, the morning is always laden with expectation and the excitement of being in the bush.
Coffee, rusks and biscuits “elevenses” is just as much a tradition as sundowners and gives us a chance to stretch our legs and take in a special spot. The game drive continues after this, and depending on what we’ve encountered, will either end back in camp at about midday for brunch and a siesta, or stretch over lunch and into the afternoon, or perhaps the entire day. Sometimes, when following a hunt or some equally absorbing drama, the need for food fades into the background, and adrenaline is our primary source of sustenance through the day.
The late afternoon, as the heat of the day starts to burn less intensely, and the light starts to soften offers another opportunity to venture out. Now we are chasing the light in the opposite direction, with shutter speeds and f-stops continually adjusted to compensate for lengthening shadows and a dropping sun. When it’s almost too dark to take useful animal shots, there’s still enough light for a magnificent African sunset, and the obligatory sundowner drinks, usually a gin and tonic, accompanied by nuts or biltong. This is one of the great safari traditions, and is a time for conviviality and reflecting on how fortunate one is to be in the bush.
Sometimes, a night game drive follows the sundowner, and the spotlight comes out in search of rarely-seen nocturnal animals. This is an incredibly special time and the rush if you are lucky enough to spot a porcupine or an aardwolf is amazing. Then it’s back to the camp or lodge for dinner with a glass or three of wine to recount the day’s adventures before retiring, exhausted, to bed, ready to do it all over again the next day.
What led to you becoming a safari tour operator?
Victoria: Patrick grew up going on safari in Kenya with his father from a very young age, and it was during those formative years that the urge to be a safari guide was planted. Years in the financial sector in Europe intervened, but in the early nineties, Patrick moved back to East Africa to work for a well-known luxury tour operator.
He ran their operation in Uganda for several years before he and I launched our own specialist Uganda DMC. A few years later, a second one for Rwanda followed, and we focused on growing each of these companies into successful and well-respected operations. In 2012, Patrick decided to satisfy his fascination for the rest of Africa, and his love of interacting with clients directly, and launched Journeys Discovering Africa – a boutique tour operator.
What have been your top three wildlife sightings or encounters?
Victoria: The sheer spectacle of tens of thousands of wildebeest in the Masai Mara. In some years there are so many that they clog the roads and tracks and fill the grass plains. The intensity of animal numbers and predator-prey interactions in this period is off the charts.
To witness the kill of a baby waterbuck that hadn’t yet found its feet, by a leopard in Botswana’s Khwai concession, was simultaneously heart-breaking, humbling and awe-inspiring. The ferocity, strength and agility of a leopard is always a surprise, and never more so than on this occasion.
We once found ourselves in the path of four fighting adult male hippo that danced nimbly up the side of an impossibly steep bank and charged toward us at top speed. Patrick was forced to engage in a bit of fancy (and frantic) driving to shift our car out of their way – a moment that is burned into the family’s collective memory!
Which is your ultimate African safari destination to visit, and why?
Patrick: Botswana, for its exclusivity, and the diversity and quality of its wildlife. The ability to have vast, unfenced expanses of wilderness set aside for a couple of dozen clients, combined with superb accommodations is Botswana’s unique gift to any visitor lucky enough to visit.
What has been the biggest life-defining moment that has shaped who you are and how you run Journeys Discovering Africa today?
Victoria: Going on safari from the grass roots, as it were. When Patrick was growing up, even during periods when the family was strapped for cash, his parents devised ingenious ways of getting out there and being in the wild. It has taught us that the African bush is accessible to pretty much any budget, and that the wildlife experiences that one can have take precedence over how luxurious the accommodations can be.
This philosophy permeates our company today – the wildlife experiences always come first, and we strive to offer maximum value for money to our clients, no matter what their budget.
Can you share with us any humorous anecdotes from your time on safari?
Patrick: There are so many, but almost all of them are too rude to print here…
For a person going on their first safari, would you suggest a tailor-made safari or a set safari package? And why?
Victoria: It really depends on a client’s budget. A set safari package with a small group can be a great way of seeing Africa for not much money. If you are lucky enough to join the right group, a safari like this can be a whole lot of laughs, and you will walk away with friends for life.
For clients who can afford to spend a bit more and have a clearer idea of what they want, I would recommend a private, tailor-made safari. A trip like this allows a client to enjoy a safari that suits their pace and their specific interests.
Do you have a favorite activity you enjoy most whilst on safari?
Victoria: Being in an open-sided vehicle on a private concession is a very good way indeed of covering ground and seeing a wide variety of animals, especially if guides have permission to go off road. However, a walking safari with a qualified and experienced guide is to me the purest wildlife experience.
The ability to approach, spend time with and around a an individual animal or group of animals, observe them in their most natural state and leave again without them ever knowing you were there is probably my favorite bush experience.
What is your vision for the safari industry?
Patrick: With a rising population and influence of outside interests, Africa faces increasing challenges as it tries to protect and maintain her wilderness areas. These wilderness areas will not survive without buy-in from local communities and national governments. Africa’s growing middle-class, too, can be turned into a powerful ally for conservation.
Even though it already makes a real and valuable contribution to the economies of those countries in which it operates, I would like the safari industry to realise that, to survive, it needs the support of these groups of stakeholders, and take more of an active role in engaging them. I would like conservation and conservation economics to be included in the curriculum of primary, secondary and tertiary academic institutions so that the conversation between development, population growth and conservation is less antagonistic, and more collaborative.
If you feel inspired to travel to Africa for a trip of a lifetime, chat to us about tailoring a safari experience to meet your travel style, interests and budget.
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