Africa Solo

Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Blog.

GiseleGisele had done her research before she came to Safari and Co. She knew she wanted to do a wildlife safari in Zambia and a photographic safari in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. Our role was to stitch everything together, because travelling solo in Africa you want to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. We talked to Gisele on her return about the joys of adventuring alone in the wilds of Africa.

Were you nervous about going to Africa by yourself?

I travel a lot by myself for work, so it’s not a foreign concept for me. But I know that my family was concerned.

Mike and I worked hard on the logistical stuff so I could feel comfortable travelling alone. He sorted out all the things that might have gone sideways for me and gave me contact numbers so I knew that I always had someone to call.

What made you choose the “Week on the Wildside” safari in Zambia?

Well I wanted to go somewhere really remote and I was hoping to avoid being stuck with a single supplement. This trip was great because they don’t charge a supplement and it was incredibly remote.

You could actually hear the elephants breathing.

Most people who come back from Africa have at least one story that they retell at every dinner party. Do you have one of those?

Yes. I’m almost tired of telling it, I’ve told it so often.

It was the second night at Luwi Bush Camp (in Zambia). I was awoken by the sound of crashing. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was an elephant wandering through the camp.

There’s no roof on the shower stalls so he just reached in with his trunk for the showerhead looking for water. He walked across my little patio and went into the cabin next to me and pulled down the privacy fence and then sat quietly chewing on their thatched roof. And then off he went.

Throughout the whole event you couldn’t hear another human. You knew everyone was just hunkered down in their little chalets. At one point I stuck my flashlight out through the little window because I just had to see how big this guy was. He seemed so enormous, with this great big tusk.

Were you scared?

No! Completely exhilarated. I was sitting under my mosquito net just listening. The night before I’d heard lions roaring. I felt like I’d gotten everything I wanted out of Africa in my first 24 hours – the rest was just being greedy.

While in Zambia did you do walking tours or game drives?

A mix of both. It was pretty warm for a Canadian like me so I didn’t always feel like walking. But I did do a few walking tours including one really long one.

You get to see things on a really granular level when you walk. Like the dung beetle rolling his little dung ball. And the smells are incredible. At one point we were tracking two lions and we came upon a small clearing in the tall grass and this incredible musky smell and we knew we had just missed the lions. You wouldn’t experience any of that in a vehicle.

But you did driving tours as well. What were the advantages of these?

You can get much closer to the animals in a vehicle than you would want to on foot.

On one game drive we were driving through elephant grass taller than the vehicle. We rounded a corner and came very close to a family of elephants. There was some flaring of the ears and we could see that the two adult elephants were not happy to see us. The guide turned the motor off and everyone was very quiet. The elephants calmed down and the two young ones came out from behind. One of the older elephants wrapped its trunk around the youngest elephant and they assumed this protective group pose. It was almost as though they were hugging.

After Zambia you went to Chobe National Park in Botswana to join a 5-day photographic tour. How did that compare with the Zambian experience?

It was very different because it was not remote at all. We stayed in Kasane, which is a major hub. The gates to the park opened at 6am and there were vehicles lined up to get in. So it was a bit of an adjustment – but the focus was on photography.

And how did you fare from a photographic perspective?

There were superb opportunities to take wonderful, wonderful photographs. They provided the sort of professional equipment I would never be able to afford, like $6000 telephoto lenses. They have an outfitted boat so that the camera rested on a permanent support. The guide was superb. So once you got away from the crowds the experience was amazing.

And how did a photographic safari differ from other safaris you had taken?

On a normal safari you see the animal, you spend 5 minutes and then you’re on to the next animal. On a photographic safari you actually sit and watch. You might wait for an hour or more for a hippopotamus to yawn – and then you get the shot.

I took a lot of pictures in Zambia but it wasn’t the same. The focus of photography is being patient. We sat with baboons a couple of times and it was wonderful to sit and watch …not just see them, but really watch them interact.

I understand that you want to go back to Africa.

Oh yes. I would love to go to Namibia (add link) and Zimbabwe (add link). I’m a research fanatic and I love doing the travel research – reading about places. The options are endless and I’m sure I’ll change my mind forty times – but I would love to go back next year.

If you love doing the research yourself, do you think you’d use Safari & Co again?

Absolutely. Part of the great success of this trip was the work that Mike did stitching everything together for me. I didn’t think he’d be willing to do it – figured it wasn’t worth his time. But he just did a great job for me and I’m pretty sure it didn’t make him a millionaire. I think he is just someone who loves doing what he does.

Thank you Gisele for sharing your stories. And for the record – it is true that Mike loves doing what he does!