Wilderness is the source of all we can imagine and what we cannot

January 27, 2024
Leopard in long grass_Solio_Kenya_Rockford Draper

“Wilderness is the source of what we can imagine and what we cannot – the tap root of consciousness.” – Terry Tempest Williams

As humans, we have a way of taking what we want and what we need, but we have never really learned how to put it back. Gradual change is hard to notice over time. It’s the concept of the slow boil - you only realize it’s too hot, too late. I often turn to Terry Tempest Williams, who believes, as I do, that the wilderness is the source of all that we can imagine…and all that we cannot. I think this quote is especially relevant to children who see all the fruits of their imagination and beyond come to life on safari. But one has to ask…how long will this pure, utterly wondrous experience of the wild remain? 

I am always alarmed that most people don’t consider that we live on limited space - a blue dot, a ball that does not grow as we do. Unfortunately, our world’s growing over-population problem directly fuels our over-consumption of natural resources, escalating climate change and critical conservation issues like human-wildlife conflict and thoughtless trophy hunting. Certainly, our role as Africa specialists born and raised on the continent is to provide conscious, ultra-luxe, insider travel experiences in a totally seamless, grind-free way, showcasing the places and people we know and love. But our responsibility goes much, much deeper. We create and deliver singular trips carefully designed to spur the profound shifts that accompany an awakening of consciousness. My personal measurement of success is that we return our guests a slice kinder, a slice more gentle, and most importantly, more aware of what is at stake. I try to share the conservation struggles and successes in each dedicated mailer to you – an environmental snapshot of our shared future. 

There is no better use of leisure time than time spent in nature – and Africa’s wild, untamed landscapes, where wildlife roams free, is nature in its purest form. There is also no trip more urgent right now than going on safari thoughtfully and responsibly. This type of trip not only takes us on a potentially transformative journey, granting us a deeper understanding of ourselves while protecting and supporting local communities and wildlife, but it’s also educationally essential to all our futures. Safari is a conduit to connect with your family and yourself in a raw, authentic way, free from distraction and “noise” and full of that purity and essence we crave. Being in the wild not only feeds our souls, but it also feeds our creativity, our neuropathways and even our oxygen supply…it’s a dose of all we ache for.

These words are just me sharing my lived experience and understanding of the power of nature and the profound outcomes I see in people as they emerge from the warm, loving cocoon of their travels with us. Thus, today, it’s my pleasure to share insight into the absolute best experiences, destinations and lodges to consider for a life-changing summer safari and undisturbed time together. You already know that we surgically design and deliver every trip with far greater responsibility and awareness than most realize. 

Africa is our home…if you are considering taking this life-changing journey – don’t wait.

Summertime spent in East-Africa's wilderness

The first question I often hear from our guests is… “When is the best time to go?” The truth is that Africa’s wild spaces and top-tier lodges are spectacular year-round, whether you’re traveling with a large group, your family or solo. Every season holds its own magic and unique wildlife. 

The dry season from June to September has a remarkable momentum. East Africa - across Kenya and Tanzania – buzzes with the energy of the great migration. The migration is in play in Tanzania in July, moving into the Mara in Kenya from early August with herds fanning out across the plains to feed and brave further predator-laced river crossings into late September. Angama Mara, which translates to “suspended in mid-air,” unequivocally has the best view in all of Africa. Richard’s Camp and Cottars Camp (heaven on earth for children) are two other properties that place you in the heart of the action. Both old-world odes to safari are set within private conservancies, giving you an exclusive experience for the most part, with your stay contributing directly toward conservation efforts. After or before a Masai Mara experience, a short one-hour flight north to Segera in Laikipia or Ol Jogi delivers a palpable change in landscape, culture and conservation initiatives, with Ol Jogi being home to a huge conservation success story for Kenya’s critically endangered eastern black rhino subspecies. Meanwhile, Arijiju and Sirokoi both feel like staying in inviting, exquisitely designed private homes, ideal for groups or family gatherings surrounded by thousands of acres of private conservancy land teeming with wildlife. 

Animals in East Africa

For those looking to add on another destination - and an incredibly rarified wildlife experience – flying to Rwanda or Uganda to trek with wild mountain gorillas takes less than two hours. This is the most transformative, heart-opening wildlife encounter you can ever have with a critically endangered species in the most spectacular jungle environment. To switch visual field from the expansive grasslands and savannahs of East Africa to Rwanda’s emerald hills and sacred, mist-shrouded volcanoes or Uganda’s thick rainforests is pure magic. (It’s worth noting that only children above fifteen can trek. However, Rwanda’s inimitable lodges like Singita Kwitonda and One & Only Gorillas Nest have skilled staff and fun, creative activities from pottery and art to foraging and baking classes to keep little ones happy and safely occupied.)

Botswana - wildest place on earth

Nowhere holds more waterside magic from May through September than Botswana’s Okavango Delta. This heavily protected landscape is a glorious natural phenomenon and one of our world’s last truly wild and unspoiled spaces. Its existence is the sole result of an annual flood of water that descends from the Angolan highlands, soaking the Kalahari sands to create riverine channels and tiny islands that lure abundant wildlife. During this time, the entire Delta is a vision teeming with enormous herds of elephants, pride of lions and rare leopards amongst hundreds of other species and magnificent birds. But what sets the safari experience in Botswana apart is unparalleled exclusivity. One rarely sees another game vehicle; thus, the safari experience is a true immersion into an untouched landscape where humans remain outsiders. 

A series of private reserves and concessions cover vast swathes of the Okavango landscape, each one home to some of the most superlative lodges in Africa, like Xigera, an ultra-luxe living art gallery suspended above the water, Mombo and Little Mombo, two top-tier sister camps in the lion-rich Moremi concession and the just-opened. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family and children, or in a large group, Botswana’s heady mix of wildlife, beauty and adventure – from helicopter and horseback safaris to mokoro rides down the channels – is out of this world. 

A homage to Zimbabwe and South Africa

I cannot end this mailer without paying homage to my homeland, Zimbabwe. Throughout the June- September Victoria Falls or “Mosi-oa-Tunya” – the smoke that thunders - as this natural world wonder is called in the Shona language is in full flow. The power of the plummeting water sends towering plumes of rainbow-streaked mist into the air, and the energy jolts you into a new state of awareness. Fortunately, just forty minutes by road from the falls, Matetsi River Lodge sits on the banks of the Zambezi River, an idyllic perch to take in all the drama the water attracts, from playful splashing elephants to thirsty lion cubs, buffalo and graceful darting impala. The lodge is set within a 136,000-acre private reserve, which sits within the unfenced, vast KAZA trans-frontier area. UNESCO Heritage Site, Mana Pools, is perhaps a lesser-known safari destination, but to born-and-bred Zimbabweans, it is our gloriously remote Eden. It’s a place to root close to the earth on bush walks and settle into the natural rhythms and sounds of riverside wildlife – you’ll find an incredibly high concentration of hippos, crocodiles and elephants here alongside over 450 species of birds. To stay, I favor the utterly authentic Chikwenya for its location at the confluence of the Sapi and Zambezi Rivers, which attracts epic wildlife, and for that authentic Zimbabwean welcome I miss so much when I’m away. A third location especially close to my heart is Singita Pamushana in the pristine surroundings of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. Pamushana is pure magic with its expansive views over the wildlife-studded plains and dam below, alongside a superb mini-rangers program that immerses children into the ways of the bush, tracking astronomy and so much more.

Safari in Southern Africa

I’ll finish with South Africa, my second home and a true rainbow nation brimming with culture, fabulous food and wine and endless pristine wilderness. This magnificent country stuns every guest with its beauty and diversity of landscapes and experiences. I often recommend guests and large family groups to fly into cosmopolitan Cape Town to adjust to a new time zone. The Mother City sets the tone for a life-changing trip with a buzzing art scene, world-class restaurants and layered history before decamping to the emerald Winelands for a few days of total relaxation. A quick flight transports you to a totally different world, the bush. Sabi Sands has the highest density of leopards in South Africa and top-tier lodges and private villas perfect for families throughout the year, like Singita Ebony and Boulders, Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, and Lion Sands. For those perhaps traveling with children, I must mention Tswalu, a true Kalahari Desert haven for families and young budding conservationists with vast numbers of endangered wildlife like pangolins and aardvark alongside black-maned lions and habituated families of meerkats that every child falls in love with. 

Returning to Africa, our original source

Of course, the above is merely an idea of the sublime safari experiences at their absolute best. However, like all the most wondrous experiences, words never do full justice. You must be in Africa - breathing in the fresh, fragrant air, melting back to the natural rhythms of the wild and feeling the fun and joy of discovery with the ones you love most in this world. We must never forget that we rely on these biodiverse wildlife ecosystems for our survival. We cannot keep pushing the snooze button and turning a blind eye to the fragility of nature. For there is no greater feeling than time together in the wild, the taproot of our consciousness, the original source of all our joy and awe.

If I could gift the world with one experience on earth – it would be to go on safari.


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