It seems so long ago now. I was only 18 years old and embarked on what would be a life altering adventure, and the first of many trips to Africa. Why did I choose Africa, you might ask? For me, I had something to prove to the world, I wanted to travel somewhere far from Australia, somewhere I could get lost in the bush and surround myself with wildlife and culture. Africa was the perfect fit.
They should have warnings before traveling to Africa. Somebody should tell you that traveling to Africa is very addictive, that it gets under your skin and becomes a part of who you are. How was I to know that this trip would set me on a course I could never have imagined?
Sitting in Johannesburg Airport on a 6 hour lay over, I was exhausted from the nearly 25 hours of flying I had done, just to get there. As a young traveler, I did what ever I could to reduce costs, even if that meant traveling around the world to get there.
I was sitting on a bench waiting for my onward flight, and for the first time in my life, I was in the minority. I had not traveled much, and had lived a sheltered life, growing up in an Aussie household with Aussie friends. I had only met a handful of people from other countries, so sitting in that airport, feeling completely out of place, was a real eye opener for me.
I remember this young South African women, who was sitting in front of me on the plane. She was fascinated by my hair, and I at the time, I couldn’t work out why. It wasn’t until I visited a school/orphanage in Livingstone that it started to make sense. Long, straight, bleach blond hair is very uncommon over there, especially in more remote areas, so it was a source of entertainment for the locals. It also proved to be quite the ice breaker throughout my travels.
My first glimpse of Africa was of the mighty Victoria Falls, I flew straight over it on my way to Livingstone in Zambia. Livingstone was the first place I ever visited in Africa and still holds a special place in my heart.
I spent my first week in Africa doing all the usual adventure activities that Livingstone and Victoria Falls are known for. Everything from game drives, to viewing the mighty Victoria Falls, elephant back safaris, gorge swings to zip-lines. I tried it all. I was hooked, and this was only the start.
January in Zambia is incredibly hot, humid and wet. At this time of year, the vegetation is thick and because of the ample water, the animals spread out far and wide so game viewing can be tricky. But I was young, adventurous and was determined to make the most of it.
As it was off-season, there were very few tourists around, and it felt like I had Zambia all to myself. Sitting on the banks of the Kafuwe River, I would spend endless hours watching the hippos as they came out of the water to feed and sneak around the camp trying to spot Elephants that wandered through on their way to the river.
One thing that really stood out for me was the colours of the sunsets in Africa. Somehow they seem more vivid and colourful. There is something so special about watching Elephants silhouetted against the stark red sunset and listening to the sounds of the African bush as you eat dinner and recount the days events. I knew then, that Africa was, and always would be a huge part of who I am.
I hear people talk about the heartbeat of Africa, how they felt a connection to the land and it’s people. They call it the ‘magic of Africa’. It reminds me of an old saying by Richard Mullin that follows ‘the only person I am jealous of, is a person that has never been to Africa, for they have so much to look forward to’.
I guess this is the reason I became a travel agent in the first place, and the reason I still guide tours to Africa. For me, sharing these ‘firsts’ with guests is what it’s all about. The ‘first’ time they see a pride of lions, the ‘first’ view from the top of table mountain, or the ‘first’ time they feel the spray from the might Victoria Falls. It’s pure magic.
***All pictures featured above were taken on my first trip to Africa in 2010 with a hand held, small digital camera, so please forgive the quality.