July 27

Allison – Why I always choose Africa

July 27, 2020

Every couple of months, I set aside a few hours in my schedule to read through all the emails and messages from clients who have travelled over this period. From the initial contact when we first start discussing what they have in mind to well after they have returned home. Without fail, I am always astounded by the stark contrast of the messages before and after their trip. It is almost as if light has suddenly gone off or a spark has been lit and it is very clear that Africa has done this. This continent works its way into your heart and soul, it mixes with the very essence of your being and changes your life forever. That is the true magic of Africa and the reason I love bringing people here as well. 

Traditional Gin & Tonic sundowner in the bush, Photo Credit: Allison Bothma

A Little Bit About Me

I am incredibly lucky that I get to live my passion every single day and even more lucky that I get to call myself a Rhino too. Rhino Africa has been my home for almost five years now and I have been in the travel industry for over nine, and what a journey it has been. 

I studied Tourism after school and then decided to explore Europe. After a year of learning the German language and travelling to all corners of Europe, which I loved, something was missing. I knew deep down that Africa was where I needed to be and also instinctively knew that bringing people to Africa was my life’s passion.

Exploring Africa with my Rhino Africa Colleagues

“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”

What makes Africa special?

Well, that’s an easy answer. I am not African just because I was merely born here, but because Africa was born within me. Travelling through vast landscapes and wilderness of Africa, you see nothing but pure beauty and it feels as if this must be what heaven is like. The people are friendly, passionate, funny and exceptionally kind. Africa also has a very high linguistic diversity in languages – there are between 1500 to 2000 languages spoken, which is incredible and I feel proud to be able to speak at least 2 of these beautiful languages. However, the true calling card for Africa are the animals. They are wild, unfiltered and once you experience them first-hand, all of a sudden “The Lion King” becomes incredibly real. 

Reflections on the Zambezi River

My Favourite Africa Destinations

It is hard to narrow this list down as there are so many amazing places in Africa. For me, the list had to tick the following boxes. It has to be remote and wild, offer spectacular wildlife experiences, offer something found nowhere else in the world and allow the opportunity to connect with the culture of the destination. So here are my favourite African destinations.

The Serengeti – Tanzania

The Serengeti has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. I had seen the documentaries of enormous herds of wildebeest rushing head-first into crocodile infested waters and knew that was something I had to see. I got the opportunity to visit Tanzania in November 2018 and I felt as if all my Christmas presents had come at once – I was beyond excited. 

When we arrived at Sayari Camp, which is based in the Northern Serengeti, our ranger immediately informed us that the herds were close to the river and looked like a crossing was going to happen very soon. I squealed with excitement. But we all know this is Africa and nothing is scripted, so we were told not to get our hopes up just yet. 

We woke up early the next morning and I had got very little sleep. All I could think of was witnessing that crossing. We drove around for a few hours and the sun slowly broke the horizon as we drove to the top of a nearby hill. Here I got my first glimpse of the enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra below us. I immediately got shivers down my spine as well as the sense that something was about to happen. 

A dream come true: The start of the wildebeest crossing, Photo Credit: Allison Bothma

I noticed the ranger eagerly watching the lead animals on the river bank and all of a sudden called for us to jump into the vehicle, it looked like the crossing was about to happen. My adrenaline immediately kicked in as we rushed to the river bank. We must have stayed there for over four hours watching the incredible scenes of thousands of animals rush into the water. All I can remember is crying for most of it. Crying from sheer joy and maybe from a little sadness of watching the small calves being pushed from behind by their mothers. It was a sight I will treasure forever and something I believe everyone should witness. 

My Serengeti Recommendations:

I suggest combining the Serengeti part with a Northern Circuit trip in Tanzania. This will include Arusha, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and then also the Serengeti. A quick flight across the ocean and you can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar to end your trip.

Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve – South Africa

If you have ever wanted to see leopards – the Sabi Sand is the place you need to go. When our ranger said they have guests who often joke that the leopards seem to be “falling out of every tree” – I can easily see what they mean. 

What I love about the Sabi Sand is how simple it is to access this wildlife haven. Located adjacent to the Kruger National Park, with an unfenced border, it’s either a short flight from Cape Town or a simple road trip from Johannesburg. I have visited the Sabi Sand numerous times and while I do love to see leopards, my most memorable experiences is always spotting the rhinos. Luckily the anti-poaching unit within this private reserve is incredible and they have not had any rhinos poached in over five years. 

Seeing my first pangolin with my Rhino Africa colleagues, Photo Credit: Allison Bothma

They might not be as profoundly seen as the leopards, but on every single game drive I have been on, I have seen them. Once, on a trip to Lion Sands, we came around the corner and saw a white rhino with her young calf of only a few months old. They were relaxed and we switched off the vehicle engine and watched them for over an hour, just us. It was simply amazing. The last time I visited the Sabi Sand, I was also extremely fortunate to have seen a pangolin – one of the rarest species in the world! 

My Sabi Sand Recommendations:

The Sabi Sand would easily be a great combination with a trip to Cape Town, the Victoria Falls or if you are seeking a beach add on, Mozambique.

Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe & Zambia

The Victoria Falls are not just another waterfall. A lot of my guests say that they have seen Niagara Falls, so they are happy to give Victoria Falls a skip. This beautiful quote from Wilbur Smith explains why I always encourage them to include this in their itinerary: “When David Livingstone discovered the Victoria Falls he said, sights such as these must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

The “Smoke that Thunders” (a local nickname of the waterfalls) has a wide range of activities to do, especially for the adrenaline junkie at heart. You can do anything from bungee jumping, helicopter flips over the falls, swimming in Devil’s Pool to white water rafting down the rapids. I am a little nervous of these high octane activities, but even I managed to do the bridge swing with a colleague of mine. I don’t know what was more frightening – the horrible scream in my ear or jumping 80 metres into the gorge! 

Seeing the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side

Okavango Delta – Botswana

The Okavango Delta is easily one of my favourite destinations. It ticks all the boxes of what an authentic African experience should be and the sheer diversity of terrain and animals make it the ultimate safari destination. One thing which always stood out for me in Botswana were the warm greetings and incredible smiles. From the customs officials to the lodge staff, this is a country which just exudes kindness. 

Landing in the Okavango Delta, Photo Credit: Allison Bothma

What stands out for me the most about the Okavango is my first mokoro ride at Shinde Camp. Climbing into this rather small and flimsy dugout canoe immediately raised my anxiety levels. Especially since I had already seen the size of the hippos and crocodiles lurking in the surrounding waterways. However, from the moment we set off everything changed. The gentle pace of the mokoro and the silence at which it moves is almost hypnotic. The huge amount of bird species we saw was a big highlight for me – big, small and ones that you won’t see anywhere else. I love sending my guests to Botswana and specifically the Okavango Delta as I know they will have an incredible experience and love it just as much as I do.

Mokoro rides in the Okavango Delta

My Okavango Recommendations:

I would recommend an itinerary, where you can include the Okavango Delta as well as the Chobe National Park, the Savute Marsh or the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. This will offer you the best of the best of Botswana!

Why should you visit Africa at least once?

Africa brings a different perspective to life. You learn to appreciate wildlife, different cultures and Mother Nature and most of all, you learn more about yourself. In today’s modern age and fast-paced life, being able to experience the tranquility of the untouched wilderness and be surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature is something we all crave. From my experience, if you arrive in Africa open and receptive to experiencing new cultures and ways of life, you will leave a completely different person. Africa has a way of resetting your compass, realigning your purpose and always leaves you wanting more.  

Experience the magic of Africa as you float over the Serengeti

Ernest Hemingway once said: “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.” 

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Allison Bothma

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