Imagine a Kruger National Park game drive in the early morning: the air still crisp, the grass still dew laden, your khaki clad ranger motions for silence as he negotiates the open topped four wheel drive vehicle through a tight gap between an acacia tree and granite boulder. Beyond the rock, there is movement in the tall grass, barely a flicker. The grass sways in the gentle breeze, something is moving closer, the grass parts, a collective breath from you and your kids, as a leopard appears! The big resident male eyes the vehicle out for a few seconds before dismissing it completely and returning to his hunt. Everyone, especially my 4 year old, goes back to breathing normally as the leopard poses elegantly for a few photographs before finally moving off.
My African classroom
What I came to realise after five months of lockdown in the African bush with my two boys, Matthew (8) and Michael (4), is what you really need to travel through the African bush is two pairs of hard as nails feet, a massive great grey bulk, toughened hide, bush clearing tusks and a dexterous trunk! The current model elephant hasn’t changed much in a few thousand years, mostly because when a design is pretty much perfect there is no sense messing with it.
While the elephant can often be quite temperamental, there simply is no better classroom in the world, than the African bush. So despite 2020 having presented us with more challenges than anyone could have anticipated, it made a profound impact on my life and my work, teaching us, as always, some very valuable lessons.
I’ve been privileged enough to live my passion, traveling the length and breadth of Africa many times over the past 20 plus years but never have I lived in the African bush for a prolonged period of time, or long enough to watch a full changing of seasons. So here are a few lessons we learnt in nature’s classroom through this crisis.
As we witnessed winter approach, with the trees losing their leaves and grass becoming a scarcity, a lone wildebeest, who my kids were convinced thought himself an impala, taught us that adversity is a forced way to refocus! Covid-19 suddenly meant life as we knew it, was no more casual. I had no choice but to change what we were currently doing, and lead my business through rapid, unexpected and unpredictable change. Every afternoon we would head out to see if our wildebeest friend had made it through another night, realising that everyone goes through adversity, but what matters is how you learn from it! For all of us, Covid-19 is not over yet, and we have still to find a way to live with it and protect ourselves as we continue to overcome the adversity it has caused.
2. Relationships Matter
Spending time in the bush everyday, one cannot help but bond with the animals, particularly for an 8 and 4 year old who literally think they are living in the “Lion King”! Whether it’s Pumbaa, Scar, Zazu, or Simba, I witnessed first-hand how awareness is the catalyst we all need to change our relationship with nature and our environment. Bonding with animals gives us the compassion and ethics to face reality, the reason to change and the power to live a more responsible life.
With compassion for nature we can find the way to a more humane world, and thus as a single dad, spending this time with my boys has been the best time I’ve ever spent. So as in nature, when faced with impossible decisions it is important to surround oneself with people who encourage you and celebrate your success by building supportive relationships.
3. Working Remotely
Our resident leopard, Tiyani, taught us all about working remotely, but more importantly she taught us to slow down and take stock. Working from wherever home is at that moment, has become normal and possible for many people and as we learnt reduces the need for commuting. This gives us all the opportunity to rationalise and better articulate our mobility, taking advantage of less congestion, less pollution, more safety, and more widespread quality for all. While this new paradigm still needs pushing on innovation, collaboration, digitisation, and planning – working remotely offers us the opportunity to experience more and focus on the things that really matter in our lives.
Over the past year we have all adjusted our daily lives and businesses in ways we never believed possible. We rallied together to provide support, encouragement, and when faced with extraordinary challenges, something totally new and unfamiliar, we adapted immediately and rapidly transitioned, proving that anything is possible with collaboration, sacrifice, and an immense amount of hard work.
Fortified by the pressures and trials of this strange time, what I learnt is that if you’re going to work with all your heart, even in times of adversity, you will find yourself a completely changed human being. After all, spreading and receiving love and happiness is all that we wish for in our lives. So going by Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’, I will continue to try my best. I am sure you will too!
The remote office: not just a trend, it’s the way of life
Travel is a beautiful thing. It allows us to make lifelong friends, rub shoulders with amazing humans and soak in diversity. If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that we can do more than just travel – we can live there! If there is one thing our guests consistently tell us, it is “we didn’t have enough time”.
Whether it’s the mother of all cities, Cape Town, time-stopping moments on safari in the Okavango Delta, Kruger National Park or the plains of the Serengeti, let our team of Rhino Africa Travel Experts prepare the ultimate “Remote Office” for you. Africa is a truly inspirational destination. To all who visit her, she is a dream experience, combining powerful social justice history, breath-taking natural beauty, and warm, welcoming people.
We look forward to welcoming you in 2021 – The year for African travel.