January 6

Spend more time doing the things you love


By David Ryan on
January 6, 2021

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.  

David and the kids during lockdown at Silvan
The magic of Africa shared with my two boys – priceless

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.

Elephant from the deck at Silvan, with Michael
Every day brought new sights and adventures for my boys

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.

Africa is the best classroom in the world
Nature offers the most spectacular classroom for our children

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.

1. Adversity

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. 

Michael viewing a buffalo at Silvan while in lockdown
You learn at a young age to appreciate, value and respect Africa’s wildlife

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.

David being watched by Tiyani while working at Silvan during lockdown
Being watched while I work, a different kind of safari

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. 

Working with Justine at Silvan
Our lockdown office with my sister-in-law, Justine

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”. 

Matthew being tracker with an elephant at Silvan
Not quite the usual peak-hour traffic

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.

X Rhino Africa Consultants

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About the author 

David Ryan

David makes things happen! With a canny inability to sit still for a minute, it’s a miracle he actually sat down long enough to finish his degree in economics. David is a brave and pioneering entrepreneur with a true passion for Africa - especially Africa's wildlife. With his African Grey parrot by his side, there is more than a hint of the Dolittles about our intrepid leader. Before founding Rhino Africa David spent a number of years earning his stripes and cutting his teeth in the industry. David’s interests include photography and travel, and having travelled extensively through Africa most of the images on the Rhino Africa website hail from his well organised image library!

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