Visiting Africa and staying in some of the beautiful properties, getting to experience the wildlife, landscapes and amazing people is, for many people, a Bucket list experience.
For many of our guests traveling to our properties, we therefore often hear about how amazing and lucky we are to live remotely in these spaces. Of course few of them would be able to manage to do it.
Not because it’s not beautiful, or memorable but because in these remote areas, technology is often very limited or non-existent, there are no shops around the corner and your neighbours are often wild animals that will likely eat you if the opportunity arises, all of the reasons which attracted me to stay.
My first remote bush camp was not so much in the bush, but rather in the desert – In Namibia. I was given 2 days of handover, and then told – Good Luck – and left with a team of 20 people. My boss was concerned that I would not make it, but after 2 years he thought I would never leave. I loved the remoteness, the wildlife and importantly I loved the people.
Anyone that has travelled to Africa will always talk about the wildlife, the landscapes and those that have been touched and return year after year, are the ones who really connected and remember the names of their guides, chef or waiter, many years later.
While technology may be coming into many of the properties – due to demand, I can still remember the my early days in Namibia where our communications were via a HF (High Frequency) Radio. You could connect to another radio, or a landline via an operator in Walvis Bay.
You would call the operator, and she would tell you where you were in the queue. “Thank you, you are number 62” You would then have to stay close by so that when she called you back, you would be ready. If not, you might miss your spot and she would just advise “you are now number 93”
While it was great to be able to “Connect” you had the added pleasure of knowing that everyone in Namibia was listening to your call – well those that had their radios on anyway – which was most of us, because this was the desert grapevine!
Shopping for groceries also becomes interesting – in Namibia we would make our list and once a week one vehicle gets to drive 4 hours (each way) to do the weekly shop. The drive back was always great as you start remembering all the items you forgot!
In Botswana, our freight would come on a small airplane, onto a land rover, onto a mekoro (a small wooden canoe) and then carried to the camp. It’s an amazing system that works really well, as long as you’re able to plan well. During times in Botswana when the flood was in, we would need to plan for 3 months at a time – not easy to get things in if you forget that one item on your list.
Dealing with wild animals in your back garden has given me many magical as well as heart attack inducing moments. It is a question we often get asked by guests “Have you had any close encounters?” “Tell us a scary moment?” “Have any guests been attacked?”
They ask these things, but most don’t really want to hear the answers – especially when you are sitting around the fire at night and they have a 6 hour sleep ahead, alone, in a tent, in the middle of the bush with the sounds of lions calling all around.
I don’t want to tell them either, because I am the one that will then have to get up, in the middle of the night when someone blows the airhorn – the sign that something is wrong. We ask guests only to use these for medical emergencies, however we are often called because “I heard a sound”, or “There was an animal outside my tent” – which is fantastic for me, because I get to run into said animal.
To ease everyone’s minds – I have lived – and am still living – in remote Africa, in a tent, a single lady on my own. I have loved hearing elephants rumbling tummies, hyaenas sniffing and lions eating my couch on my doorstep while lying safely in my beautiful tent.
So while I now have better communication options, get better (though still very similar) deliveries and have had a number of close encounters (stories for another day – not night), I would not give up the opportunities and experiences I have had – they are beyond a doubt my favourite memories in the bush and I cannot wait for you all to experience it.