5 unrelated things that every bush girl should know

1) Reading the right books will enrich your safari experience (and life)

In the African bush there is so much more than what meets the immediate eye. Every inch of Africa has a unique essence – a soul if you like – of it’s own, carved from journeys, shiftings of continents, local legends, bloodstains of man and animal and footprints both old and new.

Some of these things will remain mysteries to us, perhaps known by 1000-year-old baobab trees. The eroding traditional African art of oral storytelling has also, sadly, left some gaps in our knowledge of African culture and history – but for the rest, there are books! Fascinating, brilliant books about nearly every inch of our colourful continent!

Before visiting a place, do a bit of research online, download a book on your kindle, or wander the shelves of a local library or Africana second-hand book shop and find something to read that relates to the area you are visiting. I have found this incredibly rewarding, a way to acquire knowledge that has added lots of joy to my travel adventures!

There are awesome field studies like Veronika Roort’s Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta, biographies of explorers such as To the Heart of the Nile and West with the night, memoirs by conservationists such as Ian Player’s Zululand Wilderness, An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick and Richard Leakey’s Wildlife Wars. Then there all-time classics like Jock of the Bushveld, Born Free and The Story of an African farm, delightful (sometimes terrifying) true stories of the most unconventional lives like Twenty Chickens for a saddle,  The boy who harnessed the wind and Harry Wolhuter’s Memories of a Game Ranger. Some books, like The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai will make you think, while non-fiction stories such as Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective series and Lauren’s van de Post’s exquisite novels A Story like the wind and A Far off Place will make you laugh and cry! There are also well-researched books on specific places such as African Thunder on the Victoria Falls and Okavango, Jewel of the Kalahari that are well worth a read. These are but a few of the favourites on my bookshelf!

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2) Get stuck in! 

Making campfires, putting up tents, braaiing – some things are better left to men… not!!!  Get as involved as you can in camp life, it’s SO satisfying. If you’re not on a self-drive safari you can still offer to help your guide out with carrying cooler boxes, setting up drink stops on game drives and wherever possible!

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3) Practical is better than pretty

 When it comes to life in the bush, it’s less about appearance and more about practicality. Going on a bush trip with someone who spends too much time in the bathroom applying make up can be frustrating – especially because mornings are the most valuable time of the day and you want to be able to get out on a game drive as early as possible. Dawn, before the heat of the day sets in, is when animals are most active and predators often still on the move. The light is gentle and perfect for taking photos. So brush your teeth, throw on your clothes and smile at your messy morning hair, the animals won’t mind!

On the other hand, I do understand that just because your’e in the bush doesn’t mean you have to look as if you just crawled out of one. Sometimes I like to sleep with my hair plaited, which keeps it a little neater for the next day. You can also wear a buff on open vehicles which will keep your ears warm too! Wet-wipes are very useful to keep in the cubby-hole of the car for dusty faces and grubby paws. But forget your feet – they’re going to get filthy whether you wear shoes or not, just embrace it.

I would definitely recommend wearing shoes though – a pair of comfortable, durable open shoes for the day and a pair of closed shoes for the evenings to protect you from scorpions and snakes. This is something that has been hard for me to learn because I like being bare-foot, but at night it’s just not worth the risk.

I love khaki. It’s a practical colour; it’s cool, it blends in with the bush and it handles dirt well too. Other essentials are a good sun cream, sunglasses, hat, long pants for the evening to protect you from mosquitos and a jacket and beanie for nighttime. Of course, this again depends on the place and time of year. I got totally caught off guard in the Kalahari last year, not realising how cold the nights would be as the days were so warm! Luckily my Mum was able to send some thermal underwear up with friends, it is well worth investing in some of these. I promise you won’t regret it!

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4) People

Try to be as friendly and open as you can to everyone you meet, there’s nothing to lose! Some of my most treausred moments have been sitting and listening to people’s stories. There are several ways to break the ice – greeting someone in their local language often puts a big smile of their face, having a soccer ball handy can instantly make you a friend or two or three, and sharing a packet of chips or offering someone a drink can be the beginning of some amazing stories shared.

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5) The Importance of time alone

don’t know about you but I NEED time by myself to completely connect with the beauty of my surroundings. I’m never really alone of course, with all the trees and birds and animals, which makes it the opposite of lonely. In quiet submission to the wild sounds and stirrings around me, I feel more alive and connected to nature than ever.

Even after just 20 minutes of sitting silently or strolling around camp on my own, I feel joyful and rejuvenated. Most importantly, I feel insignificant, which I think is the way it should be. In many ways trees and animals are a whole lot more amazing than people – smaller brains (or none at all) but adapted to life in many superior ways. How incredibly lucky I feel to spend time in these beautiful places! I bet you do too…

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Do you have any thoughts or helpful tips to share? Please comment below, I would love to read them! 

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My sister becomes a birder

My little sister Beth loves the bush – but it’s not so much the animals or birds that she’s interested in – it’s the family time and the peaceful atmosphere, the sipping of g&t’s as the sun goes down (with the essential Instagram selfies) and the chance to wear a pretty new hat. One can never have enough hats.

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Hyena Den at Vumbura Plains

Two large inquisitive eyes stared up at me like big black buttons fixed to a rather scruffy but adorable face. It’s been a while since I’ve been this close to a hyena cub, I thought. I’d forgotten just how delightful it is in their presence! We (photographer Em Gatland and I) were in the Okavango Delta, on a game drive with Luke, our ranger from Wilderness Safari’s Vumbura Plains Camp.

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Interview with Will Burrard-Lucas – An inventive photographer with a heart for Africa

“I always aim to be inventive” says professional photographer Will Burrard-Lucas.  This seems almost an understatement! Will’s photos must be some of the most innovative that I have ever come across! On a quest to find a new perspective to capture the wild animals he loves, Will developed remote control buggies or BeetleCams –  contraptions allowing his camera to get up really close to his subjects. He then founded Camtraptions and developed  a whole range of inventive gadgets including flying Copters.

Although Will is from the UK, his love of Africa is rooted in early childhood memories…

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Categories: Animals, Conservation, Inspiring People, Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Zambia | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

One night in the Kalahari

I recently stayed at beautiful remote Haina Kalahari Lodge in Botswana, thanks to Sun Destinations. One of the novel experiences offered by the lodge is an overnight adventure to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which has to be one of the most unique biodiversities in Southern Africa. For me, this was an absolute highlight!

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Birding jargon explained!

Recently, I was doing a bit of birding with Birding Ecotours guide John Kinghorn. As we wandered along a path in a lovely birding area, I listened intently for any little chatters and chirps around us. It was so peaceful, so beautiful …. and then “PPPPIIIISSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!” 

What the heck was that?! The sound was so loud and sudden that I almost jumped out of my pants.

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Okavango River Monsters and other secrets of the Hambukushu people

The sun is just beginning to set as you poll your mokoro along the panhandle of the Okavango. It’s been a successful but long day of fishing, and tonight there’ll be tilapia for dinner, enough for the whole family!  Suddenly, your mokoro [traditional dugout] won’t move. Nomatter how hard you pull, it remains stuck. You notice dust and ripples spreading over the water and then you realise – with horror –  that there is a Dikongoro under you; a huge snake-like monster. Although you’ve never seen it before, you’ve heard about it plenty of times. Your mokoro begins to spin and then the front of it starts to rise up out of the water for the Dikongoro to swallow. Fortunately – and just in time – you remember what to do. Scrambling for your wrist your heart sinks as you realise that you are not wearing a watch today. So you take out your fishing knife and cut through some skin on your wrist, holding your arm out so that blood drips into the water. Dikongoro lowers your mokoro again, what a relief! As he releases you there is no need to paddle as he pushes you with an almightily lurch across the water and up the bank…

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Lost mekoros, bucket showers and the art of polling

As we set out for our walk that morning, something strange happened – a helicopter flew over us. This little reminder of the outside modern world seemed so outrageously out-of-place, which made me realise what a dream-fantasy I had been living in for the last two days. We were tourists on a two-day mobile safari in the Okavango Delta, but really we were Livingstone’s lost offspring on an intrepid expedition through uncharted Botswana wilderness. You can’t blame me for getting the two mixed up. If you were there, I bet you’d have done so too…

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Brave baby honey badger at Camp Linyanti

We were staying in Botswana’s Linyanti concession, at Sun Destination’s Camp Linyanti  when we had this amazing sighting. Game drives in the area, one of my favourite corners of Africa, are through beautiful mopane woodland. As we came around a corner there were two honey badgers – a mother and baby – right on the edge of the road. Surprisingly, the mother ran off leaving her youngster behind. He was crouching in a small hollow, staring up at us with big adorable eyes and seemed rather shy…

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South Africa in miniature – inspiration from Terra-Lens Photography

I LOVE meeting girls who are as enthusiastic as me about all things wild and free! These fellow bush-lovers are so inspiring. I met Haley about a year ago on a seal snorkelling trip with a mutual friend. Whilst I bobbed around rather awkwardly, the two of them took to the water like mermaids!

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