by Cindy Krueger
I’ve wanted to travel to Africa for many, many years. And for many of those years I talked about it with Priscilla Macy. I travelled with her to Thailand, and on a great kayak and hiking trip in the Pacific NW Cascade mountains. I followed the Global Sojourns website, and watched in envy as friends made the ‘big trip’. I wanted to go for my 60th birthday, but wasn’t able to find anyone with time, money, and interest that lined up with my dates. And – another year went by. During that year, I lost a few friends unexpectedly, and realized that life doesn’t promise us that we’ll eventually get around to living our dreams. I got in touch with Priscilla, and told her that I was ready to see Africa, and asked her to help me take the trip on my own.
Priscilla was the consummate professional; we worked on the safari planner, to help determine what I wanted to do. Africa is a very big place, and focusing on my priorities for my initial trip was an important part of making my trip so successful. We discussed budget and itineraries objectively, and I felt comfortable sharing my concerns about being a woman traveling alone. The planning process took about 6 months, during which we had several long exchanges, and a number of back and forth emails. Valentina in the ‘home office’ was also a great help.
I was pretty clear that seeing the animals in their habitat was my number one priority. I also wanted to see some of the local culture and to visit one or two of the projects that the Giving Circle supports. Priscilla and her team put together a dream itinerary for me, which met every one of my travel desires, and a few that I didn’t even know I had.
I used airline miles to travel back and forth to S. Africa, and worked with Priscilla’s U,S, partner for the inter-Africa portions of the trip. Global Sojourns handled every tiny logistic for me in a way that had me feeling completely supported. I was met by a driver at the Johannesburg airport, who welcomed me to Africa and whisked me to my beautiful hotel only a few minutes from the airport. Once in my room – and very ready for a nap after 40 hours en-route, I got a call from Priscilla, just checking in to ensure that I had arrived safely. This level of care and attention to detail was the gold standard of every part of my trip.
I spent a day in Johannesburg, seeing the sites under the care and watchful eye of my driver, who on the following day returned me to J’burg int’l for my flight to Victoria Falls. At the airport I was met Fred, my delightful driver who took me to my first National Park; Hwange in Zimbabwe. I had told him, ‘this is my second day in Africa, I don’t know anything – tell me about everything that we see’. During the entire 3-hour trip Fred became my tour guide, sharing stories of his own life in Victoria Falls along with facts and anecdotes about that part of Zimbabwe.. As we neared the park entrance, we saw a few giraffes, and a group of zebra. My driver was as thrilled as I was, he even shared with me that his totem animal was a zebra! Once into the park, I met my guide, Michael and was transferred to Somalisa Camp, a private concession in the park. We stopped at a watering hole on the way to camp just as the sun was setting, and the animal parade began. The combination of the multitude of animals; elephants, zebra, water buffalo, antelope and the beautiful golden light truly took my breath away. I believe it was at that point that I just relaxed into being part of that beautiful landscape and all the creatures. I spent a total of 9 days ‘in the bush’ with additional stops at Kanga Camp and Zambezi Lifestyles, both in Mano Pools national park. Each camp was unique, and each was a wonderful experience. I continued my love affair with the wild animals, but also appreciated the interesting people that I met: guides, staff and guests. I found that the African people I met were very open and caring, they were interested in me, and were willing to share stories about their lives and experiences. And – I enjoyed having a solo experience, where I could engage with people when I wanted, but could also have quiet time to write, take photos, and just reflect on the amazing experience that I was having. Being able to be completely selfish about what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it was a real treat, and an unexpected benefit of travelling solo.
After my time in the bush, I flew back to Victoria Falls – to see those iconic Falls and have the luxury of a night at the grand old Victoria Falls hotel. The next day I went to Zambia, and was shown around Livingstone by GS’ Giving Circle partner, Agnes. We saw a school, a chicken raising operation in development, and met a few more of the locals. Agnes even took me into her home, and showed me her studio, as she talked about her week and her life, I got a glimpse into life for an exceptional African woman. From Livingstone I flew to Capetown – where I spent 5 amazing days in that beautiful city. I had never experienced the luxury of having a guide for a city experience, and highly recommend it. The guides knew an amazing amount of history and culture, and shared their experiences of growing up in this cosmopolitan and challenging place. Each guide came from a different segment of society, an Afrikaans young man, a Xosa man, and a woman from a British background. Along with experiencing the beauty of the city, it’s fabulous food and wine, not to mention great shopping and people watching – I spent a day visiting the townships and seeing a few of the projects the GSGC works with here. From a community garden, to a senior center, to the wonderful boys and girls at the Jikaleeza dance school – everyone was welcoming, interesting, and shared their hope as well as the challenges they face.
My advice to someone considering a solo trip? By all means, do it. Travel with an open mind, an open heart, and be prepared to be wonderfully cared for and delighted by this amazing continent.