As an avid reader of Wilbur Smith’s collection, Jan Lyons from Platinum Travel has grown up with an overwhelming desire to visit the African wild.
She spent years imagining what it would be like to see the continent’s exotic animals in their natural habitat and would eventually get her first glimpse in a private game reserve at the Sabi Sabi River Lodge in Kruger National Park.
“We arrived just after lunch and went for our first game drive and the bush looked exactly as Wilbur Smith let me imagine it to be,” the lover and travel expert on all things Africa said.
“My first trip was in 1999 on Air Zimbabwe into Harare when Zimbabwe was still a major African destination. Mugabe’s regime made it very dangerous with the infrastructure being seriously affected and it dropped off the radar except for Victoria Falls. There was a lot of poaching and animal numbers had decreased. But there’s been a turnaround in the economy, and poaching has been virtually eradicated so the popularity has improved again and the animals are returning.”
But back to those moments on a game drive in Africa.
“There was one particular incident in Botswana and we were watching a pride getting active near dusk. This massive male started walking straight at us – it was eerie,” she remembered.
“The guide said the Lion wasn’t looking at us but through us, walking straight towards us in the truck. When he got about three-feet away, he veered around and walked around the other side, like we weren’t even there.
“When the animal can’t identify you as a human, you are invisible to them.”
“On another occasion we’d been out 10 or 15 minutes and all of a sudden we dramatically changed direction and headed into the bush,” she continued.
“We drove into this little clearing to realise the driver had driven us right into the middle of a herd of elephants. It was an OMG experience and it just blew me away. This youngster who decided to be brave wandered over and got a little bit too close to the truck, blew his trunk, flapped his ears angrily and then just ran away.”
How does it feel to see that, to witness that?
“It really gets your adrenaline pumping to see these animals in the wild. The big draw for me is the vast number of such large animals and so many of them are predators in their own right… it’s astounding.
“To see them up close, they’re so beautiful, so majestic, for me the feeling goes into my core and makes me feel very humble.
“It put’s your life back into a simple perspective, brings you back to grassroots and appreciating simple things. These magnificent animals going around their daily lives, sleeping, killing and eating because they have to live. It gives a perspective of simplifying our overwhelming lives.
“Just to appreciate the people that you have around you every day, that you gets into a car every day and drive to work. These sorts of travel experiences help bring your life back home into a sharper focus.
““I’ve never been a materialistic person but I’ve really tried to simplify my life through understanding that I don’t need all this stuff around me. It adds to my appreciation of where I am in everyday life. It adds to the whole sense of simple things.”
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