Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Adri Sanders

Leaving the corporate world behind, Adri dives into the African bush and finds her place in the world. She invites you to join her.

I was a business analyst with a large financial institution for many years in South Africa, where I was born and bred. During these hectic times, my life consisted of business, bringing up two daughters, endless corporate functions, and accompanying clients on incentive trips and safaris. Every bit of spare time I had I used for personal travel, into unexplored territory in the African bush.

My kids joined me in most of these travels, which equipped them for three of life’s greatest challenges: respecting nature and its inhabitants; accepting people for who they are, irrespective of their different cultures and backgrounds; and always being prepared to help someone in need.

Throughout my own travels, I have noticed how inconsiderately some tour operators treat their clients on safaris, and how dream vacations in Africa can turn into nightmares.

One specific incident finally made me realize my purpose in life. It was Christmas Eve, and we were camping on the brim of the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. I was busy preparing a special Christmas meal on the fire and baking bread for the next day, as we were running short.

One group of tourists on safari was already in the camp. Their guide attentively looked after them as he helped them to pitch their tents, made a huge fire, and prepared dinner while they settled. It was a happy group that sat around that fire a while later, singing Christmas carols.

Another safari vehicle drove into the campsite and, to my utter disbelief, dumped two people with their tent and luggage and sped off again, not even bothering to make them a fire! I watched the young guy and his girlfriend trying to pitch their tent with only a torch for light. They then crawled into their tent and stayed there for a while before crawling out again and watching the merry group at the fire.

At that point, we went over and invited them to our fire. We learned that they were from England and had booked a “budget safari” with a well-known operator. No meals were included, and they had to provide and prepare their own food. Needless to say, they were not equipped for Africa, especially in an area where buffalo roam the campsites!

They had flown in from England two days prior and didn’t have much time to buy groceries before they met up with their guide. They had some tinned food, some cheese, and stale bread. They planned on buying more along the road. (Easier said than done!) While they were in their tent, they had one tin of food and a bit of cheese for dinner and were clearly still hungry. They gulped down the bread I had baked for the next day with butter and jam, and I invited them to dinner as well. We spent a beautiful evening together before they returned to their tent at about midnight. They were much more relaxed and had overcome their initial shock. Their Christmas in Africa was looking up.

The guide never came back that evening. He did arrive very early the next morning though, only to throw their tent and belongings back into the Land Rover and speed off again to the Serengeti. Heaven knows what happened there, or what their impression of the rest of Africa would be.

It was then that I decided that I could not spend my entire life in a corporate environment while there was still such a need to show people what Africa is really about, to make them feel and see the sights and sounds of the continent, to have them understand why we are proud to be Africans, and to make them part of feeling. I understood that one bad operator could ruin a lifelong dream.

I resigned from my job and started a tour operators business in Centurion, South Africa. I called it Vulamehlo, which means, “open your eyes” in Zulu, one of the eleven official languages in South Africa.

Cooking has always been one of my passions and over the years I have experimented with meals where only fire and a little gas stove were available. I have a freezer fitted in the main vehicle for meat, which I stock up on whenever fresh meat is available en route. With some initiative, you will not believe what a Diva can come up with in the bush! A flickering candlelight, good South African wine, and the blending of nocturnal animal sounds always make mealtimes memorable.

Africa is not only bush; it’s about the bustling towns, dancing to the beat of drums till midnight, drinking a cold beer with the locals, sharing stories around the fire, and simply getting back in touch with one’s self.

Africa has its problems and battles, but in all of our hearts we yearn for peace and prosperity—for our people and for our land.

I offer you Africa…not a destination, but a journey, where the rhythm of Africa is your companion and the diversity of its inhabitants expands your mind. When time brings your journey to an end, Africa will follow you home.

Adri Sanders

Vulamehlo Safaris and Tours:

www.vulamehlo.com

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