It’s always lovely speaking to returning guests about their experiences, and I was delighted to catch up with Jeff Hall, recently returned from a trip with his partner Melissa to Botswana. Jeff had bid for the safari at a charity ball in aid of Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). Journeys by Design had the privilege of offering three exceptional camps and lodges, Duba and Abu in Botswana and Royal Chundu in Zambia. Apologies to Jeff in advance for any missed gems – we spoke on the phone, and I was taking notes at top speed.
Wildlife-wise, the delta did not disappoint, with Jeff and Melissa especially pleased to have seen lion at Abu, at dusk, preparing to hunt, and to have come across a hyena that had lost its ears in a fight, survived (against expectations) and gone on to have pups. Both were delighted, of course, to spend time with Abu’s elephants, a rare and unique opportunity to meet the herd. Jeff mentioned they met a lovely lady from the US, who visits Abu every three months, such is the draw of the Abu herd. Duba provided a trio of cheetah brothers, whom they saw two days running, and were mesmerised by their activities. The wildlife was prolific and far exceeded their expectations.
Jeff is wonderfully eloquent in his descriptions of the experience as whole. He is most complimentary about the standard of guiding, from helicopter pilot to scout to tracker, all serving to give depth and understanding to the Okavango Delta – he marvelled at the concept, its annual flooding, how it influences the environment and wildlife. Adjectives such as “spectacular” peppered his speech. Everything about Botswana left both Jeff and Melissa in awe. It was a magical first foray into Africa.
Jeff was especially effusive about his and Melissa’s experience of visiting Eretsha, a village near Duba. The aim was to donate solar powered lanterns to the young school children, through the Great Plains Foundation. Armed with their lanterns, they began their visit with a helicopter flight over the delta. Upon arrival, they were intrigued by the stories told by the locals, and had great fun travelling around by cart to the local school. Human wildlife conflict is a common issue in Africa, but the villagers here have been very resourceful and are successfully coexisting alongside elephants – Jeff was especially fascinated to learn how they protect their crops using a special chilli concoction. Both he and Melissa were deeply affected by their experience at the school, by the teachers, and by the children. It was, they say, an unforgettable experience.
Which just leaves me to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in making the trip, from Jess and Emma in the Journeys by Design team to everyone on the ground in Botswana. Thanks, also, to Jeff and Melissa for being so wonderfully open to new experiences. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and we’re delighted to have played our part in introducing them to one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. They’re already thinking about where to go next!