The EA story
How it all began...
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Encompass Africa is the realisation of a dream long held by Jonathon “Jono” Wilson.
Born and bred in South Africa, Jono spent his formative years visiting Kruger National Park with his grandparents. The intrepid travellers would head off in an old VW Jurgens AutoVilla (if you’ve never heard of one, imagine a vehicle that’s half VW Kombi, half caravan), driving for two days from Johannesburg. Then, for two glorious weeks, they’d stay at the National Park campsite, spending most of their days at waterholes where they’d watch the gathering wildlife, read and talk for hours until the sun set.
From his grandparents, Jono learnt invaluable lessons about not only South Africa’s animals and birds, but also its weather patterns, ecosystems, history, people, life in general – and, thanks to long, eight-hour stints by the waterholes – patience!
A seed was planted in Jono’s imagination that would grow to become his dream of the future. He wanted to share the safari experience with others and introduce them to the most life-changing and rewarding continent on the planet.
At school Jono played competitive rugby and water polo. Sport took him to South America, a trip that confirmed for Jono that travel needed to play a major role in his life. After university, craving adventure and a life in the bush, he took off and began working as a guide, taking groups on long, multi-country tours in overland vehicles. It was a real odyssey to “find himself” and before Jono left, his father gifted him a beautiful antique linear compass and these parting words: “Take this compass with you so you’ll always find your way home”. Little did anyone know that this precious gift would one day be the inspiration for the name and logo of Encompass Africa.
During Jono’s career as an overland guide it was action-packed adventure all the way. And never more so than on his final trip as a guide, when Jono met the woman who would change his life…
Danica Wilson (Danica Sade at the time) was a 29-year-old Aussie girl with a marketing career in Brisbane, a beautiful home and a large circle of friends, but she was looking for a new challenge. So she quit her job, sold her house and took off on a genuinely life-changing adventure: backpacking throughout Africa.
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As fate would have it, Danica ended up as one of the 14 people travelling with Jono on his final overland tour, from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. She and Jono connected immediately and became great mates. They got on so brilliantly that, upon arrival at Victoria Falls, Danica decided to stick with the tour and continue on up to Kenya.
Her parents agreed to cover the cost as an early 30th birthday present! But by the time the group got to Nairobi, Jono had a dilemma. His overland vehicle was needed back in Cape Town, but to comply with insurance it had to be accompanied by two people – and his offsider had taken ill and was unable to make the return journey. So Danica decided to help out, and join Jono on the trip from Nairobi back to Cape Town. In other words, a journey of more than 5,200 kilometres.
It would be the ride of their lives.
They drove up to 12 hours a day for almost a week, meeting some great people along the way and sleeping in the truck at border crossings at night. At this point Jono and Danica were still just friends, but by the time they got to Cape Town they realised something special was happening between them. While Danica stayed in city accommodation, Jono spent a few days finishing up at work and taking her for sunset drinks on Table Mountain and dinners in the beautiful, cosmopolitan city. After the unorthodox whirlwind of their first few weeks, they were overdue for some “traditional” dates! They then took the Garden Route to see Jono’s brother in Port Elizabeth (because, hey, they obviously needed to do some more driving), before heading to Johannesburg to meet his dad and mum.
Love was definitely in the air by the time, just a month or so later, they made a really big decision: to head north together and spend a year working in the UK.
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One year turned into five, as they embraced the London lifestyle, travelled extensively throughout the UK, Europe and Africa, and found rewarding jobs that they loved. Danica worked in the creative industries, while Jono ultimately received an incredible offer to help set up a new travel company offering safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The seed that had been planted all those years ago really started to take root at this point, and the couple knew it was time to realise the dream of launching their own safari company.
With the business plan, marketing strategy and seed funds for Encompass Africa all in place, they decided it was time to put their plans into action – but only after one more epic adventure: a six-month trip that would take them from Paris to Prague, Norway to Syria and beyond. They finally arrived in Australia in December 2008 and, six months later, on 1 July 2009, launched Encompass Africa.
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Today, Encompass Africa is a much loved and respected enterprise. It’s a small, owner-run boutique company that works with a hand-picked network of the very best suppliers in 24 countries across Africa. From brilliant safari guides to stunning accommodation and phenomenal restaurants, guests are ensured the finest experiences that Africa has to offer.
More than 10 years after they launched Encompass Africa, Jono and Danica are just as passionate about this wild and exotic continent – and to showing it off to other adventure-loving travellers. They head to Africa regularly to see new properties, re-visit old favourites and keep abreast of the very best places and experiences so that they can offer guests the most up-to-date advice. The only difference is, these days Jono and Danica – who were married in 2005 – sometimes take their two young children with them, too!
Together, they have recruited a small, dedicated team of passionate safari specialists who are just as committed to creating unforgettable, tailor-made journeys for guests, whether they’re going on their first safari or their twenty-first. Every itinerary is highly personalised, and the whole experience is safe and effortless.
At the heart of it all is Encompass Africa’s unique ethos – to keep conservation and creativity at the core of everything they do. So you can be sure of the most extraordinary holiday that not only benefits you, but also Africa’s wilderness, wildlife and communities. Like the Encompass Africa slogan says, “We make a difference, one safari at a time.”
We look forward to planning your holiday to Africa.
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