We asked the team at Encompass Africa to share their favourite Africa moments and memories.
Jono’s favourite moments
I’ve been to so many places and had so many incredible experiences over the last 20 years, I honestly can’t narrow it down to just one! Some highlights would have to include sleeping on the rim of an active volcano and trekking to see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo; taking a once-in-a-lifetime flying safari around Namibia and seeing that magnificent country from the air; and canoeing on the Zambezi River, camping overnight on a sandbank surrounded by hippos and crocs. Just recently I also fulfilled a dream and went on family safari at Tswalu, an extraordinary private game reserve in the Kalahari. The whole gang was there: my wife, two kids and even my parents (we were celebrating my Dad’s 70th). It was magical – a brilliantly successful multi-gen holiday and something I’d recommend to anyone wanting a truly special family holiday.
Jonathon Wilson, Founder | Adventurer | MD
Danica’s favourite moments
So many of them seem to revolve around elephants! One was with a dear friend who was on her first safari and really loves these magnificent animals. The first time she saw them in the wild was utterly magical. We were completely surrounded by a large breeding herd – with babies. They were so close you could almost touch them. I just remember looking over and seeing the tears of happiness streaming down my friend’s cheeks. A few years later, I was on a game drive with my new baby son, Aidan, when I had another encounter with a breeding herd. The elephants were crossing the road in front of us when the matriarch heard Aidan cry. She paused, turned, and silently approached our vehicle. My heart raced as she came right up close and reached her trunk out, following the scent and sound of a crying baby. It was so powerful to see this beautiful animal connect with the sadness of a human child. I felt so blessed to share such a special moment with a fellow “mum”, and this time the tears were streaming down my face.
Danica Wilson, Leader | Guest Services | Creative
Gen’s favourite moments
Hmmm, this is hard – I have so many! I’ll narrow it down to my top five:
1. Having my best friend and soulmate, Kev, propose to me in a beautiful, romantic setting surrounded by hurricane lights and panoramic views of Kruger National Park and the Lebombo Mountains in South Africa.
2. Visiting a school for AIDS orphans in eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland). Being bombarded with cuddles and high fives from the gorgeous kids and watching Kev play soccer with them was one of the most emotional experiences of my life.
3. Going on a walking safari in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and getting up-close and personal with wildlife while on foot – including elephants and a lioness and her cubs.
4. Listening to a local mum sing a Ugandan lullaby to her child during our walk through community land at the start of a trek to see mountain gorillas.
5. Sitting among the tree canopies at andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge in Tanzania, with a lioness directly underneath me, getting goosebumps while listening to her roar.
Gen Thurgood, Africa Specialist | Brisbane
Steph’s favourite moments
Ten years ago we did a family holiday to Uganda, and had booked to go gorilla trekking twice, which I thoroughly recommend, as although it was obviously more expensive, it gave us two different experiences of seeing gorilla families.
On our first day we had to hike about two hours to get to the gorillas, who we found in a clearing, playing and grooming each other. It was an amazing experience to see a baby gorilla beating its chest, and watch a silverback, only a few metres away, pluck a twig from a branch and scratch his head with it – it was both fascinating and bizarre, as it was literally like watching a human. On the second day we started off on our trek, but not 15 minutes down the path we had to stop – the gorilla family was in the trees above us. We froze in our places, all slightly separated, as they dropped down from the vines and branches. The silverback then took control and headed down the path, in between where we all stood, with the other gorillas falling into line behind him. One of the females casually – but on purpose – brushed my sister-in-law with her hip as she walked past her, with the exact same bit of attitude any teenager would have when being told to follow their senior! It was just amazing.
Every hour we shared with the gorillas on those two days was phenomenal.
Stephanie Osorio, Africa Specialist | Sydney
Katie’s favourite moments
My first animal sighting on my first ever safari. We had arrived at the private Qorokwe Concession in Botswana, and were enjoying a game drive transfer from the airstrip to the camp.
Not 10 minutes in, we came across a pride of eight stunning lions. Lions have been one of my favourite animals since childhood, so it was simply amazing to finally see them in the flesh, and even more so in the wild. For them to have been my first wildlife sighting in Africa was so special.”
Katie Branson, Guest Services | Brisbane