We have just returned from a trip that we had long awaited and it was wonderful. We also added 4 new countries to our bucket list, bringing the total to 49 and covering all 7 continents.
Diana will turn 75 this year and Cliff will be 79. This did not stop these seniors from booking the Jenman African Safaris’ 15-day Botswana Wildlife Breakaway safari from 12 to 26 April and our first ever visit to South Africa. So what is out secret to travelling later in life? The key is preparation.
Once we decided on our destination, the research began: countries to visit, current political climate, highlights, must-do’s and suppliers. For this, the internet is the way to go. However, it is necessary to be able to separate the good from the bad. We only use trusted sources and try to double check the information provided. Travel books are very useful, as well as talking to friends who had visited southern Africa.
In the end, we booked through African Budget Safaris, based in Cape Town who, in turn booked us with Jenman. This was a good choice as both companies provide excellent service and high quality at a reasonable cost.
Knowing that the safari itself would involve physical activity, we needed to be well rested in advance so we spent several days ahead of time in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. We had to fly in from Canada’s west coast so also planned a rest stop in New York along the way. The result was minimal jet-lag.
Before leaving home, we made sure that we had all the necessary health matters taken care of. Our local clinic ensured that we had maximum protection against the possible situations we might encounter. This was done in consultation with our family doctor to avoid any complications. In addition, we made sure that we both had adequate travel insurance including trip cancellation. This was important as Diana is diabetic and needed to carefully plan her medication regime. Cliff also has some issues that require medication.
From the Jenman website, we also learned of “Pack for a Purpose”. It’s a program that asks travellers to bring school supplies for some of the needy schools in various countries. In our case, we were visiting Zimbabwe, where Jenman works closely with Dingani Primary School in Dete. A specific list of requirements was made available and work began to do what we could. For months leading up to our departure, Diana sewed pencil bags and in the end we packed 155 of these in a suitcase bought at a local thrift store just for the supplies we were taking to the school. In addition we obtained pencils, erasers, maps, world globes and other assorted material, small garden trowels, and tool bags.
The result was one highlight of our trip. We stopped at the school accompanied by our entire tour group and made the presentation. The staff from Elephant’s Eye joined us en route, as they are the main contact for the school. We were met and greeted by a group of students and their teacher doing remedial work while the school was on a break. They gathered around as the suitcase was opened and the items put on display. Cameras were recording the event throughout. Having obviously practiced and rehearsed for some time, the students then sang a song of welcome and greeting, followed by dancing and speeches. This proved to be very moving. We appreciated being given the chance to visit the school.
Prior to this, we had been invited to the Jenman office in Cape Town to meet the staff and discuss the project. After being interviewed for an article on the website, we were given a tour of the shops where the safari vehicles were built and maintained and we also met Daniel, our booking agent from African Budget Safaris.
The safari itself was everything we had hoped for and more. Jenman is well-organised and efficient. We started in Victoria Falls, where we were met at the airport by our guide Owen and driver Mbusi, and driven to the A’Zambezi River Lodge for the night. At the briefing that evening, we met and talked to the rest of our group of 12 who were all from Europe. Our 4×4 vehicle sits high above the ground. We are both in good shape and have done 10 km walks in recent years.
There were still times when a helping hand was welcome to climb up and in or down and out. We knew also that we were past the “sleeping on the ground” type of trip and were pleasantly surprised at the level of comfort we experienced at the various lodges and camps on the itinerary. The meals were also well above the normal level.
During the whole safari, Owen and Mbusi took very good care of us. They worked well together and both were very knowledgeable and professional. We highly recommend Jenman African Safaris and the wide range of trips they offer.
We hope to continue travelling. Our philosophy is to do so for as long as we can. There are still places to see and things to do. So we say to those who might be hesitant, just do it – but be sure to plan carefully and thoroughly.
Written by Cliff and Diana Cunningham