Magical Moments on Safari

Magical Moments on Safari
January 2020

Travelling to Africa with her tribe, Marta Dusseldorp marvels over rare wildlife and the dignity of the African people. 

Botswana & Zambia

Fulfilling a lifelong dream, acclaimed Australian actor Marta Dusseldorp recently travelled to southern Africa as a guest of Abercrombie & Kent. For years, she and her husband had imagined heading off with their two daughters in tow on an adventure into the wilds of Africa, going beyond nature books and TV documentaries, stepping out of the pages of National Geographic and into a wondrous wilderness where rare and extraordinary animals exist. Gazing out across the floodplains of Botswana’s magical Okavango Delta last summer, a herd of zebra feeding on the grasslands and a lone bull elephant in the distance, it was clear the moment had arrived.

Taking two weeks out of a busy schedule, the family departed. First stop, the fabled Okavango Delta, where they were flown in by light aircraft. Says Marta of the experience, “the excitement of gliding low over that breathtaking landscape of palm dotted grasslands, watery channels and lagoons with herds of elephant and pods of hippo visible from above is like nothing else. It simply took our breath away.”

Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp was a fitting introduction to the A&K style of safari camping. In its own private concession, the camp has only 10 impeccably appointed canvas tents with every anticipated luxury from en suite bathrooms and private viewing decks to billowing mosquito nets and stylish campaign furniture. For Marta, the blend of traditional and modern was perfect and she was impressed by the way it had been very deliberately constructed with a deep sensitivity to the environment. “The whole camp is designed to be sustainable. Lights are solar powered and we were asked to tread as lightly as the animals themselves. Instead of taking from a place, you find yourself becoming one with it and it is an honour, a relief even.”   

But of course, the standout feature of any safari holiday is undoubtedly the wildlife and on twice-daily safari drives the family saw lion, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, rhino and many of the more elusive species. A particular highlight for Marta and her girls was participating in a unique elephant interaction project which has been created in partnership with the Living with Elephants foundation. This extraordinary initiative meant they were able to walk alongside two semi-habituated elephants, who were saved from brutal culling operations, learn more about this iconic species and see the world from their perspective.

“It was such a privilege. We talked and walked with Jabu and Morula as they ambled through the bush and then, eventually, after hearing their stories of captivity and escape from poachers we all sat down and had lunch together in the shade of a spreading acacia tree with Jabu and Morula quietly foraging beside us. The whole experience was beautiful, intimate, and a truly amazing way to learn about the challenges facing African elephants, and the importance of conservation in general.”

After a few days, the family moved on to Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, in an especially game-rich part of the Okavango Delta, where the opulent Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite was their exclusive haven. Whilst their lodgings were extraordinarily comfortable and pleasantly private, the essence of Sanctuary Chief’s went a little deeper for Marta.

“Our three days there were almost akin to meditation – the slow, gentle pace, the generosity and friendliness of the people who looked after us, the warm welcome we were given and the stunning surroundings. It fills the soul. When the time came to say goodbye, it truly felt like we were leaving old friends."

Last stop on the family’s safari odyssey was the perfectly positioned Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma which sits peacefully on a bend of the mighty Zambezi River, just upstream from Victoria Falls. Exclusively ensconced in one of the Chuma Houses, the family passed many hours gazing out at the river from their private swimming pool, spying hippos mid-stream and crocodiles adrift.

Beyond the thundering waters of Victoria Falls and the iconic wildlife which they had travelled so far to see, Marta was eager to see how A&K’s philanthropic arm, A&K Philanthropy (AKP), was working in the local community. As a longstanding ambassador for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, Marta is all too familiar with the myriad challenges facing many remote African communities so the visit to nearby Nakatindi village was much anticipated.

AKP has been supporting the community at Nakatindi for nearly ten years with many projects including the construction of boreholes for clean water, a new classroom block, establishment of a school lunch programme and expanding the school vegetable garden to generate income and supplement the children’s diets. One of the most successful projects is the Chipego Bike Shop which was established through a global initiative where A&K’s offices worldwide teamed up with local not-for-profit organisations to ship thousands of donated bikes to the village. The shipping containers were used as workshops and five local women now successfully run the enterprise.

Resonating most strongly with Marta, however, was the Nakatindi Medical Clinic and Maternity Ward which opened in March last year. AKP’s largest investment to date, the clinic was initially constructed in 2013, and already catered to a catchment area of some 6,000 people, serving well over 50 patients daily. But the opening of the new maternity ward has seen this figure jump even further.

“Facing long distances without access to transportation, many women in Zambia still give birth at home without the assistance of skilled health workers”, says Marta. “But the new maternity ward at Nakatindi means local women now have access to antenatal care for the first time – and the outcomes are very positive. Not only has there been a significant increase in early diagnosis and assessing treatment since the ward was completed, but the early detection of HIV has helped prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to child, which means the future for Nakatindi’s mothers and children is now a lot brighter.”

While contemplating their African adventure and the shared experiences they enjoyed, Marta reflects, “for us, the philanthropic activities supported by A&K were a really enriching part of our trip. Being able to go into the communities, to meet the people and see how they live day to day was so rewarding. But also to see the profoundly positive impact A&K is making to their lives. From building and staffing clinics for childbirth and general wellbeing, to new schools and hot meals being provided every day for local children to learn in a healthy supportive environment. A&K is continuously in touch with these communities to identify what is needed most, encouraging business opportunities and improving livelihoods."

In summing up the trip, Marta said, “I now have memories that will stay with me forever and hopefully inform the choices I continue to make in my life. I will try and carry forward the dignity of the African people we met, the peace and harmony the environment and its rare wildlife taught us, and the hope for a better future for all people across the world.”

“As I get older, I want to travel in a way that is significant, and holistic and fulfilling, and our journey to Africa delivered that wholeheartedly.”