herd of elephants drinking water

For the love of Africa Now a true &Beyond (and Africa) addict, Jen Robertson travels with &Beyond several times a year…
by 17th August 2016

Our guests arrive as friends and throughout their journey with us, our teams work their &Beyond magic to ensure that these guests not only leave feeling like part of the family, but that they hopefully depart with plans and dreams of returning again and again.

Jen is one such guest. Her grand love affair and profound connection with the African continent get deeper and more meaningful every time she visits. Now a true &Beyond (and Africa) addict, Jen travels with &Beyond several times a year, always on private safaris with expert &Beyond Private Guide Daryl Dell, whom she has forged a lasting friendship with.

From the rare and enchanting sand forest of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and the deep ochre dunes of the Kalahari, to the silky soft beaches of the exclusive &Beyond Mnemba Island, hot air ballooning in the Masai Mara and, soon, witnessing the magnificent sunsets of the Okavango Delta, Jen has explored the magnificent beauty and splendour of Africa and it has found its rightful place in her soul.

These are Jen’s eloquent words about a continent, its wildlife and its people that have changed her life for the better. Jen, Botswana and Zimbabwe await. We can’t wait to welcome you back!

Africa: my soul country

Africa. The mere word conjures up dreams and sparks the imagination. Most people that visit the continent love their time spent there, but a small percentage fall in love with it. I’m talking heart pounding, palms sweating, can’t shake it off your mind, kind of love. I often wonder what the differences are between people who merely enjoy it, versus those whose lives are dramatically changed. Those who check it off a bucket list, versus those whose heads stay in the dramatic African clouds for months and years on end.

When people find out I’ve visited the continent seven times in three years, often travelling solo to fulfil the need to be there, they often think I’m a bit off my rocker (I lovingly place my husband in this bucket). Others may think I just enjoy travelling. Some think I’m just addicted, or an ‘Africaphile’. But few truly understand the draw. A few months back, a good friend said in a matter-of-fact way, ‘I completely get it. It’s your soul country.’ Her words resonated deeply. There was no criticism, no ridicule, just a simple and completely accurate assessment: Africa is my soul country (or more accurately put, my soul continent).

Africa brings back the magic of my youth, the thrill of the imagination, and the optimism of a child. It brings forth dreams of the wild, of heartbreakingly beautiful landscapes, of magnificent species, and of a way that life is supposed to be. It’s the great outdoors, but to the extreme. The circle of life triumphs and devastates before your eyes. Emotions are raw. Joy and devastation run rampant. In the African bushveld, the only thing that matters is survival. All of our daily trivialities are placed far in the back of the mind. You wake before the sun, and sleep when night falls. Your body becomes reacquainted with nature, and as it does, a new energy takes hold. An energy that comes when we reconnect with the way we are supposed to live, with the way of life that makes us thrive.

But what is it, about the continent, or perhaps about the person, that leads some to fall madly, deeply, passionately in love with it? Even people, such as myself, who have spent unnecessary time and energy managing their emotions to stay within reason. To be rational. Logical. Focused. Even these people sometimes cannot help getting swept away by Africa’s magical hold. Perhaps those people who fall in love feel disconnected from the life they live. Perhaps they have squashed dreams and desires, or have merely been in ‘autopilot mode’ and Africa suddenly connects with the part of them that has long gone silent. Some may simply have a love for the outdoors, or a love of the animals, and that is what speaks to them. Whatever it is, I have found that Africa calls to me from all angles, in many voices, at many times of the day. Now, I not only dream during sleep, but during my waking hours. As I did back during a time when anything and everything was possible.

Thank you, dear Africa. For revealing your heart to my guarded one. For taking me in and wrapping me in a loving embrace. For awakening my dreams, my imagination, and my desires. For taking a city girl outside of a city, and showing her the raw and sometimes vicious extremes of life and death on your land. Thank you Africa, for being my soul ‘country’.