Older and bolder

I’m getting more and more daring in my old age. Having braved the Amazon jungle last year where I did not get swallowed by an anaconda or lose a limb to a caiman, Africa is in my sights next year... as soon as this C-19 monster is under control. The wildlife and landscapes are legendary but before setting toe in this vast continent, I am mindful of the need to be extraordinarily careful about who I chose to travel with, when to go and how I will be transported and accommodated.

Being a small-town girl, I have an aversion to crowds so I avoid travelling anywhere in the high season. I’m also short so jostling with thousands of others to glimpse the horns of a giraffe or the tusk of an elephant does not appeal. 

At my age, I don’t want to be rushed from place to place. I will pass this way but once in my life so I need time and space to absorb the atmosphere and nuances of the experience. The prospect of careering across the savanna in a long convoy of safari jeeps and queueing up to take quick selfies of animals and scenery does not cut it for me.

And the idea of camping with carnivores has always terrified me. If I am to get any sleep at all, I want something robust between me and the lions and leopards.

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So when an email from Jenman Safaris popped into my inbox the other day, I sat bolt upright and my heart skipped a beat. A specialist safari tour operator with 25 years’ experience in Africa, Jenman Safaris was proposing a less-mainstream African experience during the off-peak ‘green season’ in Botswana when there are far fewer travellers around.

However, it is a time of exceptional beauty in Botswana when the rain breathes new life into the desert plains, transforming the arid, dusty land into lush green. Downpours tend to be unpredictable and highly regional, occurring in one area while a few miles away, there is no rain at all. Showers are usually followed by bright sunshine creating a sparkling, fresh landscape.

The pace of travel is slower and more relaxed allowing travellers to spend more time at particular locations to observe wildlife and enjoy a fully-immersive experience.

The ‘green season’ in Botswana is the ideal time to witness animals giving birth. A precious and sacred time in the circle of life, it would be a rare privilege to be to observe a baby giraffe, elephant, buck or hippo enter the world and take its first steps.

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While wildebeest migrations dominate the interest of many travellers, few people know about the zebra migration. A fascinating and spectacular sight, the zebra migration in Botswana’s green season is the longest animal land migration in the world. Herds travel from the north inland towards the Kalahari Desert in search of greener pastures before heading back during the dry months. 

During the off-season, travellers can take advantage of significantly-reduced rates for many safari packages... so you can stay longer for less.

Talking of things green, these days, I will only travel with tour companies who operate in an environmentally and socially-responsible manner so I was heartened to learn that Jenman Safaris meet the strict guidelines of The International Ecotourism Society. Their safaris are low impact and environmentally-friendly, using experienced local guides and supporting community and conservation projects.

Jenman Safaris offer numerous options from cycling and camping adventures to small-group tours with accommodation in lodges and transport in sturdy 4x4 vehicles. I love camping and cycling but there’s a limit to my courage. In Africa, staying in lodges with solid walls and doors, and travelling in reliable four-wheel drive Land Cruisers has an undeniable appeal.

I’ll no doubt brave the crowds and visit Victoria Falls, and then maybe chill-out on the beautiful island of Madagascar with its colourful people, fascinating wildlife, tropical beaches, bustling markets and ever-changing scenery. A perfect way to round off a trip to Africa.

This article originally appeared on Over60.