You lived in South Africa for nine years, how did your career there differ to that in the UK?
The difference in work-life balance initially felt huge. Cape Town is well known for being laid back and having previously been working long hours with tight deadlines it felt like I was getting my life back.
Selling Africa as a destination and being based there made a huge difference to my knowledge and understanding of the region. The opportunities for travel were plentiful and access was easy. Living and breathing a country and its culture adds an extra dimension to how you approach work and your life in general.
Did you experience any challenges along the way?
Nothing happens quickly so you learn patience and repeat the mantra TIA (This is Africa). Although frustrating, I think this has made me deal with problems and challenges in the workplace far better than I used to.
Becoming a parent was a huge challenge. Limited maternity pay, private healthcare costs and staffing problems meant I was back working after six weeks. I was lucky to have a supportive partner but caring for a newborn whilst trying to send out quotes six weeks post c-section wasn’t what we had planned.
You met your husband in Africa, how did he adjust to life here?
Surprisingly easily although he had a baptism of fire. The first time he met his future in laws was when we moved in with them for three months!
Having family and friends living in the UK was a huge help. His English is also excellent, so that combined with a strong work ethic meant he was able to find work and integrate quickly. If you ask him what he finds hardest he would probably say winter. It’s a shock for someone who has lived most of their life in Africa.
What has been your most magical wildlife encounter?
I will always remember being on a small tender boat on the Chobe River in Botswana. We saw a herd of elephants by the river bank and our guide cut the boat’s engine and we slowly drifted towards them. We sat for what felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes as the elephant family, mum and babies, played and splashed in the water. We were so close I found myself holding my breath in case we moved.
For anyone that hasn’t been on safari, describe the experience?
Being able to see an incredible variety of wildlife in its natural environment is so special and for many quite emotional.
There is an excitement to heading out in the morning and not knowing what is around the next corner. Close encounters with majestic animals such as leopard, lion, giraffe or rhino take your breath away. I can’t think of another type of holiday that has such a huge impact on people. Once you have been to Africa you always want to return.
Where is your favourite place to visit?
This is like asking someone to pick their favourite child! Each place has a special memory – South Luangwa in Zambia for its remoteness and for having the most leopards I have ever seen.
Masai Mara in Kenya as the original safari destination, a hot air balloon trip over the vast plains is a must.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana. Gliding through the narrow water channels in a traditional Mekoro dugout canoe is so tranquil.
South Africa has everything. Mountains, beaches, safari, amazing food and wine and so much more.
Describe Africa in three words
Magical, diverse, life-changing.
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