Since the cane-wielding Thomas Cook led his group of 28 tourists to Egypt early in 1869, travellers to Africa, as we know them today, have never looked back. Before the modern traveller went on safari, travel to and through Africa was confined to traders, explorers, missionaries, and colony-seeking European monarchs. Travel to the ‘dark continent’ was regarded as months-long adventures filled with the terrifying Great Unknown. Why, just this past weekend a Spanish family booked their safari to Angama on Wednesday, flew to Kenya on Thursday, arrived in the Mara on Friday, and flew back home on Sunday night. How travel has changed.
Having weathered some global storms on my 40-year industry journey, I thought I had weathered it all: blood (fake) throwing protestors at South African exhibitors at Berlin’s ITB in 1988; Robert Mugabe’s endless reign of insanity; bomb blasts in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam; more El Ninos than I care to remember; the horror and heartbreak of 9/11; endless droughts and the odd cyclone or two; camps consumed by bushfires; and the scourge of HIV/Aids that swept through Africa. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, local political upheavals; Ebola; and global financial meltdowns. That was all BC19*.
Then one fine day early last March, rumours started to bubble about something called Coronavirus-19 (which inexplicably, well to me anyway, metamorphosised into just plain old Covid) that would bring global travel to a halt. 'Let’s give it a month or two,' I told the team when Kenya closed its borders on 16 March 2021. One thing I have learnt over the past 19 months is that my crystal ball-gazing skills are rubbish.
But this letter is not about running a safari lodge DC19* – perhaps another time – but a letter of deep gratitude to our guests. In short order they have endured: safaris cut short and a madcap dash to get home before the world closed in on itself; some were stuck goodness knows where for months; family safaris cancelled; celebration safaris cancelled; scores of honeymoons to Angama cancelled (and certainly not for a moment forgetting the heartbroken bridal couples calling off their weddings multiple times); hard-earned incentive safaris cancelled; everything cancelled or postponed, rebooked and postponed again.
If that was not enough when it comes time to finally travel, the paperwork pretty much crushes our guests: hard copy forms, online forms, TT codes, QR codes and endless swabs stuck up noses and down throats. The Seychelles covid travel code is totally opposite to Kenya’s. Then throw in Tanzania and Rwanda into the mix and it almost makes you want to stay put at home with Netflix. The first question our guests ask us is ‘When do we get our PCR tests done?' The thought of missing the cut-off is worse than getting stuck in the middle of nowhere should the test comes back positive.
Would you travel now? I’m good with Netflix. But to those wonderful guests who are travelling despite everything, the Angama family joins me in thanking you from the bottom of our collective hearts for coming to stay and getting us back on our feet. Our lodge without you is unthinkable.
Asanteni sana and dreaming of travel AC19*
*DC19 — During Covid19, *BC19 — Before Covid19, *AC19 — I don’t dare elucidate
Filed under: Inside Angama
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