Soccer on Safari

You don’t see it coming.  You’re just living in the moment, taking it all in yet not necessarily thinking “I’m going to remember this forever.” But then it happens: you are just a couple of days post-vacation and you find yourself just smiling.  You’re reflecting on moments from the trip, that have now become memories specially etched in your heart,  memories that make you feel alive and help you understand the true meaning of “trip of a lifetime.”

I had one of those moments recently.  But first, a confession: I started drafting this when I had just returned from a fabulous 10-day luxury safari trip to beautiful Botswana. I got off track getting caught up on everything else and now, 2 months later, found myself recalling the fond memories of my trip which brings me to now.

It was actually all of the World Cup soccer excitement that got me thinking back to one of our most special and unique memories from our trip: playing soccer with the staff at Xigera Camp, a Wilderness Safari’s property.  The “field” was loosely plowed, elephant and impala scat was scattered about and between sage bush and palm fronds, and the goals were assembled by stakes and logs.  But it didn’t stop us from having a surprisingly competitive and thoroughly enjoyable match.

We cooled down with sundowners, only to realize we had an audience.  An adult male giraffe, in all of his gangley glory, appeared to want join the fun.  The soccer. The camaraderie. The audience (seen and unseen). All added up to make a single moment I will cherish forever.  This to me is something so remarkably unique about an African safari.  The memories simply grow richer and fonder as the time goes on.

soccer playing at xigera

Soccer on safari!

Here are a few fun out takes of the game:

Assembling the goals

Assembling the goals

Warming up!

Warming up!

Don't let the sandals fool you - he has skills!

Don’t let the sandals fool you – he has skills!

Game on!

Game on!

After soccer sundowners

After soccer sundowners

Travel Restrictions Entering Botswana

Sometimes the geographically challenged need a little reminder of just how GIGANTIC Africa is.  Some might even need a little reminder that Africa is in fact an entire continent that could fit the countries of China, USA, India, Mexico, Peru, France, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Norway, Italy,New Zealand, United Kingdom, Nepal, Bangladesh AND Greece all inside it and still have room to spare.  Check out this map provided on www.goafrica.about.com.

Africa map

Africa map representing the size of continent

 

The recent Ebola outbreak on the west coast of Africa has caused some panic among prospective travelers to Africa – as a whole.  The popular safari destinations of South Africa, Botswana and “its neighbors” (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia) are extremely far removed from this affected region; more than 3,000 miles removed from the region.  However, in an attempt to assuage fears and be proactive with controlling visitors,  Botswana officially announced a travel ban on 12 August 2014 for all non-Botswana citizens travelling from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Congo (DRC).  South Africa and Namibia activated similar entry restrictions.

With much thanks to Botswana’s extraordinary stability and infrastructure, they are poised and committed to keeping their thriving eco-tourism industry alive.

botswana flag

Facts about Botswana

A few key facts about Botswana:

  • Botswana is a landlocked country in the heart of Southern Africa, bordered by Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
  • A group of citizens are called “Batswana” and singular is “Motswana”.
  • Citizens have had uninterrupted democratic elections since it became independent from the United Kingdom in 1966.
  • Once one of the poorest countries in Africa, but since its independence and thanks to the diamond industry, Botswana has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, giving its citizens a moderate standard of living.
  • The official language is English but Setswana is the native language and is commonly spoken.
  • Botswana is just smaller than the size of Texas.
  • Pula is the official currency.
  • Botswana is 80% Kalahari Desert, with delta plains, grasslands and savannas completing the ecology. The result is an amazingly diverse ecosystem.
  • Botswana is a desirable and exclusive safari destination. The Okavongo Delta is one of few places in the world you can take a makoro boat safari.

 

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Elephants along the river

My love affair with beautiful Botswana

“Think of Botswana like the theater. When you visit you are not just watching a play.  It’s like you’re part of it.” – Jane Lee Winter 

Beautiful Botswana

Beautiful just doesn’t do justice to the magnificence that is Botswana. The varied landscape, abundant wildlife, and most importantly to me: the people. They won my heart the first time I set foot in the African Country in 1983. They are warm and welcoming and full of country pride. I love to visit the villages and watch the women cook the water lillies, weave the baskets and see the community engage in their traditional song and dance.

When we bring hosted groups to Botswana and their neighboring countries; Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, we like to offer the opportunity to include philanthropy in their trip. We support the Ebenezer Orphanage in Zambia and always try to pay them a visit. I have delighted in watching clients offer a lesson in the classroom or assist at the orphanage.

As a retail travel professional I am never at a loss for places to go, but rather privileged to have to have passion and ability to explore the world at my will.  Some places I return to but many I do not. Since 1991 my husband and I have returned every year with a focus on Botswana safari camps. Botswana is a place that calls me back year-after-year and it is my pride and joy to be able to share the wonders of this special place with any bold traveler desiring a taste of its splendor.