As a Bench Africa travel specialist, Stephanie Osorio has stacked up quite the impressive list of incredible experiences throughout east and South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Morocco. We have a chat about some of her favourite aspects of travelling in Africa, as well as her top tips.
Where is your favourite place to visit in Africa?
Kenya and Tanzania are really special to me, they were the first places I ever visited in Africa. I had a picture in my head of what a safari experience would be like, and east Africa was just how I imagined it. To me it represents the essence of Africa travel.
What makes travelling in Africa different to other holidays?
There's nothing like it in the world. Going on safari is something that you can't really replicate on another holiday. When you look at an itinerary on paper, the day's activities can seem quite simple, but once you actually set foot in a game reserve, you are fully immersed in another world. It's not usually a jam-packed itinerary, but I think that's why it's great - you can just relax and read a book without the fear of missing out on anything.
You're also surrounded by amazing views, and your encounters with animals and the natural world is something so unique, you never know what you're going to see. There's also the opportunity for spontaneity on a safari, whether it's an unexpected sighting, or having to wait in your game vehicle while a group of elephants crosses the road!
Do you think people head to Africa to escape the urban jungle?
People visit Africa to go on safari and see the animals, but I think the reason they want to come back is because of that incredible sensation of feeling so small compared to the big open spaces and the wildlife around you. In Africa, you realise how far removed we are from nature when we're working, commuting and going about our lives. What you're seeing and doing on safari is so different to back home, and I think a lot of people relish that and find it's why they want to go back.
It's a simple concept, but immersing yourself in the natural world can be a very eye-opening and moving experience.
What do you think surprises people about Africa?
I think a number of people have this idea of Africa being a very scary, dangerous place. So once they arrive I think they're surprised to find just how friendly people are.
We get a lot of questions like, 'I want to go to Africa, but is it safe?'. From my experience, the people I've met in Africa are so friendly and warm. Even if you're just spending a few days at your lodge, the staff really help you to feel at home within 10 minutes of arriving!
What is one of your favourite experiences?
I know a lot of people might say this, but seeing the gorillas in Uganda was amazing. I was on a family holiday at the time, and we travelled to the park headquarters before going with one of their trackers to find the gorillas. There's no set path or duration for the walk - you're literally going wherever the gorillas happen to be. The forest is pretty thick too, so you have to clear the way as you go.
Finally you encounter these animals, which are so similar to us, and are acting in a very human-like way. It's hard to describe, but it was certainly awe-inspiring. What makes the whole experience so exciting is that you know you're going to see the gorillas, but you don't know exactly when you'll come across them on your walk.
In terms of beautiful scenery, one of my favourite landscapes that I've seen on my travels has got to be Samburu in northern Kenya. We stayed in a lodge right on the escarpment, and the views are absolutely incredible up there.
Stephanie's top tips for Africa travel
1. Take your time
Try not to jam too many countries into one trip. Each place deserves some time for you to really appreciate them.
2. Put the camera down
Nowadays people are so keen to take photos with their cameras or smartphones on safari, but it's important to put the camera down and also capture the moment with your own eyes.
3. East Africa as a first-time experience
If it's your first time travelling to Africa, I recommend considering east Africa. The places there are truly like something out of a book, or a David Attenborough documentary. Think expansive plains and a variety of wildlife waiting to be discovered.
To start planning your adventure, be sure to get in touch with one of our Africa travel experts at Bench Africa today.