For the Love of Africa

by Melissa on March 29, 2013 · 12 comments

I sat on the ridge of the monolithic, rust-colored sand dunes as I watched the sun rise up over the horizon.  In that moment I immediately felt the warm rays of the sun wash over my face, and smiled to myself, while in my head I could hear the beating of an African drum.  Watching the sunrise, while sitting atop Namibia’s Dune 45 is when I fully realized my love of Africa and knew that it was only the start of what was sure to be a lifelong love affair with the continent.

elephant herd

In a recent television interview I was asked, “why does Africa really resonate with you?”  I said it then and I continue to repeat it, there is something so indescribably beautiful about Africa.  If I had to break it down it, however, my love of Africa could be categorized into three specific points.

Ghanzi bushmen at the fire

Love of Africa: The People

We’ve all seen the World Vision commercials with the starving kids in Africa, we’ve all read the papers or seen the news on CNN about the latest war happening somewhere on the continent, and we all know about the darker side of Africa.  And while I can’t deny that it has all of those things, I can honestly say some of the best people I’ve ever met on any of my travels have been from Africa.  On the whole, African’s tend to be some of the most indisputably nice, generous and most hospitable people who are genuinely interested in teaching you about their culture.  Their collective love of Africa – of their motherland- is contagious.   For me, whether it was the Himba tribe, the Ghanzi bushpeople, the amazing folks working to help save the lions, to just your everyday person trying to get by, they all had a special spark that you couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Views from Desert Camp

Love of Africa: The Scenery

How can you sit on the edge of a massive sand dune, on the outskirts of the Kalahari Desert, watch the sunrise and not fall in love?  How can you stand in front of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, hearing the roar of the rushing waters and not be in complete awe of it’s beauty?  How can you embrace the absolute serenity of riding in a mokoro though the shallow waters of the Okavango Delta, feeling a million miles away from civilization, and feel absolutely at peace with yourself and the world?  Africa has it all: deserts, canyons, waterfalls, savannahs, and everything in between.  It’s hard to not find yourself immersed in the middle of such natural beauty and not have your breath continuously taken away.  It makes you wonder why anyone would want to ruin perfectly beautiful scenery to put up a skyscraper or have a bustling city.  To top it all off, there is nothing more perfect than an African sunset- and to this day I long for the moment that I get to bear witness to another one.

DSC_9841

Love of Africa: The Wildlife

Where else in the world do you have the potential of seeing lions, elephants, zebra, giraffe, or what seems like an infinite number of different antelope species up close, and in their natural environment?  Nowhere.  Africa is home to so many incredible species of wildlife.  I can recall falling asleep in the middle of the Okavango, knowing that just a mere 500m away were hippopotamus – something we were reminded of as they bellowed out with their obnoxious calls throughout the night.  I had the amazing opportunity to not only walk alongside lions, but actually volunteered my time to help with the efforts to help save the lion from extinction.  Through that I realized a genuine love and passion that I have for conservation and preserving what we have here on earth so that future generations can get to know the king of the jungle, the mighty mountain gorilla or any other beautiful creature that may grace the planet.  One cannot conjure up an image of Africa in their head without thinking of the beautiful animals that roam about, and for me that is reason enough to solidify my love of Africa.

I am yet to meet someone who’s been to Africa and not fallen completely head over heels with the continent.  For those of us who are fortunate to have made it to ‘The Motherland’, there is a common bond that unites us all, the love of Africa.  It simply put has a magical quality, it gets under your skin, and you are infatuated and forever changed.  You will walk away from an African journey wanting – no, NEEDING more.  Quite simply put, it is a place that just speaks to your soul.  It’s an indescribable magic, but once you’ve been, you will undoubtedly yearn for more.

Zebra at watering hole

Have YOU been to Africa?  Do you agree with my thoughts?  What made YOU fall in love with the continent?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I haven’t been, as you know, but an African safari is on my bucket list. Africa is not very far from my place of birth, so the interest has always been there, somewhere inside of me. Hearing testimonials from those of you who have gone makes it all the more intriguing. Before you went, a colleague told me about a recent safari she had taken and like you, she said “you must experience this.” My plan is to go within the next five years, hopefully sooner.

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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I hope that one day you get to go to Africa- it’s honestly such an eye opener, it’s such an amazing place and it’s impossible to not completely fall in love.

Definitely go in the next 5 years. Take my mom with you – go with Nomad, do an accommodated tour – I truly think you guys would love it!

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Kate - CanuckiwiKate April 1, 2013 at 6:03 am

I absolutely cannot wait to get to this beautiful continent to see it all :)
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm

You NEED to get there!

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Sofie April 2, 2013 at 7:20 am

I haven’t been to Africa yet and I must honestly say it isn’t on top of my list just yet. I can’t explain why.
I’d love to go to South Africa though, but there are other places I’d like to visit first.
I think
:-)
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Hey, it’s all good – there are some places in the world that don’t really interest me – ie) China or Korea. Don’t know why… just not interested – yet I loved Hong Kong for the few days I was there and my 8hr layover in Singapore just wasn’t long enough to get to really do much. Would love to get to SE Asia at some point to.

Give Africa a chance though, I guarantee once you go – you’ll fall in love.

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Brandy April 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

For the love of Africa, indeed! I could not agree more and I am so very pleased to see that of your three categories, you put people first. Everyone dreams of the scenery. Everyone dreams of the wildlife. “I want to go on safari,” rings loud and clear when you speak to most people about why they want to go to Africa. While the scenery and the wildlife are no doubt awe inspiring, it is the people that makes Africa so magical. I was in Botswana on a volunteer project for four months in the summer of 2011. It has, thus far, been the highlight of my entire life. What do I remember and cherish most? The people, hands down. Their spirit, the love of their culture (like you mention), their rhythm. I, too, was in awe of Victoria Falls and my Mekoro trip on the Delta was indescribable. Driving down the rust red dirt roads in outback Africa with stars stretched above me as far as the eye could see was completely surreal, but what really and truly touched me at my very soul was the people. The little girl who ran up to me everyday on my walk to work and jumped on me begging to be swept up into my arms while her mother sold penny candies at a road side stand, the young girl who followed me around reading to me while I packed books up for orphanages, all of the women who smiled so widely at me after I had my hair plaited like theirs, those are the memories that really matter. They are why I am in love with Africa. Thanks so much for this post; it brought me back, if only for a moment, to the land where my heart beats and my soul roams free.
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm

The people are absolutely gorgeous (inside and out). Thank you for sharing your experiences. I love to hear that other people love Africa just as much as I do.

What type of volunteer project did you go to in Botswana? I volunteered at a lion conservation project in Zimbabwe and plan on returning in September.

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Monica April 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Africa looks absolutely incredible. I’ve been for little trips but I don’t think I’ve been for long enough to fall completely head over heels in love with it like everyone else seems to be. I definitely need a long trip one day. And it’s brilliant you were interviewed on TV about it!
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Monica – I hope one day you get to experience a good long overland type trip – you truly get to appreciate everything there is to love about the continent.

Glad you liked the interview :) It was a last minute thing – I used to work on that show back in my TV days (behind the scenes) and they had a guest cancel the night before, so I got the call.

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Heather June 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Soon my husband will be leaving to work with Engineers Without Borders in Zambia (see the linked post below). It’s intimidating to live anywhere new for 5 months, and especially somewhere quite different from Canada! Your post makes me extra sure that he’s going to have a fantastic experience, and it makes me impatient to go and visit him. :)
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Emilie January 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

Wow … I just read your article. I’m about to leave the African continent after 10 weeks here and also 3 weeks with Nomad (Cape Town to Vic. Falls tour), you just put into words why I fell in love with Africa and why I’m so sad to leave this place … A piece of my heart is gonna stay here forever, this continent has something that changes you for life !

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