Naomi sat down with Jim Drapes, a Back Track Team founder and team member, and spoke to him about his recent Great Southern Africa Safari which he escorted in September 2023 with Trish Pritchard. Jim & Trish have been escorting the Great Southern Safari for over 10 years.
Where did you go and when? Have you been there before?
I have just completed our Great Southern Safari 2023. A 25-day journey via three African Nations. Commencing from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on the 31st of August and traveling via Botswana and Namibia, finishing in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia on the 15th of September.
Would you go at that time of year again, or a different time of year? How come?
Yes, absolutely. We operate our safaris only at times we know will optimise the experience for our travellers. No one wants to travel in the extreme seasons, such as a wet season, or in the middle of an overpoweringly hot summer or extremely cold winter.
Your impressions of Southern Africa? What impressions will stay with travellers when the trip is complete?
Having operated this safari for over 10 years, we know what to expect. Without a doubt all your personal senses are stimulated.
Sights – in a word: magnificent. Prime game viewing in some pristine wilderness areas, the roaring sound of the water as it goes over Victoria Falls, feeling the cooling spray from the falls on your face on a hot day.
This is a rare sighting we all enjoyed. We witnessed a Super herd that consisted of a combination of multiple elephant herds that had combined from all over northern Botswana to migrate together in search of water and food. It is rare and could be a sign of the times due to global warming.
Smells – nothing beats the fresh air of national parks and reserves in Southern Africa.
People – they are warm, friendly, and welcoming.
Traffic – you are not overpowered by mass tourism in these countries and the places we visit. However, the world is now discovering the Southern African countries, and I wonder what tourism will look like in these nations in 10 years’ time.
Customs agents on arrival? – Tourism brings work opportunities to local people, therefore officials, and bureaucracy in general are fully co-operative. Additionally, travelling in our small groups, all that behind-the-scenes stuff is handled by us.
Did you have any expectations going in?
Having travelled through these areas on many previous occasions and being part of the design team who constructed the itinerary, I knew what to expect and I was always excited to watch our travellers react to every new experience, and this journey is full of amazing daily experiences.
Did it meet / exceed / underdeliver on your expectations?
It’s easy for me to say, but it is true. Every trip is sensational, and we are always amazed at what new wonders are presented to us every day. This is a genuine very comfortable adventure holiday.
What did you really enjoy?
My answer is a follow on from the previous question – watching our travellers’ joyful reactions to the daily sights and experiences, etc.
Was there anything you did you not like so much?
In fact, we always add something new to each Great Southern Safari and this year we spent two days in the Kalahari Desert utilising quad bikes to visit the mischievous meerkats. Our group this year were mainly in their 70’s, which includes me at 72, and we all handled the semi auto quad bikes without a problem. Tons of fun.
What did you think our travellers thought of the destination / product?
Some are still just returning to Australia having continued after our trip to other parts of Africa. From emails received, everyone had a wonderful holiday. They were all such wonderful folk.
Is there anything you would change for our travellers based on your experience?
We won’t operate this Safari in 2024, as we have planned a special Beautiful Africa Safari as a replacement as part of our celebrations for our 40-year Ruby Anniversary. In fact, our first departure has sold out and we have just scheduled an additional departure. The Great Southern Safari is already scheduled for 2025 and is on our web site now.
How much luggage did you take? Was it suitable? Is there anything you wish you had taken with you?
After 40 years in the travel industry, I have learnt to travel with only what is required. I have noticed that those who take the most ‘stuff’ usually has the least amount of fun compared to those who take only what is required. The suggested packing list we supply is always spot on.