Wouter Vergeer
Netherlands NL
May 22, 2014 May 22, 2014

Wouter found time to combine his professional expertise with his greatest passion- the African Safari. In this union of business and leisure, SafariBookings was born.

Category: One on One with Safari Expert ...

Anthony brings vast African experience, both as a writer and as a traveller, to his position on Safari Bookings expert panel. He has visited 21 African countries and has written about most of them for newspapers and magazines around the world, including Africa Geographic, Travel Africa and Wild Travel. He has also written or contributed to numerous Lonely Planet guides to the continent, among them Botswana & Namibia, Kenya, East Africa, Southern Africa, Africa, West Africa, Tunisia and Libya.

1. When did the travel bug bite you?
Like most Australians, I dreamed of exploring the world from an early age – our distance from the rest of the world fostered in me a passion to know what lay beyond the horizon, a desire to go where great events were taking place. I travelled with my family to Europe as a teenager, then visited India and Nepal on my own when nineteen. Since then, I have never really stopped traveling.

2. What is your biggest struggle as a professional travel writer?
First, it’s the difficult (albeit pleasurable) decision of deciding which story among many to follow. I could spend the rest of my life traveling and never run out of stories, but the challenge is to find those stories that have broad appeal and then frame them in such a way that editors will commission the stories. Researching and writing a story is a massive investment of time and money, and there is always the risk that all of the hard work will come to nothing. More than that, one of my greatest fears is that there are so many African stories out that will never get told because they may not fit within the narrow focus of Western audiences or editors.

Secondly, on a more personal note, I am the father of two young children and being away from them is a constant struggle for our family. When they’re older, and even now on selected trips, I plan to take them with me and enrich their lives with the places I visit, but often I’m away from them for weeks at a time and that’s far from ideal for everyone.

3. Which safari destination tops your bucket list? 
There are many. I’m yet to visit Tanzania where the massive lion populations of Ruaha and Selous are very high on my list. Etosha in Namibia is another one.

4. Which park or reserve disappointed you most?
I’m yet to visit an African park that I wouldn’t return to. That said, those parks that inhabit only the fraction of an ecosystem and are otherwise surrounded by large human populations, where the sights and sounds of human activity are a constant presence – Nairobi and Lake Nakuru National Parks are two obvious examples – leave me fearing for the future of wild Africa.

5. What is the most posh safari accommodation you've stayed in?
I rarely stay in upmarket lodges – my budget rarely extends that far and I’m not a fan of the industry’s policy of accepting free accommodation in return for coverage. I’m more often found camping out in wilderness areas.

In Kenya’s Amboseli, I stayed in the Amboseli Serena Lodge – extremely comfortable, although the lake of a view out over the plains from my room was slightly disappointing.

I enjoyed much more Wild at Tuli in Botswana’s Tuli Block. It was less luxurious than supremely comfortable tented accommodation on an island in the Limpopo River – a fabulous place.

6. What is the weirdest sound you've heard while on safari?
In the Sahara, I’ve been kept up all night by the raucous din of quarrelsome fennec foxes fighting just beyond the dunes where I was sleeping.

And less weird than unsettling was my experience in Botswana’s Khutse Game Reserve at a campsite fifty kilometers away from the nearest members of my own species. After hearing a lion grunt-roar throughout the night, getting ever closer, I was packing up my campsite at dawn when it roared with such extraordinary force that I felt my bones vibrate. It could have been ten metres away or one hundred, and I never did see it, but it was certainly watching me.

7. If you could bring only one item on safari, what would it be?
Peter Matthiessen’s The Tree Where Man Was Born. This classic of the African safari is a work of exceptional beauty and although it was written almost half a century ago, it still captures the way I feel about Africa.

Second on my list would be Dr Luke Hunter’s Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World.

8. What is the most unusual method of transport that you've used?
I’ve travelled on cargo boats down the Niger River in Mali, camels close to Timbuktu, and impossibly crammed minibuses that take all day to travel 100km in Niger. For my most recent trip, in Botswana, I rented a 4WD Land Rover Defender that had been expertly converted into a camper – it was a wonderful combination of transport and accommodation all in one.

9. What is the strangest local dish you've eaten in Africa?
I ate the local delicacy of field rat while in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and did so at the urging of the country’s heavyweight boxing champion who bore a frightening resemblance to Mike Tyson. Needless to say, I could hardly refuse. I was sick for a week afterwards.

10. If you reincarnate as an animal, what would you want to be?
It has to be the leopard. There is something in its solitary lifestyle that fits my personality. I also can’t help but admire its extraordinary ability to adapt to just about any circumstance that confronts it. And it is, of course, a sublimely beautiful creature.