Originally from London, Lizzie Williams has lived in Africa since 1995. Starting out as a tour leader on overland safaris and now a guidebook writer based in Cape Town, she spends considerable time visiting Africa's wild places. Lizzie is author South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe for Footprint; the only country guide to Nigeria for Bradt; is co-author of the DK Eyewitness to Kenya; and has written African guides for Frommers and AA Publishing among other publishers. A regular contributor to magazines and websites specialising in African travel, she is a member of the SafariBookings expert panel.
1. When did the travel bug bite you?
My first flight as a child in the 1970s to Spain was very exciting, and even though today getting on a plane is tiresome, airports still ignite an excitement about going to somewhere interesting. Also watching wildlife documentaries on TV and picking up travel magazines like TNT that are free on the tube in London, which always featured Africa.
2. What is your biggest struggle as a professional travel writer?
The same as any freelancer, I have to strike a balance with time management; it’s not all about travel and writing and there are some dull admin and fact-checking elements. Of course there is also the uncertainty about when I’m going to get paid next.
3. Which safari destination that you haven't visited yet) tops your bucket list?
Anywhere to see wild dogs – after almost 20 years of visiting African parks and reserves, I still haven’t seen them in the wild. I would love to watch a pack stalk determinedly across the vast salt pans in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana.
4. Which park or reserve disappointed you most?
Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria; one of the very few remaining areas left in West Africa where wild animals live in their natural habitat. It is poorly managed, has little or no protection and is now a wasteland that is pitifully empty of animals.
5. What is the most posh safari accommodation you've stayed in?
Up there is Tanzania’s Singita Grumeti for the can’t-tear-your-eyes-away views of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor; also in Tanzania, Mwagusi Camp in Ruaha National Park for the candlelit dinners in a dry river bed; and you can’t beat Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for uninterrupted views of elephant action at the floodlit waterhole.
6. What is the weirdest sound you've heard while on safari?
Hearing the Nokia ring tone while camping in the middle of nowhere; I was lying in a tent in the vastly remote and empty Skeleton Coast National Park on Namibia’s bleak coast and someone in the next tent got an SMS.
7. If you could bring only one item on safari, what would it be?
Teabags; I am pathetically grumpy in the morning until I’ve had a strong cup of British builders tea.
8. What is the most unusual method of transport that you've used?
Boda-bodas in East Africa; hopelessly wobbly bicycle taxis and originally used to cross no-mans’ land between border posts (the name is derived from drivers shouting out ‘border-border’). Today widespread and superseded by motorbike taxis, I still find them the cheapest and best fun method of getting around.
9. What is the strangest local dish you've eaten in Africa?
Goat’s head pepper soup; as it’s Nigeria’s national dish I had to reluctantly try it despite all the indescribable bits floating around in it.
10. If you reincarnate as an animal, what would you want to be?
Probably a giraffe; few things faze or threaten them, they have an uncomplicated life casually wandering between ready-made meals on the top of acacia trees, and I would be able to prettily bat my eyelashes a lot.