Happy new year Africa-philes, elephant lovers and friends of the planet!

I'm kicking off the new year with some exciting news. It's been in the works for a little while, and won't be a surprise to many of you. This year I'm finally turning my love of Africa into a business. Many of you have been on safaris based on my advice on where to go and what to do in the past and some of you have even joined me on safari. Now you can actually book your African safari through my new company, Matson and Ridley Pte Ltd, a fully licensed travel agency, and join me in the land we all love for a very different kind of African experience.

On safari with the family at Rocktail Bay, South Africa The author's husband Andy and then 1 year old son Solo on safari at Rocktail Bay, South Africa

I've always loved sending people on safari in Africa, because I know for a fact that it can change lives - not just the folks who go on the trip, who get a mind-blowing experience, but also the lives of the local people and wildlife in Africa. Tourism done right, focused on communities in otherwise poverty stricken and poached areas, makes a huge difference. The money it generates can lead to schools, better health and livelihoods, jobs and training. It can be a poverty-killer and a wildlife saviour.

Rekero Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara Rekero Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara

But not all tourism companies take the community-based approach, and not all of them generate genuine benefits.  If you're trying to decide on a safari company, it's hard to know which ones truly walk the conservation walk, as well as talk the talk. My motivation in starting Matson and Ridley Safaris is to enable you to go on a safari that is not only a wonderful experience for you and your friends or family, but also generates real benefits in Africa. This is based on twenty years of experience of living and working in conservation, and lots of my own travel (often with the family in tow) to safari lodges across Africa.  I'm still a conservationist first peeps, and that's why I'm doing this.  The older I get, the more I realise that I can make the biggest difference by working for myself, not for an organisation.

Himba women in north-west Namibia (T. Matson) Himba women in north-west Namibia (T. Matson)

Which brings me to the other reason I set up the company…  For many years I've been doing my conservation work for free, and the commissions I earn through safari bookings will be funding the costs of this work (just to be clear, it won't cover a salary, just the costs of doing the work - no one ever got rich being a conservationist!). Shortly, I'll be launching the Let Elephants Be Elephants campaign with Asian TV star, Nadya Hutagalung (Aussies, Nadya is Asia's equivalent of Jennifer Hawkins), which involves a documentary and public service announcements to be screened on the Fox Network across Asia, as well as a social media campaign (we're already on Facebook and Twitter (@Letelephantsbe) - so please join us there).

The author with then 5 month old Solo at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa The author with then 5 month old Solo at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

I've provided a few suggested itineraries on my website here, from the jewel that is Botswana's Okavango Delta, to the Elephant Dance safari in Kenya and the Best of Namibia trip that visits some of my favourite camps in one of the world's most remote and extreme environments (like Serra Cafema - which has to be seen to be believed).  Having taken my own kids on safari and been there while pregnant, I can also recommend some very good options for families with little or no malaria risk.

Namibia - there's nothing like it on earth (Photo: Wilderness Safaris) Namibia - there's nothing like it on earth (Photo: Wilderness Safaris)

In addition to customising safaris on a case by case basis, towards the end of next year, and again in mid 2015, I'll be personally leading a trip to one of these destinations.  So where do you want to go?!  Leave a comment here or drop me a line here to let me know where you're interested in going - Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Congo... something else?!  The trips I lead will be limited to 12 people as I think everyone gets more out of it when it's a small group, so register your interest early.

The author with the family (Solo aged 3) in Zimbabwe (credit: Karen Paolillo, Turgwe Hippo Trust) The author with the family (Solo aged 3) in Zimbabwe (credit: Karen Paolillo, Turgwe Hippo Trust)

In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is interested in going to Africa, and you want to make a difference with your hard earned cash while on holidays, please drop me a line here on my safari contact form, let me know your budget and what you're interested in, and let's get started planning your trip of a lifetime!



2014-01-07 03:09:53