Sally Brunning is a world traveler and part Marketing Worldwide duo, which represents gorgeous accommodations in six different African countries. Sally gets to visit Africa often, and has tons of experience traveling in groups and with her family. Read on to have a peek into Sally’s life and hear some of her incredible stories!
When did you become inspired about dedicating your career to African tourism?
The bug for travel has always been in my blood, ever since I can remember. A great family friend worked in the travel business and I can remember being totally captivated by her stories. In addition, my father was born and brought up in South Africa (although he is half British, the other half started with the Voortrekkers in Port Elizabeth in the 17th Century). I can remember my first trip to South Africa in the ‘90’s and the overwhelming feeling of being comfortable coupled with a sense of belonging. I have been passionate about Africa ever since. The people, the cultures, the colors, the immense diversity, the sights, sounds and smells of being in the bush…. my list goes on and on. I have returned many times and each visit is as special as the first.
Can you tell us about a recent ‘WOW’ moment you had while traveling in Africa?
I was in Kenya last week, just before Easter. One of my clients, Porini Camps, has a camp called Porini Rhino Camp in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, to the north of Nairobi. The Conservancy is home to over 120 rhino and where the last of the Northern White Rhino are protected. Orphan rhinos are brought here when their mothers are killed by poachers, it is a very special place. I had the pleasure of giving 4 month old Ringo his bottle and then watch him find a shady spot and collapse in a heap, happy and content, for his afternoon snooze. It is a wonderful place to view rhino in the wild and to pretty much guarantee seeing white and black rhino in the same area. The team are doing a fantastic job up there and rhino are flourishing.
What are some of your favorite thing to experience while traveling – the culture, wildlife, food, events, or simply relaxing?
Definitely the culture. I love meeting new people, learning about their ways, the history of their tribes. Seeing how their traditional dress is made and worn. Experiencing how they live, being a part of it for a short time. It is incredibly special. The wildlife and commitment to conservation is equally as important to me and I only work with those who stand by what they believe in and make a difference to the local communities, the wildlife and the impact that tourism has on the environment. It is all interlinked and incredibly important that each is equally balanced.
Tell us about your little ones. How involved are they in your travels?
Not as involved as they would like to be. My children would love me to take them to Africa every time I go on a work trip. They love it. They teach their own games to the lodge staff and are delighted to get so much attention. Africans love children and are happy to give their time and energy to teach them different things. There is so much to see and learn, it is a great continent for children of any age.
What have the kids said about their own experiences in Africa?
They all say the wildlife and the people. Simple. We have an elephant enthusiast, a rhino fanatic and a big cat lover so there is something for everyone. But as important, they loved the people as much, especially the guides who taught them so much about the bush. They enjoyed the freedom of just being and as well as being outside all the time.
What is your favorite part about ‘traveling in packs’, as opposed to just solo?
The great thing is that you can travel in a pack or solo. Everyone is so friendly and in our small camps, everyone gathers round the fire and swaps stories about their ‘spot of the day’. Everyone tends to eat together too and safari stories are great ice breakers. You meet interesting people from all walks of life but all with a common interest: their love of Africa. There are moments to be alone for special dinners under the stars or a surprise bush breakfast, you can make your trip what you want it to be.
Would you share a time where traveling with your brood was a challenge? How did you overcome it?
My children are a bit older now, 10,12 and 14. They are very inquisitive, very active and like to be continually busy. I was a bit concerned about how they would cope with the quieter periods of the day when we were not on safari or not travelling and being busy. I needn’t have worried. They made friends with the guides and camp staff, they played games, taught the staff games, read a book or just hung out around camp, looking at birds, beetles and other creepy crawlies. They simply loved all of it. The only downside was that we had a long wait at the airport for our flight home but, if you have the patience, it is amazing how many card games you can get through!
What do you wish people knew about Africa that they might not have considered before?
I wish that people, and the media in particular, would refer to Africa as a continent and not a country. That may sound ridiculous but other countries such as Brazil is not referred to as South America, Portugal is not referred to as Europe. With the outbreak of Ebola, as a prime example, it was in the far west of Africa, primarily in Sierra Leone and yet everyone referred to the Ebola outbreak ‘in Africa’. Ebola was much closer to Paris and London than it was to Nairobi in Kenya or Cape Town in South Africa and yet people cancelled their holidays left, right and centre. Tourism to all countries in Africa suffered terribly when there really was not the slightest need to cancel a holiday that was over 3,500 miles away from the outbreak. I also heard a lady in my local leisure centre refer to Africa as the ‘dark continent’ the other day and that nothing would possess her to travel there. I mean , really? In 2016??
Where do you plan to go next?
I have been very fortunate this year. We have started working with a new client called Nimali Africa in Tanzania so I was there in February and in Kenya in March on a fam trip where I took some of the travel trade to experience Gamewatchers and the Porini Camps which was an awesome trip. So next stop will be South Africa in May visiting Babylonstoren, a unique and truly beautiful farm in the Winelands before continuing to Durban for a trade show. Then in October, I will be off to Zimbabwe to visit the beautiful Imvelo properties in Victoria Falls and Hwange and my colleague Helen will be travelling round Botswana at all the Foosteps in Africa camps. They are all independently owned and quirky in their own right – she will be spending time with the San bushmen of the Kalahari and gliding silently across the Delta in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe….it’s a tough life.
I am hugely fortunate. I have a job that I love dealing with people and countries that I am passionate about. I don’t think it gets any better than this!