African Odyssey

It’s all about connecting the dots looking back… AND to stay Hungry & Foolish’ said Steve Jobs in his Stanford speech to the graduating class of 2005. We all have dreams and aspirations growing up that we want to achieve sometime……..; when we grow up, get a job, save enough money, take a sabbatical, etc. Luck and Will play a big part to fulfill some of these. For me this was one such experience that unfolded in a way I never imagined. Growing up on National Geographic society’s views and stories for over two decades, then learning photography, and self-training with National Geo’s field guides… One big dream on the bucket list was to travel, do photography, and video content myself on land, air, sea, and most importantly to live that life on the African subcontinent.

Until 2006, I could only respect Steve Jobs saying the above line, however after being there and done that, by 2011 I could finally relate to him. Zooming back to 2007, when I made a decision to relocate to India after a corporate career in the US, it seemed shaky ground but being a firm believer of ‘think with your Mind but do what your Heart says’ – gave me most of the conviction required and there’s been no looking back!

Finally, come September 2008 after a move up the corporate ladder within my organization, the global recession looming huge on our business forecasts and some personal commitments pushing me the other way a similar situation presented itself yet again! Pursue what I ‘love’ or ride out the recession in the corporate world and see how it spans out. The heart ruled once again and I set out on a journey of personal discovery of
sorts. It all started as I finally headed into Africa. The next 6 months took me through 30,000+ km of sub-Saharan terrain and 26 border-crossings.

Some experiences – standing on the Equator in Uganda to witness the earth’s magnetism behave 3 different ways, a 1988 dream to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park at 5,000 ft and get elbowed by one, seeing lions chase game in the 14,763 sq km Serengeti National Park, lead a camping tour of 25 on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater, fending off a pack of invading hyenas, snorkeling with a family of dolphins off the Zanzibar coast, swimming in the world’s big Clearwater lakes Malawi & Tanganyika, living in the 15,000 km of Okavango delta where the desert swallows a complete river, 5 of us overnight on a uninhabited island in the Bazaruto Archipelago with a million crabs for company after sundown, braving the world’s highest bungy jump, and many more. One doesn’t easily get all these within his lifetime and it has felt nothing short of a re-birth.

This wonderful journey also put forth man-animal conflicts, decimation of nature and showed mankind is mostly dependent on ‘Nature’. It made me think – what could be done‘? and lead to ’Why not help the
conservation cause in India to avert such situations and save our greens
‘. Also what better than Project Tiger? Thereafter on checking, the Forest Department requested – If you can help our main goal of creating inviolate space you would help conservation many-fold! ‘Sure, why not?’ said something inside.

Thereafter, these learnings became a call to action and a new journey in conservation and sustainability. After an honorary appointment with the Rajasthan Forest Department as a GoodWill Ambassador and Conservation Catalyst, the challenge was to help voluntarily relocate about 1,000+ families across multiple villages to a better life outside in civil society. This in turn would help restore up to 50,000 acres to the inviolate space – thus aiding Conservation and Integrated Landscape Management all around – for the communities, their livelihoods, the landscapes, and the bio-diversity!

Since 2011, it has been a delight to share my life path and journey experiences to a wide range of audiences towards sensitization and outreach. ↓ 2011 Speaker Introduction brief

Route & borders crossed on African subcontinent‘s Absolute Safari.

Overland Route A

Overland Route A (Guided – 12 weeks)

Kenya (Nairobi N.P., Lake Nakuru N.P), Uganda (Kampala, Entebbe, Lake Victoria), Rwanda (Kigali, Volcanoes N.P), Uganda (Lake Edward, Jinja, Nile), Kenya (Old Paieta Sanctuary), Tanzania (Serengeti N.P., Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Lake Tanganyika), Zanzibar, Malawi (Lake Malawi N.P.), Zambia (Mosi-oa-Tunya N.P. Victoria Falls, Lusaka N.P), Zimbabwe, Botswana (Chobe N.P), Namibia (Etosha N.P.), South Africa (northern, western and eastern Cape).

Overland Route B (Self – 13 weeks)

South Africa (Garden route, Coffee Bay), Lesotho, South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal), Swaziland, South Africa (Mpumalanga, Kruger N.P.), Mozambique (Limpopo N.P., Bazaruto Archipelago N.P.), South Africa (Mpumalanga, Sun City, Limpopo), By Air to Rwanda (Kigali, Gisenyi), Democratic Republic of Congo (Goma, Mt. Nyrigongo, UN-MONUC station, Kanyabayonga, Lake Kivu), Rwanda (Mt. Bisoke, Gitarama, Butare), Burundi (Bjumbara), Rwanda (Nyungwe Forest), By Air to South Africa (Mpumalanga, Johannesburg), United Arab Emirates (ADB).

Kifaru – The Absolute Africa Travel truck for 12,000 kms
Chobe National Park, Botswana
The Susa family (Diane Fossey’s study group) – Gorillas on Mt. Bisoke, Rwanda