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In 1986 our family returned home to New Zealand where my parents settled, but by then the need to explore and travel was embedded in my psyche. I left home at the age of 16 to live in England where I studied for A-levels before taking a graphic design job. Although I enjoyed the work, after a year I gave in to my travel itch, and the call of Africa, and bought a year’s open ended flight ticket with the idea of backpacking from South Africa to Tanzania.
Easily distracted by the exciting places I visited and the great people I met along the way, my well laid travel plans soon began to unravel. A chance encounter encouraged me to hitch to Namibia, a country I’d not heard of before. I immediately fell in love with it and decided to stay. I worked in bars, designed flyers, managed backpacker hostels and camps – anything to prolong my time in Africa – before taking a job as a travel consultant based in Windhoek.
Seven years later I decided to move to the UK where I joined the Expert Africa team. These days I maintain my close connection with Namibia, whilst building on my knowledge of other African countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and of course, Tanzania. In 2009, I returned home to New Zealand to settle. I operate satellite office for Expert Africa based in Upper Hutt where I enjoy the best of everything – living in New Zealand, regularly visiting Africa and helping others plan their safaris!
Maruska's most recent Africa trips
Botswana, South Africa
I never tire of visiting Botswana on safari – the wildlife viewing is always amazing, the people are warm and welcoming, and the everchanging environments are fascinating. Wildlife highlights included seeing a mother cheetah successfully raising seven cubs, catching sight of my first aardwolf, and spending a couple of hours watching a family of three very relaxed leopards – just myself and my guide. But the biggest pleasure came from seeing the benefits to conservation, community initiatives, and far-reaching career opportunities created through tourismi Botswana.
My first trip back to Africa post Covid and a long awaited return to Zambia - my experiences did not disappoint. I love Zambia for its great guides and eclectic mix of safari camps - each has its own individual style. It was coming towards the end of the dry season and the wildlife viewing didn't disappoint; particularly on the leopard front! I enjoyed game drives, walking safaris, canoe trips, boat safaris and fishing - especially catching an enormous 22lb tiger fish!
A return to southern Tanzania, where I spent my childhood, is always a wonderful experience. This time around I was so impressed by the leaps and bounds that Tanzania, especially Ruaha and Selous, has made in terms of the service and guiding standards at the safari lodges and camps. I visited most camps in Selous Game Reserve, had a short taster of Ruaha National Park, and was blown away by the sheer number of animals in Tarangire! Although personally, the diversity of eco-systems, variety of activities and sharing the experience with less other visitors means Selous was my favourite.
Maruska's previous Africa research
I really enjoyed researching Windhoek, the central highlands and Etosha Park for the Namibia Bradt Travel Guide. It gave me the chance to visit a wide range of properties and I met a lot of interesting people.
Botswana is at the top of most serious safari traveler’s list for good reason – the variety of animals and wilderness experience is phenomenal! Understanding the various areas and eco systems is key to getting the most out of a safari here.