There are plenty of great reasons to go on an African safari and in today’s world yoga is one of them! Hannah Strand is a young woman who was brought up in Tanzania’s wilderness in a safari family, where she ended up being a safari guide, wildlife photographer and a fully qualified yoga teacher. Her exclusive safaris where you salute the sunrise with a yoga session help you connect with your true self and the true soul of Africa!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Who is Hannah?
I am a woman, I am a private guide, a restorative yoga teacher, an aspiring photographer, an animal/nature/Earth lover… I have been surrounded by the safari industry my whole life and watched my parents build “Wildlife Explorer” into a strong and successful business. With them as inspiration and the desire to create something of my own, I have launched “Bold Earth” (www.bold-earth.com) and my own philosophy on travel, “Wellness in the Wild”.
Your life sounds like a beautiful fairy tale, growing up in the bush with animals and tribes and magical African sunsets… Do you think you are privileged?
Absolutely. I am privileged in many ways. The childhood I had was one of adventure and exploration. I was raised by many people from all walks of life, I am so grateful to my parents who exposed me to the wonders of diversity from my very beginning. My mother travelled to the UK to have me and when I was just 2 weeks old, she and my father returned to our home, amongst the yellow-barked acacia trees, in the shadow of Mt Meru, Tanzania. It ingrained in me a love and appreciation for Africa. The beauty of people, the wonder of wilderness and the magic of the wildlife.
What does Africa mean to you? And what do you like most about Africa?
This is a really hard question to answer! Africa is a tapestry of people, culture and wilderness and all the countries within her vary greatly. What drives me is a passion for exploration, the eternal search those areas that remain largely untouched by man. This wilderness offers us a glimpse at the Earth before mankind –the wildlife that roams here is wild, truly wild. Some landscapes are full of hardship and represent a constant struggle for survival, some landscapes are abundant and full of content life, albeit momentary.
Africa is in my heart and soul. When I was in my early 20s, I decided to spend a few years in England (both my parents originate from England). My idea was that I should learn more about this culture, so foreign to me, that was mine by birth. It was the beginning of a journey of self-discovery which ultimately brings me to the conclusion that “belonging” is a matter of perspective and that I am a child of the Earth, unable to identify with a single culture or nationality –yet I find myself drawn to Africa.
How did you become a safari guide?
It’s funny because I think it just happened. I grew up in “Wildlife Explorer”, the safari company my parents and grandparents founded in 1984. My father has been guiding in Africa for 40 years, he has the best stories. In some ways you might think I was always going to be a safari guide. But my journey was less clear, as a woman in a male dominated industry and in the shadow of my father’s legacy nothing was given. I had to earn my place every step of the way.
People often ask a form of the following question “is it difficult to be a wildlife guide? To remember all the facts and stats on the animals?” For me the animals are easy! It’s getting to know people, trying to share the very best of Africa with them, and balancing group dynamics that was the big learning curve. The side that you don’t hear about is how hard it can be letting people into your life only to have them leave again. Sometimes you form bonds that will last a lifetime, other times you play a fleeting role in each other’s lives, but either way you are constantly having to say goodbye.
What do you suggest to women who want to do this job?
The industry always needs more women! If you want it, do it. Believe you can. As far as advice, I really don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes in this “job” I feel like I’m drowning in khaki-clothed men! I just know I love what I do –that what I do and who I am are one and the same thing. The way you approach anything in life is up to you. You choose how determined you are, how driven you are. You can choose to accept that there will be obstacles and challenges and that the road will be bumpy along the way. Instead of fearing failure think about how you will get up again each time you fall. Because you will fall but you can always get back up and each time you do, you will be stronger and better.
You have many passions, yoga and photography are very dear to your heart. How did you start yoga?
I have always enjoyed physical activities, mostly the ones outdoors. I was extremely competitive in both team and individual sports. Sometime in the first few years of my 20s someone said to me, “Hannah, you should really try yoga, it would be good for you”. I never thought I’d be any “good” at yoga since I was very inflexible, impatient and competitive. It turns out that I needed yoga in my life for those very reasons! I enjoy all types of physical yoga, on my own or with others but the type of yoga I teach is restorative, healing yoga.
Yoga in the African bush.. It should be a very special activity. Can you tell us about the experience?
I have tried to describe this experience many, many times. It’s a very personal experience, but for me I feel most grounded in the bush, I am able to slow my mind down and re-centre with my surroundings.
You created the concept “wellness in the wild”. What is this concept exactly?
“Wellness in the Wild” isn’t limited to one destination. It is a philosophy created to reconnect and reignite our love for nature. I believe that it has become so easy to lose touch with this in modern day life where instant gratification has become the norm. In the city you can forget there are stars right above your head.
Immersing ourselves in nature is the perfect way to counteract the pace of daily life, we must be mindful in how we appreciate this time. When we travel we strive to open all our senses to the wilderness that surrounds us and find ways to reconnect and be inspired by nature. Leave behind expectations of the “big five” or witnessing a kill they are here and that could happen but that’s not why you are travelling with me. Wellness in the wild is a time to challenge the traditional “safari” concept and realise that remembering our love for the natural world is the only way to help our planet. And our species. Africa’s superpower is how enchantingly raw she is and the way she can steal your heart and inspire your soul, if you let her.
“Wellness in the Wild” is an expedition, but not in the way you are probably thinking. It’s an expedition into some of the deepest wildest depths of our Earth to rediscover ourselves and our place in nature. We can practice yoga, use aromatherapy, participate in guided meditation, eat well, and talk a lot about everything (!) but everyone connects in their own way. So each day is planned the evening before with the previous days’ developments in mind.
How do you think a wellness holiday in the wilderness affect or change people? What will be the after-effects?
I always hope that people leave feeling refreshed and hopeful for a more sustainable future. I hope they will seek out nature in their daily lives regardless of how urban they may be.
You are working with your dad in the family company. How many camps do you have? What are their major characteristics?
Yes, alongside launching “Bold Earth” and “Wellness in the Wild”, I am also working with my dad at “Wildlife Explorer”. Dad has been incredibly supportive and full of advise as I forged my own way and followed my passions. We have two seasonal camps (in Tarangire and Serengeti) and one mobile camp that we put into the Serengeti on request. Osunyai Lamarkau in the southern region of Tarangire sits on the edge of a slight hill, overlooking a vast open area and facing the rising sun. From here we can do walking safaris, fly camping and night game drives. Dulana Serengeti Camp/Akiba Kibwe Serengeti Camp moves between Kogatende in northern Serengeti and Kusini in Southern Serengeti. Both Osunyai and Serengeti Camps sleep a maximum of 16 pax, have no permanent structures and are under canvas. My family philosophy when it comes to safaris has always been “Exclusivity is the last real luxury”. Our camps are only booked on an exclusive basis –whether you are a couple or a group of 16.
What unique experiences do you offer to your clients? Why should people choose you and your company?
The classic question. Why us? Why me? There are thousands of options at the tip of your fingers these days. You can build almost any trip you like on your own or with no help. But what are you looking for? My family has over 40 years of experience in African travel, I was raised in one of the most famous wildlife areas in the world (something that I will never, ever take for granted) but most importantly we have a deep love for the wild, and the way we experience it is real. When you come you will see, you will feel and then you’ll know.
Can you give us a sample itinerary that guests can do with you? And also a sample itinerary for the wellness programmes?
All my itineraries are custom-made. I know lots of people say that these days but mine actually are. If you choose the wilderness destination and can trust me, I will do the rest.
What are your future plans?
My plan is to make time to do all the things I want to do and go all the places I want to go. I would like to build “Bold Earth/Wellness in the Wild” into something productive and something that promotes sustainable living on our planet.
What is your motto in life?
Stop fucking around – what are you waiting for?
You can follow Hannah on instagram at: @hannahvstrand and @wellnessinthewild