Unveiling the Hidden Splendor of Africa – My Journey
Written by Neil De Jonge, Operations Manager of Jewel of Africa Safaris.
An African proverb says, ‘To get lost is to learn the way’. Getting lost is simply a different way of going on an adventure. When you’re lost, it is an opportunity to learn how to find yourself and listen to your thoughts, your inner being, and other people. It’s a journey to self-discovery. I learned this at a very young age and have made it my life’s work to help others embrace the adventure that comes with exploring the world
A Young Boy’s Awakening in Africa
I have always been a nature lover and was born into a family passionate about the African bush, breathtaking landscapes, and all the wonderful creatures that call it home.
My first trip to the Kruger National Park was when I was only a few months old, so it is a part of me. And while it is the perfect place to start if you want a taste of Africa, it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Where else in the world can you see the Big Five just a few hours away from a sprawling city or feel the spray of the spectacular Victoria Falls as you enjoy a sundowner at a luxury lodge?
Then, there is the indescribable beauty of Namibia. A land where the amber desert sand meets the icy, crystal blue Atlantic, and the sand dunes tower up to 40 meters high. From its southernmost point in South Africa’s Cape to the lush grandeur of the Okavango Delta, Africa’s bountiful wonders will never cease to amaze me.
When I was 14 years old, I visited Skukuza in Kruger Park with my family. I was quietly contemplating the tranquility of the Sabie River when I spotted a young bushbuck. A Cape bushbuck is a magnificent creature with a glossy, chocolate-brown coat, a white patch of fur on its throat, and majestic, spiraling horns. Its large, expressive eyes are deep brown, adding to its gentle and wise presence. That said, they are a common species, and this was one of many that I had encountered in my life.
After a while, a group of tourists came upon the river. Bushbuck are excellently camouflaged and difficult to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. I motioned for one of the tourists to come to me and pointed to the silent creature eyeing me with its sharp gaze. When the tourist’s eyes finally caught sight of the antelope, he became giddy with excitement. He frantically called to the rest of the tour group, who joined us and were blown away at seeing something so commonplace for me that I took it for granted. They were overwhelmed with gratitude, shaking my hand, and thanking me profusely for sharing my find.
That simple, beautiful moment was a pivotal point in my life. That evening around the fire, I told my parents I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to take people into the bush. I wanted to show them the beauty of the African wilderness and see their delight when encountering a creature they had never laid eyes on before – or even knew existed.
Living the African Dream
Fast forward a few years. I wanted nothing more than to study tourism and was fortunate enough to have my parents send me to university. I received an honors degree in tourism management and was soon ready to take on the world. Equally enamored with the bush, my father had just started Jewel of Africa, and I joined him soon after. Together, we discovered ways to show visitors the best Africa offers. Luxury Namibia Tours, opulent Okovango Delta escapes, and Gorilla experiences in the rainforests of Uganda – are just some of the life-changing packages we put together.
There is a saying that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. And while I am indeed extremely busy, it is a huge privilege to do something that truly matters to me.
My true passion is showing people the beauty and the secrets of Africa. I want to share the incredible things that I have seen. Whenever I discover something new, I am overwhelmed with the excitement of sharing my find with others. This, together with my innate need to explore and my love of people, operating and eventually owning Jewel of Africa was nothing short of a dream job.
When you take someone from a busy metropolis and place them in the vast Namib Desert at night, I can guarantee they have never seen so many stars. Seeing them gaze in wonder and knowing that somewhere inside them, a profoundly deep, spiritual experience is taking place. Likewise, a Namibia private tour will awaken something inside you that you never imagined was there.
I’m grateful for what I do. My adventures have uncovered some of the most beautiful places on Earth. I often wonder how many of my clients experience their pivotal moments while staring at an African sunset.
“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.”