Alice Gully, one of the owners of Aardvark Safaris, has been involved in African travel since 1995. Her interest in all things African started with a zoology degree at Newcastle where her entomology tutor inspired with stories of exotic creatures that could only be found in Africa. When a second degree in vet science did not go according to plan, she fulfilled a dream by working in Zambia. First, she helped set up a safari camp on Lake Kariba and undertook a small study on a family of seven elephants that shared her island. Next was a stint skippering catamarans on the Zimbabwean side of the lake where sailing along the wildlife filled shores of Matsuadona National Park still inspires wonderful memories.
Her last job was living the dream as a back-up guide for a riding safari in Hwange, Zimbabwe, which she describes as one of those few jobs where you forget it’s work, and where managing 28 horses and showing guests the wonders of Africa from horseback was pure joy. She decided on her future career as an African tour operator before her return and now says that anything is possible in Africa if you know how.
Now married, and mother to three daughters, Alice runs the Scottish office. Riding is still a big passion she competes and hunts when time allows. Alice and husband Jim are keen hill walkers and love the outdoors, and on their African travels they are happiest on foot, in a canoe, or on horseback. She is also an experienced diver and counts the peaceful reefs of Mozambique as some of the best in the world. Her triplets got a taste of Africa at the age of two on a camel safari in Kenya with some time at the coast – never too young! They are now nearly 12 and have been to Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Malawi being the highlight.
In her many years organising holidays, Alice has travelled extensively through Africa, exploring some of the more off the beaten track safari areas as well as the better known. Kenya remains an old favourite and she has returned six times, unable to resist the draw of all that’s on offer here. Post children she’s also come to appreciate the value of R&R holidays in beach destinations like Mauritius and the Seychelles. Of the countries Aardvark Safaris sells, it’s only Madagascar Alice has yet to explore, but it’s only a matter of time.
Favourite African experience
Too many to pick one, each time I travel something takes my breath away, the people, the endless scenery, the incredible wildlife. For pure wow factor, riding horses through the migration in the Masai Mara or flying in a private plane along the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.
Other than giraffe (which I’d most like to come back as) it’s the little stuff like the insects and birds that enthral me. If you sit still in Africa, life is busy all around you, no matter where you are. Under the sea, in the ground or high in the trees, there is never a dull moment.
Favourite three camps
I love the small owner run camps where you feel as though you are staying with a friend. The host is your guide and looks after you in every way, they care how you feel and what you do, some of these camps (and owners) include PJ and Barney at Okavango Horse Safaris in Botswana, Kerry Glen at Karisia in Kenya, Ant and Tessa Baber at Ant’s Nest in South Africa, but there is a long list, not just three! Luwi Camp in the South Luangwa, Zambia is my desert island camp if there was only one last African trip.
African countries visited
South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda
Tropical islands visited
Seychelles, Mauritius, Zanzibar
On arranging holidays
I pride myself on the fact that no two holidays I plan are the same. I enjoy really listening to what people want, before going to the drawing board to sketch out ideas. I believe in top end customer service, so no wedding anniversary goes unnoticed or dietary requirement is missed, and I will spend hours thinking about what could improve everybody’s experience – I want everyone to come home with the same warm fuzzy feeling about Africa that I have. As an experienced rider, I know what makes the difference between a good riding safari and an unforgettable one and will do my best to match riders to the most suitable horses and will always try to look after the non-riding spouse (I have one) as well as learner riders (like my three girls). As a mother I know the pitfalls of travelling with children and will do my utmost to choose the best camps and lodges to create a perfect family holiday – I’m proud to say my repeat and word of mouth business speaks for itself.