The ESCAPESEEKER ART -Advance Research Team doing what we do best -experiencing first hand the world's most fascinating travel destinations!
Stanley’s Camp, Botswana, AFRICA — Who would have ever venture to guess that a once-upon-a-time Philippine born, American raised, barefoot little girl from a small seaside town in Southern California, would be leading an Advance Research Team expedition throughout the southern region of Africa for her own popular PBS SoCal Travel Series, ESCAPESEEKER, Season 2012! Yes, that would be me. Even from a very early age, my dear Mother, Eppie who passed away last month, made me believe there wasn’t anything I can’t do. And, today, I continue to believe all dreams are possible as also expressed by Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
Who knew this little girl from humble beginnings would someday become the globetrotting "ESCAPESEEKER"?
I’ve now earned the title, “seasoned journalist”—not sure if that refers to my age or my experience—but no matter, it’s a description I’ll gladly accept. After all, it took a great chunk of my first five decades to produce six incredibly beautiful children and 10 of the sweetest grandchildren on earth! And now, here I am blessedly exploring our marvelous planet with a child-like wonder as the “ESCAPESEEKER!”
ESCAPESEEKER, a nickname I derived while working for Asia’s premiere high-end global luxury magazine, ESCAPE. My fascinating cover stories became the impetus which led me to create the inspiring PBS travel series that bears my nickname, ESCAPESEEKER! My family and friends will be the first to tell you, my insatiable wanderlust knows no bounds, as I circle the earth with my talented film crew, often to its most remote corners, seeking out the greatest destinations in the world, one stunning LUXURY ESCAPE at a time.
DOUBLE RAINBOWS gently illuminating the stunning beauty and thunderous impact of the majestic VICTORIA FALLS--one of the SEVEN WONDERS of the WORLD!
If I may offer a word of warning: my passion for travel is highly contagious. Wherever I go, whomever I meet, it doesn’t take long before I have entire groups mesmerized with remarkable, often humorous travel stories, utilizing the images and footage captured by my photography team of the most dramatically jaw-dropping beautiful places on earth! As my PBS advisors have explained, “Mel, your job each week is to deliver 27 minutes of pure joy!” Well, you know what—you can’t fake ‘pure joy’—so thankfully, our program succeeds because JOY is exactly what my team and I feel time and time again, as we are given this incredible opportunity to capture the very best our world has to offer!” I am proud to add, we keep it honest and we keep it real. I want my travel-loving, loyal audience to know that anything I can do, they can do. It is not always easy to reach the destinations we feature on ESCAPESEEKER—but I’ll guarantee that they will always be unforgettable and sometimes even life-changing.”
Sunset on the Zambezi River...it took our breath away! Captured by Jim Jones
Since January 8, 2012, my Advance Research Team aka ART and I have been criss-crossing the magnificent, diverse expanse of the southern region of Africa and today I am reporting from the remote Okavango Delta of Botswana. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world. It is here that the exclusive Chief’s Island in the Mombo Concession, that Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, as well as the Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp is located.
From Stanley’s Camp with flew via a chartered single engine Cessna to the Kalahari Desert, home of the famous salt flats known as the Makgadikgadi Pans.
It was here that a legend of a man by the name of Jack Bousfield stumbled upon a site during a trapping expedition in the Makgadikgadi Pans during the 60’s, that so captured his imagination, he set up camp under an acacia with the unshakeable expectation that others would feel the same. To describe Jack Bousfield as a “legend” would be an understatement. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the dubious achievement of hunting 53,000 crocodiles, survivor of seven plane crashes, gored by elephants, stung by African killer bees, Jack did it all! Ralph Bousfield, along with Catherine Raphaely founded Uncharted Africa Safari co. in 1993 and captures the undying spirit of Ralph’s adventurer father in what I found to be an almost indescribable place in the middle of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert aptly called, Jack’s Camp.
The choice of such a striking locale, owed much to his original taste for the savage beauty of a forgotten Africa where he lived until his tragic death in an aircraft accident in 1992.
There's no other place in this world like it!
The minute I stepped onto Jack’s Camp, I felt I had just been casts in my own “Out of Africa” feature film…except this time, it was being shot in IMAX format. Yes, the endless landscape is majestically panoramic, further magnified by the infinite blue, blue skies. Add to the movie-set, the meticulously designed interiors of our tents–you honestly just have to experience it for yourselves. It looks like something out of a novel…a novel I am now inspired to write. It’s that kind of place. I promise, it will bring out the adventure/romance writer in you!
This is my version of ESCAPESEEKER CAMPING!
Uncharted Africa Safari Co. has pioneered and passionately supported cultural tourism in Botswana since the company’s inception 13 years ago. It has long been Unchartered Africa's belief that it is a vitally important tool in terms of preserving this unique, but sadly fast-vanishing, culture. Unchartered Africa has been working closely with the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari for many years and are privileged to have a small group of these extraordinary men to guide us on an afternoon walking safari. Offering a window into the past, they teach us how they have survived in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behaviour and survival skills. By the way, the combined ages of these Bushmen will astound you. Clearly, their healthy desert lifestyle promotes longevity!
Our team is continually blown away by the pristine, natural beauty and abundant wildlife we have found throughout our African journey. More importantly, we are so moved by the genuine warmth and welcoming hospitality of the natives we meet. Their eyes just sparkle as they proudly educate us about their beautiful country, wildlife treasures and unique culture. It’s crucially important that if you really want to get to know a place, you have to see it, experience it, through the eyes of the locals. You have to peel away the layers, and be in the moment…their moment…their world. I promise you, it will change you from a mere tourist to a bonafide explorer! And, as an additional reward, I guarantee you’ll make life-long friends wherever you go as your enriching travel experiences result in greater understanding and appreciation of your fellow-beings.
It is this heart-warming and important discovery that we made during our entire African journey that truly moved us. All the various properties we visited strive to build long-lasting relationships with their local communities by identifying and sponsoring self-sustaining projects that have the support of the owners, their staff, and often guests like us who are given the opportunity to visit these philanthropic programs. We met entire staffs working closely with the local schools—building, repairing, providing them with necessary school supplies to improve the general well-being and education of the children.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to take the leap! There’s no better time like the present to dust off that passport and fearlessly follow in my ESCAPESEEKER footsteps. The hotels, lodges, and camps that my team and I have experienced are located in some of the most beautiful pristine, best preserved areas of Africa. There’s nothing stopping even Grandma’s like me from experiencing all that our majestic world provides. You just have to take that first step—make the necessary preparations and everything else will fall into place. I’ll be more than happy to personally give you any guidance you may need to get you started on the right footing.
In the meantime, please stay tuned for ESCAPESEEKER Fall Season 2012, when my film crew and I will joyfully present, two in-depth, inspiring hours featuring EPIC AFRICA: WILD and WONDROUS! Honestly, you won’t believe it until you see it. And, if you can’t see it first hand, watching ESCAPESEEKER is the next best thing!
We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to the entire ROYAL AFRICAN SAFARIS team for your unwavering support and brilliant expertise. You have proven to our team that one knows AFRICA like you do. You’ve made navigating our way through Africa’s massive landscape seem effortless. We could not have engaged in such an extensive effort without your guidance. Thank you! Visit their website if you’re craving a tailor-made African Safari Adventure of your own! http://www.royalafricansafaris.com/
There's nothing like an AFRICAN SAFARI to turn a novice photographer into a REAL PRO! This stunning image, captured up close and personal by our own Advance Research Team member, Jim Jones. Great work Jim!
Our heartfelt thanks also goes out to all of the destinations and their superb staff, seasoned game trackers and guides who have welcomed us with open arms and provided us with more mind-expanding, enriching WOW wildlife experiences than we ever dreamed possible! We had no idea just how tremendous and unforgettable our African experiences would be. That is until we met you. I’ve listed all of our amazing destinations below in the order that we first set eyes upon you:
- Cape Grace, www.capegrace.com/
- La Residence, www.laresidence.co.za/
- Birkenhead House and Villa, www.birkenheadhouse.com/
- Grootbos Nature Reserve, www.grootbos.com
- Rosenhof Country House, www.rosenhof.co.za
- The Plettenberg, www.plettenberg.com/
- Phinda Private Game Reserve, The Homestead, www.phinda.com/
- Lion Sands Game Reserve, “1933” – www.lionsands.com
- Royal Maliwane, www.royalmalewane.com/
- Tintswalo at Waterfall, www.tintswalo.com/
- Forum at Homini, http://www.forumhomini.com/
- Sanctuary Retreats: Sussi & Chuma, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/zambia/sussi-and-chuma.cfm
- Sanctuary Retreats: Chief’s Camp, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/botswana/chiefs-camp.cfm
- Sanctuary Retreats: Stanley’s Camp, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/botswana/stanleys-camp.cfm
- Jack’s Camp, www.africansafaris.com/JacksCamp
I am forever grateful to my indefatigable Advance Research Team: Jim Jones, Peg Whisler Jones, Carol Borghi, Ozzie Jack Clarke, Roy Henderson, Marion Ellis, Peter Moody, and Royal African Safaris’ own, Phil West. You are all amazing…thank you for being an outstanding dream team!
Here’s to BLISSFUL, NEVER-ENDING ESCAPES!
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER