In the second of our series of interviews with the Safari.com Safari experts, we sat down with Jayson Scheffers to discuss what shaped his love of the wild, how he survived his biggest travel disaster, and why he went into the travel industry after initially studying finance.
Which experiences shaped your love of nature/the bushveldt?
I was a bit of a loner when I was a child, dedicating most of my time to sports and academia, and I found the natural world to be a sanctuary, where I could express myself, and my emotions. My mom would take us camping every year, and we went to the beach almost every Sunday.
I loved being out and about in the wild, picking things I probably shouldn’t have been picking, and just enjoying the peace of mind one feels in the natural world. I also remember getting several hidings for losing track of time on my outdoor ramblings [laughs].
When did you know you wanted to work as a safari expert/in the field of travel?
I actually graduated with a postgraduate degree in finance from Stellenbosch, and worked in the corporate world for a while. I was working as an account manager and one of my responsibilities was to assist clients with travel services; booking hotels and handling logistics etc. I accompanied one group on one such excursion to Kenya. The country was so beautiful, and the people so friendly - the whole experience was transformative. I knew then that I wanted to work in the travel industry, and I’ve never looked back.
What is/are your favourite memories from your travels in Africa?
The first time I saw Victoria Falls was incredible. You can only truly understand why the locals call it ‘the smoke that thunders’ when you’ve seen it for yourself. And I have to mention another experience, watching a pride of lions hunt while on Safari in the Kruger National Park, from the slow and careful stalking to the frantic climax of the chase, it was a truly breathtaking sight.
What was the most amazing wildlife sighting you can remember?
Besides the hunt mentioned above, I will also never forget sitting in our stationary vehicle whilst on a game drive, scanning the surroundings for animals before realising an adult leopard was standing right next to us. There is something so unique about being that close to such a majestic creature.
What three things should people see or do when on an African safari?
Seek the guidance of a Safari Expert, and I’m not just saying that because I am one [laughs]. If they know what they are doing, you’ll save money, see more, and just have a generally more relaxing experience. And then make sure to do a proper guided walk in the bush, and a sleepout under the stars.
What’s your ideal holiday?
I love the bush and I love the beach, so I would recommend a holiday that allows for both.
Tell us your most disastrous travel story, and how you got out of it?
When my partner and I checked into the accommodation we’d booked for the first night of a trip to Mozambique, it looked nothing like advertised. The next day, the people from the lodge we’d booked for the second night forgot to collect us. Neither of us could drive, and there was no public transport, so we ended up hiking, with all our gear, to the next destination. It took us the entire day to make the trip on foot, and when we got there a storm had knocked out the power, which meant we had to stay for three days. Thankfully the view was amazing, and we had an entire beach to ourselves, so it all worked out in the end.
If someone could only visit one destination on Safari, which should they choose?
Definitely the Kruger Park, especially the Sabi Sands region if it’s your first Safari. The region is especially famous for the abundance of big cats, especially leopards. Leopards, for me, are the most breathtaking and elegant of animals, so it’s worth going just to see them. The Kruger is the biggest Game reserve in South Africa and provides visitors with all the experiences you would associate with being on Safari.
What makes Africa a unique destination?
Its vast open areas, the abundance of wildlife, amazing beach destinations, mountains, hiking trails, and various different cultures all on one continent. It’s the home of the cradle of humankind, in South Africa, which is home to the largest concentration of human ancestral remains anywhere in the world. For that reason alone I feel that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetimes.
If you could only see one animal in the wild, which would it be?
As I mentioned, I am a huge fan of Leopards. No matter how many I’ve seen, I still feel a rush of emotions and excitement when I see another.
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