Updated: Mar 5
Here is our (my wife and I) story and plans for near future; 2019…
After 20+ years of professional experience (I as an Architect as well as an instructor / lecturer at the university, and Deniz as a human resources consultant and executive coach working globally across different geographies), we have decided to get out of our comfort zones and daily routines and move to Botswana in quest of a new challenge in life.
After more than a decade of exploring and experiencing Southern Africa’s bush first hand, it has become our ‘happy place’ and we have come to realise that we have been spending increasingly more time in Africa than we do at home, especially as of late! As such, we have decided to conduct, with the contribution of our local partner (a highly experienced FGASA Licenced professional guide), “Wildlife and Landscapes Photographing/Viewing Safaris” within the Botswana-Namibia-South Africa-Zambia square starting from May 2019.
In our first few months, we will be testing ourselves, our equipments, tools, menus as well as new ideas to weed out possible inefficiencies and identify ways to make sure we are able to please our guests to the extent possible. To gather this valuable intelligence and fine tune our services, we need “test groups”; real guests who will join us from the second half of May onwards and give us real-time constructive feedback, in exchange for a discounted rate This is why we have started sharing this announcement with our close friends and Instagram friends with whom we believe we share the same passion and perspectives. We would like to ask you to become our “test groups”.
As you probably know already, Southern Africa has become an increasingly popular destination over the past years; fortunately / unfortunately, the supply of (quality/popular) accommodation options has not grown as steeply as the demand. Bookings for those “good spots” in national parks and reserves start 11 months in advance. If you would be interested to travel with us as per the brief below, we will need your confirmations as soon as possible so that we can secure those select locations for you. We will not be asking for or expecting any down-payment / deposit at the very early stages, not until the itinerary is mutually agreed and reservations are made.
We have prepared the below brief based on the questions we have received from various friends to date. Let us know if you have any other questions!
- ‘Wandering’ across unique landscapes and distinctive wilderness areas of southern Africa with
our guests (friends); sharing moments and creating new memories
- Camping in the wild bush (which we believe is the best way to feel Africa!)
- We will be working on building the best itinerary possible based on what our guests would like to see and experience, factoring in “seasonality” in terms of animal behaviours and possible activities. For example, if you are a birder and are considering travelling with us during the winter months of southern Africa (June-August), we will openly tell you that migratory birds will be arriving from September onwards and that during the same period, the raptors (birds of prey) will not be very active either as their main food sources will be in hibernation. The last thing we want is to mislead our guests and create false expectations.
- Our safari vehicle is custom designed to very comfortably accommodate four (4) guests; we want to offer you the broadest “space” possible for photography and wildlife viewing.
- One other reason we have chosen to keep the seats limited is so that you can form your own group of four (friends, couples, families). In case you are a solo traveler, we would do our best to bring together people with similar interests in wildlife and landscape viewing as you, i.e. big cat lovers, birders, landscape lovers... (Thank you Instagram, thank you social networks!)
- In case you don’t want to form a group of four and don’t want to join others either, we can still go ahead with the trip but preferably with a minimum of two guests. We love being in the wilderness, we love discovering, and we will love it more with you in it!
- As you all know, we can not guarantee good sightings with the mammals, birds, and reptiles of Africa as they all have their own agenda, but we can guarantee good food, good wine, good service, comfort, and good spirits around the bush fire at the end of the day.
We prefer to be in parks and reserves where we are allowed to set up mobile camps and run safaris. Only a few Private Game Reserves allow camping while most require lodging with them, which, frankly speaking, can be quite expensive.
Botswana – Okavango Delta, Savuti, Linyati, Chobe National Park as Northern Botswana; Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi National Park, Sua Pan and Kubu (Lekubu) Island, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Nata Bird Sanctuary, Elephant Sands, Khama Rhino Sanctuary as Central Botswana; and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as Southern Botswana;
Namibia – Namib-Naukluft National Park, Skeleton Coast Park, Dorob National Park, Damaraland, Etosha National Park, Caprivi Strip, Luderitz, Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Fish River Canyon, Khaudum National Park;
South Africa – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Kalahari), Kruger National Park, Great Kruger Area; Zambia – Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya) National Park, for now; as, we will be conducting tours to South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi National Parks in following years as well as Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks.
- We plan to conduct 6 to 14 day tours. The length of the excursions will basically depend on how much time you have and where you want to go.
- Our safaris will be conducted in our custom-made vehicle, a 4x4 Toyota Landcruiser V8 Single Cab converted-modified into a closed frame safari vehicle.
- “Why closed frame?” you may ask… We prefer a closed frame rather than a full open safari
vehicle for “climate control”; we have witnessed many visitors looking miserably cold under layers of blankets or excessively hot under the blistering sun, and even some who were dismayed at having caught the afternoon rain. We want to protect not only you, but also your precious photography/videography equipments from weather conditions and undue dust while travelling from one location to another.
- While the car mechanics may call it a “closed frame”, the vehicle is in fact not closed at all! It has huge side windows as well as a pop-up sunroof for better viewing/photographing purposes. Please see below attached photo. However side windows will be modified to slide down fully rather than sliding sideways;
The four guest seats will be distributed somewhat diagonally rather than side by side so that everyone has maximum access to the side windows for better viewing and photography / videography purposes. (Five is possible though, please read the next paragraph). Below is the drawing of the seating plan under conversion;
- We are working on building a second 4x4 vehicle as a ‘Back-Up Car’ in case of unwanted
circumstances such as break-downs or getting stuck in mud pans during the rainy season – with a second car in place, we will be able to open up space for a 5th possible guest in the main safari vehicle (which currently accommodates one of our crew members).
- We are deviating from the “industry standard” with respect to guest seats; each seat will be custom built for a snugger fit and a form-fitting back support to ensure maximum comfort during long drives over corrugated roads.
- Each guest seat will be equipped with USB and 220V chargers so that you can charge your phones, laptops, ipads and/or the batteries of photography/videography devices on-the-go.
- Each guest seat will have its own “box” where you can store and protect your photography / videography equipments while on the road.
- We will provide each guest with a “welcome to the bush” kit consisting of binoculars, reusable insulated water bottles, and headlamps to be used during your stay with us.
- We are also looking into integrating a satelite dish to the main vehicle to secure continuous telecommunication and (hopefully) wi-fi access so that you can “stay connected” should you choose to, check your e-mails and social media accounts or post your stories and captures. We will keep you posted on this issue.
- There will be a fridge in the main vehicle for cold beverages and snacks, and ample food for picnic lunches for the days we do not return to the base camp for lunch.
- Speaking of food: we will have two more fridges in the trailer (which will preferably be towed by the ‘Back-Up Car’) which will be stocked with good quality fresh ingredients, dairy products, soft drinks, beer, crisp white wines, and ice for sure!
- There is a roof top tent on the trailer which can be extended to form a closed / semi-closed unit. We plan to use this area as a “media center” for guests interested in photography/videography so that they can work on their captures during the breaks at the campsite. We will be adding a sizeable side awning to this set-up to create additional working / socializing space and ample shade.
- The roof-top tent over the trailer could also be used as a reading, snoozing, resting area during daytime for the guests who do not want to spend time in their safari tents.
- Our operation will be based on mobile safari camping which means that in each location, we the staff, will be setting up (3m x 3 m. or 3m. X 4m.) safari tents for each guest. The tents are big enough to comfortably accommodate two guests, so let us know in advance if you’d like to share yours with your significant others, friends, or children. See below the tents…
- We are constantly in a brainstorming mood with respect to bring the comfort and luxury of a safari lodge to our campsite and tents. We will have high-end, elevated, inflated comfy cots (stretcher beds) with proper pillows, sheets, duvets and towels smelling of castile soap!
- Stationary ablutions are present in all locations listed above on Page 2 (national parks and game reserves across southern Africa) and most of them are really very clean. In cases when you want to use more “secluded” facilities, or in cases where we will be camping in the “veld” (wild bush) as per your preferences, we will be setting up our own mobile ablutions (toilet, shower and lavatory). We will do our best to make sure you will have hot water all the time but bear in mind we will be reliant on solar power!
- It is the virtue of Botswana’s State Policy that humans and wild animals co-exist together. To set the expectations straight, you need to know that the campsites in Botswana’s National Parks and Game Reserves do not have fences, and it is quite normal for wild animals to come close to the campsites to investigate the weird looking, weird smelling hoomans who are trespassing. Please do not be alarmed by my words especially if you are not familiar with camping in the wild bush; wild animals prefer to watch you from a distance and stay away - I will tell you why during our briefing at the camp . That said, NOTHING beats the beauty of - camping in the bush and immersing yourself in nature if you want to experience and appreciate Africa to the fullest! Rest assured that we will have our own fences and other devices to secure the periphery of the campsite. You will have an extremely experienced local guide plus two highly experienced bush campers who will be watching your back all the time.
- The formation of our camp site (in terms of how we position the vehicles, where we set up the tents / ablutions etc.) will be concentric around the fire / dining area in order to create a natural (as well as perceived!) barrier and prevent possible intruders from passing through.
- Each tent will be equipped with proper lighting, a whistle, a walkie-talkie radio in addition to the powerful headlamps we will provide for each guest in their “welcome to the bush” kit.
- We will have emergency first aid kits for any possible bush accidents – two of our crew members already have emergency first-aid response licences and the third one is WIP. In addition to that, all our guests will be insured against medical emergencies, including air lift/helicopter rescue, in case their treatment needs to be conducted in a proper medical facility nearby.
- We will have a satelite phone with us all the time and before you ask, yes, we will have “guns… flare guns”. It is prohibitied for the staff and the guests to carry firearms in any of the locations listed above.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
- My wife Deniz is one of the best bush cooks I have met to date, and she takes food very seriously!
- We will not be serving off-the-cuff, arbitrary camp food but thought-out, tried-and-tested dishes we have been working on fine-tuning throughout our travels.
- The days will usually start with a quick snack and hot beverages before we set out at dawn, so that you will comfortably focus on the wildlife and landscapes during your morning safaris rather than the grumbles from your stomachs. Depending on what the morning brings (or where we are), we will choose between stopping for breakfast/brunch/lunch either at a picnic site or back at the camp, before leaving for our afternoon-sunset drive. The day will end with a proper and delicious dinner around the bush fire, accompanied by alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic beverages (good quality wines and spirits, juices, carbonated drinks, tea/coffee…)
- We are thinking “table clothes and candles!” - a must!
- During the initial planning phase, we will send out a questionnaire to each of our guests to better understand your food choices, allergies and/or dietary requirements, if there are any. Whether you are a vegetarian / vegan or a real-life ‘Joey Tribbiani’, we will do our best to accommodate specific requests and stock up accordingly. We want to make sure you enjoy your bush meals as much as we will enjoy cooking them for you!
- To sum it up, while we cannot guarantee good sightings but we can certainly guarantee good food and a good atmosphere!
- As mentioned before, bookings for wildlife safaris and landscape expeditions in Southern Africa start filling up about 11 months in advance. To be able to secure the best possible locations to the extent we can, the sooner you let us know of your plans the better.
- We will build customized itineraries based on your wishes on where to go, what to see and experience, and when to go.
- During the planning process, we will guide and advise you based on our personal experiences of the particular areas under consideration. For example: certain regions of the Okavango delta would be inaccessible due to rainfalls and floods during February-March. These two months also happen to be the birthing season for mammals, so there would be a high probability of seeing cute babies lolling about. Based on our experiences and up-to-date location information, we may suggest alternative routes / locations to increase your chances of wildlife encounters with adorable babies, or with mighty hunters gearing for predatory action. If you are interested in migratory birds, we could plan for the delta and other wetlands for after September; Kalahari can be cold in August which could slow down animal activities during certain days et cetera, et cetera…
- In short, we won’t be misleading you. What we will be doing will be our best; our best to pull all our sources, resources and capabilities together to show you the Africa in our eyes.
- You have the option to form your own group of four (or five), or alternatively, we can help find fellow travelers with similar interests and similar travel dates as yours to form a mixed group.
- If you want a more “private” tour or cannot form a group of four, we can still carry out the
expedition with a minimum of two guests. The cost per person per day would naturally increase, but we will not be charging you double; we promise to look for ways to manage and keep total costs low so that we don’t lose the chance of travelling with you, and you don’t lose the chance of experiencing our Africa.
- Have I already said ‘the sooner we know the better’? Dealing with national parks, game reserves, conservation areas, community trusts and the like takes considerable time – TIA! In order to be able to reserve good spots in good locations, bring individuals together, and plan the itineraries in the best way possible, we will need an early heads-up!
- We want to start planning early, but that does not mean that we expect you to make an early payment. In fact, we will not be expecting any payment from you until we have mutually agreed on our itinerary. We will regard your word as your bond and will expect the same in return; deposit and/or other payments (e.g. payments for third-party activities) will be required following the composition and confirmation of the itinerary to make sure that we can secure our reservations before they expire.
- We aim to be operational between May-December in 2019, and between February-December in the following years.
- We are a start-up, and our focus will mostly be on learning than on earning. We aim to keep the “per person per day” (PPPD) prices as low as possible and treat 2019 as a promotional and marketing year.
- Assuming we will have four guests on board, we foresee the PPPD cost to be between USD 270-360 / EUR 235-315, the difference being dependant on locations and distances.
- If we mutually fail to form a group of four for your tour, cost per person per day would increase but it would not be doubled. We promise to work it out to have you with us!
- PPPD cost includes all food and drinks (please drink responsibly! ) and all safari activities including boat safaris in certain locations.
- Cost excludes flights to and from our meeting / expedition kick-off location, and any third-party activities you may ask us to purchase on your behalf (e.g. helicopter flights over the Okavango delta, hot-air balloon rides / air safaris over the Namib Desert, microlight flights over Vic Falls, night safaris/drives at certain locations where we are not allowed to conduct our own…)
- The final cost will be clear once we are mutually done and happy with the itinerary and will be settled as per a mutually agreed schedule.
- Our company is established and registered under the name of Merubisi Naturists Botswana;
- ‘Merubisi’ is in Setswana, Botswana’s mother tongue, and means ‘The Owl’;
- Why the “Owl”? Who doesn’t love OWLS? Owl we need is love, and love is owl we need!
- Seriously though, we find the owl to be highly symbolic of many of things we value in our personal and professional lives such as knowledge, experience and wisdom, foresight, intuition and perspective. It was for these reasons that we had chosen the owl as the logo of our first endeavour in our homeland (and perched her on an olive branch as an homage to our Mediterranean roots).
- The owl also symbolizes seeing the unseen, with razor sharp vision and ability to quickly focus. We believe the owl insinuates a sharp, detail focused vision which can certainly be associated with photography. So, we have decided to keep our beloved owl as our lucky charm; in our new logo for Merubisi Naturists, you will see that she has already adapted to her new homeland and is perching on the iconic acacia thorn tree.
We hope you like the new logo of Merubisi!
We know this has been a rather long read, so we would like to thank you for your time and interest. We are very happy and excited to share these news and development with you and would love it if we could find the opportunity to share our excitement and experience with you as well. Last but not the least, we would be grateful if you could help us spread the news to wildlife and landscape lovers, wildlife photography and landscape photography enthusiasts. Kalahari and Namib, here we come...
Deniz Ergene & Bora Mutlu