Living My African Dream

Proudly South African blogger Nicole Eddy is the co-creator of inbound travel company My African Dream, where every trip booked contributes towards sustainability and conservation.

Born and raised in Cape Town, my love for adventure and local travel was instilled as a young girl. Anyone who's ever set foot in our magnificent country knows that it's an adventurer’s playground, from the Mars-like landscape of the Cederberg to the mountains and white beaches of Cape Town; the snow-capped peaks of the Drakensberg and, of course, the wildlife and indescribable magic of the bush. My happy place!

My older brother and a dad lived for quiet, empty and open spaces (his nickname was The Lone Ranger!), and I really looked up to them. We'd head down to our local beach every weekend and I watched enviously as they surfed. I'd stand on the water’s edge and flag my dad down to get him to push me out onto small waves on his old yellow board called Faith, and my love for the ocean and surfing grew even stronger on getting my own old second-hand yellow surfboard.

I also have fond memories of my brother and me being carried out of the house, long before sunrise, to start our family holidays up to the bush, sprawled out with blankets and pillows on the fold-down bed of the Microbus. Just as the sun rose, my dad would pull over and have his mandatory cup of tea and Marie biscuits, while my mom scuffled around for her Liquorice All-sorts. We'd shiver outside while he aggressively inhaled deep breaths of fresh air, exhaling alarmingly loudly, and then we’d bundle back in and hit the road. We had the time of our life on these trips, realising just how much beauty and adventure was on our back doorstep!

The sustainability of Africa’s natural heritage is a primary focus for My African Dream.

Like many people, I had no idea what direction I wanted to go after school. After working a year abroad at a school in England, I managed to explore Europe during my holidays and got my first taste of independent travel. I returned home feeling even more conflicted as seeing a bigger portion of the world left me hungry for more. While studying a mixture of film, psychology and environmental studies at UCT and rediscovering my love of writing, I began writing a blog. With the help of people in the industry at the time, I slowly gathered more of an audience. I took photos of my adventures during university breaks and shared them on my blog and Instagram. I was landing a couple of sponsored campaigns here and there, and after completing a postgraduate degree at Vega, decided to pursue this ‘social media route’ for a year to see where it would take me.

Fast forward two years and creating travel-based photography and video is my full-time job! I've been lucky enough to visit over 30 countries, work with some amazing companies and met some incredible humans along the way. A three-month road trip from Cape Town to Kenya and back reaffirmed that no other place on earth competes with the feeling I get on our continent. It’s the people and landscapes, the culture and zest for life... Above all, it’s the deep connection to the environment.

Earlier this year I was coincidentally contacted by a family friend, Rudi Aucamp, originally from Gauteng and now working and living with his family in Cape Town. Having spent loads of time in the bush himself, he was intensely missing his happy place of the Lowveld. Wanting to share his knowledge and skills of the place with others, Rudi went out on a limb and laid his pipe dream out for me. And so 'My African Dream' was born – an inbound travel company specialising within southern Africa, organising and tailor-making packages suited to every client’s needs. Ultimately we want to share our passion and fire for this continent with people from around the world, with a concerted drive to actively engage in wildlife conservation and humanitarian projects.

The sustainability of Africa’s natural heritage is a primary focus for My African Dream, and this quote by the amazing Jane Goodall rings true: "Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help.'' While awareness of the unfortunate plight of many of Africa's species via online articles, the news or social media plays a massive role, it's only through seeing these beautiful creatures in person – a rhino with its young, a playful teenage elephant getting a little too cheeky – that you truly realise their beauty and magic, and the need to speak out on their behalf.

Being involved in conservation organisations in our personal capacity – me in the SANParks anti-poaching efforts and canine unit in the past, and Rudi actively involved in on-the-ground work with an amazing voluntary NPO called Mark of the Rhino which conducts rhino conservation and protection initiatives – this important aspect is integrated into our own company.

Marrying travel, tourism and conservation, we donate a portion of our profits from every booking (at the moment it stands at 5%, to begin with) to a conservation organisation of our clients' choice. Obviously, as our company grows, so too will this number. Through these contributions, we afford our guests the opportunity to feel connected to specific conservation causes and the endangered species they protect. We're also planning the My African Dream production side, which we hope to launch mid-2019 to create awareness through photographic and visual means, collaborating with some great people and organisations to give back where and when we can.

MY AFRICAN DREAM IS INVOLVED WITH THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONS:

SANCCOBB – A registered non-profit organisation whose primary objective is to reverse the decline of seabird populations through the rescue, rehabilitation and release of ill, injured, abandoned and oiled seabirds – especially endangered species like the African penguin.

Panthera – The only organisation in the world devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats.

Endangered Rhino Conservation – Works to ensure the protection and survival of endangered rhinos through raising awareness and funding conservation and research efforts throughout Africa.

African Endangered Wildlife Fund – Works to conserve viable populations of endangered African wild dogs and other large carnivores in Zimbabwe, through research, hands-on conservation, education, community engagement and policy dialogue.

www.myafricandreamtravel.co.za

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