Safari in South Africa

by : Helen Palmer

Safari in South Africa and you can't help but think that the idea of Christmas in all the summer heat is not what Christmas is all about, but let me help you change your mind and swap jingle bells and sleigh rides for the heat of a South African summer.

A bold statement, I hear you say. Let me explain ...

Tradition dictates that snow, carols, turkey and Christmas trees feature strongly in the festive picture, and indeed they do in South Africa.

Imagine this, it's 25th December at 5am in the morning. Despite all your best efforts to have kept them asleep, the children have already opened the presents left by Santa in the sacks placed at the end of their beds.

You notice through bleary eyes that the day itself is still asleep, wrapped in its mantle of dark. It will be hours before the sun will arouse itself sufficiently to bring even a glimmer of light to the proceedings.

You think of your friends who have decided to safari in South Africa and wonder what they are up to on this chill morning.

Indeed it will be chill, because they are on the first drive of the day, hoping to spot the first of their Big Five animals. Wrapped against the cool of the early African morning they see the spectacular sight of the sun shedding its night-time blanket to unveil the lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard, amongst others.

As the morning gathers pace and the cameras have worked overtime to capture this most special day, they head back to camp for a sumptuous breakfast, followed by a lazy few hours reading, opening presents, swimming in the warm pool, spotting the visiting birds like the brightly coloured kingfishers that come to the veranda or watching the animals who are swimming in the lake in front of their private lodge, such as the hippo.

Later on your friends have decided to experience the thrill of an elephant safari, riding through the bush on the back of this magnificent beast before returning to camp for their Christmas Day meal - probably turkey with all the trimmings. There'll be crackers and tinsel, party poppers and jokes.

So the sun slowly sinks back down into the umber, ochre and burnt sienna colours of the earth, producing a glowing red sunset to mark the end of another day.

You resolve that next year you will take the tinsel and angels to task and exchange the cold for the heat and combine the summer with the traditions of Christmas.

I wish everyone wherever they are in the world and however they celebrate the very best for the coming festivities.