Where did you go?
Saara Hirji: Ruaha National Park (Tanzania). I stayed at the Jabali Private House by Asilia Africa.
What inspired you to go there specifically?
SH: The Bush has always had a special place in my heart as I used to go on safaris as a little girl every year with my family. I thought starting the new year in the place that takes you back to your roots and brings you in touch with the basics of life and the simple pleasures would be best.
Any travel must-haves?
SH: Boots, hats, skincare (moisturiser, lip balm), camera and of course my bikini.
What was the most memorable moment during your trip/biggest highlight?
SH: The game drives. The word safari in Swahili means “journey” and it has always offered an experience that can’t be replicated. It’s an opportunity to come face to face with the natural world and being around animals, while feeling their energy and embracing the rawness.
Any travel tips?
SH: Be ready for weather changes – it goes from sunny to rainy within minutes! Embrace the unknown because it’s an adventure after all, and last but not least, always have yours camera on you – and a second battery!
Would you do anything differently next time?
SH: I was well prepared for my trip and I thought the trip was absolutely beautiful, as Asila Africa had done a spectacular job in making the trip immensely memorable and catering to all our needs.
What were your favourite animals/sights to visit?
SH: I adore each and every creature including the elephants, monkeys, lions and leopards. Every sighting was so serene, from the riverbanks to the bushes to the rocky hills – each has its own beauty.
Tell us a little more about the camp/lodge.
SH: The Jabali Ridge is breathtaking. It has the most perfect location as the camp is right on the ridge and near the river bank, where you see animals passing throughout the day and night with spectacular views over looking the park. They have eight suites and one private house with common areas. Also, they have a resident leopard, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see her strolling through the camp. Safari camps today exhibit an unwavering respect for fragile environments. Even the most well-appointed lodges are now built with sustainable materials, and the always-attentive staff members are recruited from local communities. Our camp was no different.
How has climate change affected the savannah?
SH: Poaching and environmental degradation are still concerns, although poaching has drastically decreased.
Tell us about the destination.
SH: The Ruaha ecosystem covers almost 20,000 square miles and is one of the most important wildlife areas left in the whole of Africa. Ruaha is one of the most important places in the world for large carnivores, as it supports over 10 per cent of the world’s remaining lions, as well as the third largest population of African wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and other carnivores.
Which city is next on your bucket list?
SH: I’m definitely going to explore more of Africa. There are so many places to visit but for my next trip, I’m looking into Rwanda.
PHOROGRAPHS COURTESY:SAARA HIRJI