Discovering: South Africa.
10 Minutes with Jim Mcnamara, Craghoppers MD.
‘Explore: To travel through (an unfamiliar area) in order to learn about it.’
Meet Jim Mcnamara, the travel apparel guru, adventure kit specialist, and the Managing Director of Craghoppers. Jim is the fountain of all knowledge when it comes to travel clothing and adventure apparel, but at the beginning of the year, Jim discovered the true meaning of ‘exploring’ for himself. We talked to Jim about his once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa.
So, Jim, what initially drew you to visit South Africa?
I wanted to see the big 5, like everyone does. Everybody I’d spoken to said what a fantastic country South Africa is. And it surpassed our dreams. The people were great. The people were absolutely lovely to us.
The funny thing is, initially my wife Joyce didn’t want to go. But she knew I really wanted to go. So there was a lot of pressure knowing she was going for me. I had to get it right!
What were you most excited about doing or seeing?
We met a young couple at the beginning of the trip in North Cape – the lad had gone to Manchester University, and we started chatting after he noticed my Mancunian accent! They were just finishing their travels in Cape Town, where we were just beginning ours – and it turns out they had already been to the Londolozi Safari – which was where we were heading. They had said it was amazing so we were so excited for the next leg of the journey.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many sightings of exotic animals in Manchester! Can you enlighten us on the most unusual animal you saw whilst on Safari?
When we first got out there, a male Cheetah appeared and got right up close to the vehicle. The guide was telling us how rare it is to see one, so we felt very lucky.
I love elephants, so it was amazing to see a baby elephant stopped at the vehicle – the adult elephants didn’t take much notice of us, but the baby did. I almost roared! At one point, we were watching the elephants playing in the water, just like humans would do.
And on the bus back to Johannesburg – there was a lion sitting at the bus stop. I shouted – ‘There’s a lion!’ but when I turned around it had gone – and nobody believed me! A lady behind me got a photo, so that proved that I hadn’t made it up!
Did you ever feel scared at any point?
Joyce was quite frightened by the lions, but they walked right past us. At first, we were both slightly scared, but we knew the trekkers would not lead us into danger, and there was a dart gun on vehicle!
It was quite shocking to see a crocodile attacking an Impala, it just snatched it, and threw it about in the air – it must have taken about ten minutes to eat it. That was quite gory but we realised it was just nature. And we had to toughen up a little bit.
At Craghoppers, we liaise with lots of world explorers and traveling experts – how was it to put yourself in their position and to experience it for yourself?
It was massively different. The thing that impressed me was how educated the guides were. One evening, the guide said, ‘Lets all lay down now,’ so we lay down by the side of the truck and just looked up at the sky. He knew so much about the different stars and solar systems. We found the guides so knowledgeable. They were very educated people.
Until you’re there, you never appreciate the knowledge and expertise these people have. Tom was the Ranger and Driver. Tom was just so brilliant.
Jerry – the Trekker, was born on the reserve. There was nothing he didn’t know. He would follow footprints and markings and told us where to head.
It was a holiday of a lifetime, we were pampered. But, it was just so good to see the way the cost of that trip is actually invested back into the environment. Just to see first hand, the reinvestment into culture and nature and local people.
What lessons have you learnt from your trip?
It was incredible to see those animals live alongside each other. At one point, we saw a resting Hyena. It wasn’t part of a pack. The other hyenas kept throwing it out. I felt so sorry for him.
What I really marveled at – you could sit in the truck and look around, and see so many different animals living alongside each other in peace – it just makes you think – why can’t we be the same?
How did you find the Shanti towns in Johannesburg?
The Shanti towns were very different to those in South America. The people were all growing potatoes and vegetables on their front lawns. The Saturday market was just filled with big smiles, no sad faces. It was so uplifting to see those people so happy.
Which part of your adventure did you enjoy most?
There was one amazing moment right at the beginning. We had booked a whale watch in Cape Town, but a few weeks before we arrived we were told the whale season had finished. However, one night when we were out on the boat, we managed to spot one whale right out at sea – I was in awe, I didn’t even think to get my camera out. It was completely unexpected. It was sensational!
But overall, we thought the The Londolozi Safari was fantastic. It was just perfect. We would love to go on another safari. It was so well organised, and thanks to this, if we were to go back, I think Joyce would be a lot more adventurous.
The guide even said – ‘you were so enthusiastic – you were a joy to be around!’
Would you return?
Absolutely. The River Chobe in particular is one place we would love to return to.
The amazing thing is, my wife is now telling her friends how much she wants to return. When I told her about this interview, the one thing she said was ‘Just tell them I just can’t wait to go back!’
Finally, which pieces of kit did you use the most?
The kit was fabulous. The micro fleece was perfect for early mornings, as it was quite cold at 5am when we began the Safari. This is where I couldn’t do without our NosiLife Convertible Trousers – again they were brilliant for the chilly early mornings, and as the day went on and the temperature rose, you could zip off the bottoms to cool down.
We were in a Malaria bound area, and there were mosquitoes, but Joyce and I were wearing our NosiLife Adventure Long Sleeved Shirts that has insect repellent woven in to the fabric, so we didn’t get bitten at all. Well on the last day, I did actually get bitten on the forehead, which was unfortunate!
This is the thing, people spend a lot of money on trips like these, but they don’t put enough thought or preparation into what to bring with them. And to think, these brilliant Safari guides, even they don’t know much about insect repellent clothing. This is why I feel strongly about getting the message about protective clothing out there, as it can be so beneficial to many parts of the world!
Are you considering exploring south Africa or going on safari? we recommend packing the following items:
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