In our latest Meet the Boss interview, we talk to Alice Gully, a director of Aardvark Safaris. Alice has been involved in African travel since 1995, her initial interest sparked by her entomology tutor at Newcastle University. When a second degree in veterinary science did not go according to plan, she fulfilled a dream by working in Zambia, setting up a safari camp on Lake Kariba, skippering a catamaran on the lake and studying a family of seven elephants that shared her island.
Now married and the mother of young triplets, Alice lives in the Scottish borders from where she runs Aardvark’s Scotland office as well as the London one. She and her husband are keen riders, scuba-divers and walkers and even took their triplets on a camel safari in Kenya when they were two years old. Of the 15 countries Aardvark Safaris sells, it’s only Madagascar and Malawi that Alice has yet to explore – her favourite experiences to date are riding horses through the migration in the Masai Mara and flying in a private plane along the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.
Q. Please tell us about a great holiday memory from your childhood.
“I was very lucky as a child – my father was in the army so we had fabulous overseas postings to India, Germany and Cyprus. Cyprus was particularly special. I was seven when we lived there and it felt like a perpetual holiday (school stopped at midday). We were water babies and spent afternoons swimming in the sea and exploring various parts of the coast. It’s where my love of snorkelling and diving came from. I remember sitting with my sister on the end of a diving board which was built into a cliff, watching fish beneath us and then watching them scatter as one of us jumped in.”
Q. What three items are always found in your hand luggage?
“A good book, my camera and binoculars.”
Q. If you could spend next weekend anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?
“Laikipia in Kenya. The conservancies are so unspoilt, there are so few tourists and the wildlife is fantastic if you take your time. It’s like having Africa to yourself! It’s especially good if you’re travelling with children.”
Q. Please tell us about a particularly challenging booking your company has handled.
“To a certain extent all our holidays are a challenge (that’s why I like my job), as we tailor make each and every one. We try to offer something different from other companies and like to be challenged by clients who want something out of this world. A recent client wanted three camps on safari but no road transfers between them. So we had to think of different forms of animal or engine powered transfers – we combined canoes, horses, camels and helicopters.”
Q. What has been your most enjoyable holiday in recent years?
“Without doubt it was my last holiday where I introduced my three toddlers to Africa. My husband and I took them to Kenya for the most magical time. We spent a week on the beach and then a week with friends in northern Kenya. They loved it and I loved their little faces each time we saw any wildlife.”
Q. And what has been your all-time worst holiday experience?
“A big block hotel in the Mediterranean – I’m afraid I have been too spoilt by work to want to share my holidays with other people.”
Q. What luxury would you take to your desert island?
Q. What one thing would most improve people’s overall holiday experience?
“Either true cultural experiences, like getting to know a Masai guide well, managing expectations and throwing in a few treats and surprises.”
Q. Tell us your favourite hotel – one for business, one for pleasure.
“I am lucky as business and pleasure are the same thing! The best hotels that I have ever been to are those in the Singita group in South Africa – they are incredible. North Island in the Seychelles is unbeatable for a top class ‘desert island’ with everything you could possibly want. It’s perfect for families too.”
Q. What is the most exciting project your company is working on right now?
“We are still working hard to have the best African sales team possible, so we’re putting lots of resources into training and travel for the team. We are potentially looking at some new countries to explore too. Our US office is going great guns at the moment and is very exciting. Look out for our new website which is going live in the next few weeks.”
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