BushBabes OFFICIAL LAUNCH TRIP
It’s been more than a year since we first thought about the Bush Babes project. There were many hurdles, red tape, “politics” and other challenges to overcome before we could finally launch the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club. Suddenly everything fell into place. Isuzu is sponsoring us with a Babe Mobile and Isuzu Off-Road Academy is taking care of our 4×4 training across the country. Explore Africa is heading the safaris. Hi-Tech is kitting out the crew and Mammoth Outdoor is making sure our members have everything they need for the bush. All that remained was to plan the biggest, best and most babelicious Bush Babe bash to date — the Ponta Ambush!
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Jannie Herbst
To refresh the memory of regular readers and put new readers in the picture, the Bush Babes initiative was born in October 2010. Leisure Wheels invited a few women (typical girlie girls) to Marloth Park in the Lowveld to get to know each other in preparation for a camping story. We regarded them as representative of a potential market of affluent women who wanted to enjoy the outdoors and 4×4 lifestyle, but perhaps didn’t know how to go about it.
The idea showed great promise and morphed into the Bush Babes brand. Then came a series of articles dubbed “The Hairdryer Expeditions”, in which the chosen few acted as pioneers. Their task was to discover new ground for all the women out there who had always wanted to do the 4×4 thing, but were either too scared or too intimidated by the men in their lives to try things on their own.
These babes set out on various adventures to create a following and female presence in Leisure Wheels magazine. They learned to drive a 4×4, camped in Lesotho and Botswana, showered under the stars, rode elephants, participated in 4×4 competitions, conquered huge dunes, mastered scuba diving and swam with dolphins.
The demand from women wanting to join us on these adventures kept growing as we went along. This prompted us to open the Bush Babes Club to all women, and not confine it to an elite group. We want to share the fun with women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes who like roughing it, without toughing it — who will go camping if they must, but prefer to stay in lodges. Who like to let their hair down, but without leaving their dignity at the tent’s zipper.
It took a while to get all the appropriate sponsors and partners on board – companies that share our vision and passion to get women out from behind the stove and laptop, and into the great outdoors where they can be themselves, without the pretence and pressure of conforming to what life expects them to be every day.
We are proud to announce that Isuzu came on board big time to make the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club possible. Not only have they provided a brand new Isuzu KB double cab that will be the Babe Mobile on all future trips, adventures and safaris, but they are our main sponsor, too. With the Babe Mobile, which is now fully wrapped and boldly branded, came seat and floor covering courtesy of Takla and off road tyres from Continental.
The Isuzu Off-Road Academy is taking care of all our 4×4 events across the country, to give women in all provinces the training they need if they are to conquer any terrain on future Bush Babes adventures and safaris.
Explore Africa Adventures, who have been a loyal friend and sounding board from the beginning, are now fulltime partners. They will be presenting exclusive women-only safaris throughout 2012 and beyond. Leisure Wheels have worked with Explore Africa for many years and we are confident they will be a perfect match for the Bush Babes.
With Andre van Vuuren, the father figure and chaperone, Corne aka Explore Babe, Andre’s adventurous daughter and his wife, Mariana (Mu Babe), who go along on all these trips, a more wholesome environment and set-up would be hard to find.
Hi Tec is our other big sponsor. They will be supplying the crew with clothes and gear, and other prizes from time to time.
Mammoth Outdoor have come on board with a 15% discount on all outdoor gear ordered online. They will give each member a valuable Petzl headlamp when they join. LA Sport are also offering products to new members.
To celebrate our partnerships, and kick off the club on a high note, we planned a “killer” launch trip to Ponta Do Oura in Mozambique, for 10 Bush Babes. The trip also served as a recce for the first official Bush Babes Safari in March, which is open to all our female readers.
Bush Babes Ponta Ambush
This trip was long overdue. Katy (Wild Babe), one the first Bush Babes to join Leisure Wheels on 4×4 adventures for women, bought the very popular Cafe Del Mar restaurant and lodge in Ponta a year ago. She renamed it Cafe Batuque and since she took ownership, we’ve been planning to have our launch trip there.
When everything fell in place so well, one phone call was all it took. Wild Babe was in! With her contacts in Ponta, we managed to put together an adventure weekend of ginormous proportions.
Explore Africa took care of all the details and nitty gritty, ensuring an exciting and flawless weekend.
Apart from our long term, gorgeous and very capable overlanding Babe Mobile, Isuzu provided two more KBs for our “ambush”.
Everyone had to meet at Delisha’s home on the East Rand. Delisha has a knack for being late, or should we say, she often gets delayed by unforeseen circumstances. So the reasoning was that if we met at her home, she would have no choice but to be on time. (Delish, you did us proud, babe!)
What eventually did delay us, though, was the magnitude of stuff the Babes managed to collect and buy for the children’s home we were to visit on the trip. We had bakkie loads of boxes that had to fit into three double cabs, along with the diving gear, our customary not-so-light luggage and liquid encouragement.
Everyone was wildly excited about this launch trip. It was the most important one so far – the one that would set the standard for trips to come.
We’d planned to leave at 05:00 sharp, and eventually hit the road closer to 06:00. Andre and Jannie worked out an exciting route for us, since our Kosi Bay excursion about a month earlier could have been compared to a vacation to Cape Town.
Now, Delisha might get delayed quite often, but she surely has a sense of direction. “Leila, is jy seker ons ry in die regte rigting?” she continuously checked over the radio and later by cellphone (so as not to stress out the rest of the passengers). But, despite her fears, we reached Ponta at about 15:30. If it hadn’t been for the hold-up at the border, and the attempts of officials to confiscate the goodies for the children’s home, we would have made it long before 14:00. Every babe had the opportunity to put on her award-winning big-eyed, tearful, “how can you be so cruel?” look to change the minds of these seemingly heartless individuals.
After tough negotiations, we were more than ready for R&Rs – Ponta’s potent concoction of rum with a splash of raspberry (or rooi partytjie koeldrank, as we know it).
But first, we had to get stuck a few times. And no, this had nothing to do with the capability of our unstoppable Isuzu KBs. The brown KB was just not in the right “mode”. So, diff lock on, four low, and ready, steady, go! Out of the sand. No problemo!
Fernando’s stood out like an oasis in a hot but humid desert. We enjoyed the odd drink and joke at Fernando’s (ja, right!). Lee, who has officially been dubbed Ener Babe (since she just keeps going like the Duracell bunny) had the entire bar in stitches. Everything she does is hilarious.
Wild Babe came to fetch us from Fernando’s to take us to our beautiful accommodation at Cafe Batuque – Bali-styled rooms in a tropical setting, just perfect for an exotic seaside holiday.
Once we had settled in, we joined up at Cafe Batuque’s bar – an unrivalled wooden patio overlooking the ocean. We quickly learned that Wild Babe’s place is not only renowned for its gorgeous owner and wonderful food, but for the “jol” it offers when the sun goes down.
We were up very early. The itinerary said: Scuba Diving – Discover Scuba resort course. Eish! We walked a short distance from Cafe Batuque to Simply Scuba’s prime site on the beachfront. We were nervous as hell. Our instructions were really simple, though: “Breathe and look cool.”
Richard Ashmun is one cool guy, all right! In his black wetsuit with a shocking pink skeleton printed on it, and a joke and cute smile at all times, he made it easy to relax.
One of our recruits, Elize, aka Scuba Babe, is a pro, so she put the rest of us at ease.
Leilani’s last diving stint was in Saudi Arabia, and since hubby took care of everything back then, she had no clue about what she was doing.
Wild Babe was born with fins and a regulator, so she needed no guiding at all. In fact, she was one of the guides who controlled the buoy line in the sea. The remaining seven babes were complete rookies.
It was time to focus… and to breathe and look cool. The theory was pretty understandable, but getting to know the gear was another matter. Getting into the wetsuits seemed almost impossible, but that done, the pool session was simply unbelievable!
While some of the babes took to breathing and moving under the water like a duck to water, others had to get their minds around it and conquer their fears. A few of the babes actually opted out.
When the Simply Scuba team were convinced that the rest of us were ready to go, we launched the pontoon with the Babe Mobile, took a few last photos, and off we went.
It didn’t take long for most of us to feel a bit queasy, despite the anti seasickness tablets we took. But with the moral support of the staff and camaraderie to feed on, we all did as we were told and fell backwards into the deep blue sea – not sure what to expect or how we would cope 12m down. But together, we felt as if we could do anything – and we did!
Despite a few stressful moments, we got the hang of it once we relaxed. The dive was incredible. Breathe and look cool, we kept telling ourselves. And boy, do we look cool in those underwater photographs!
Diving together and attempting something so far removed from our comfort zones was really special. We held hands while finning our way forward, pulling each other by the arm and pointing when we saw something beautiful.
We were really lucky. We saw a giant manta ray, a sea turtle, two white eels and many rock fish and other ocean beauties.
After 40 minutes, it was time to go back up. Back on the pontoon, the nausea returned for some, while others silently played the experience over and over in their minds.
After the long spell in the water, we had some time to rest before we got sucked into a night of partying as only the Ponta people can. Everyone knew that Leisure Wheels was in town and that a bevy of babes have arrived in a Babe Mobile. (It is admittedly kind of hard to miss the spectacle!)
Great music, great food, great people, a great dance floor with a great view and even a few great langarm moments – a skill we did not expect from the locals. Oh what a night!
Up with the birds again — some Babes a bit more broos (tender) than others… Today was a big day for those of us who had always dreamed of “dancing” with dolphins. We couldn’t wait! Since we knew what a big role the weather, the dolphins’ behaviour and good ole Lady Luck played in having any sort of encounter with dolphins, we didn’t want to get our hopes up but were beside ourselves with excitement, nonetheless!
Somente Aqua Dolphin Centre must be the most professionally run business in Ponta. It echoes class, style, pride and dedication.
Noleen Withers, owner, and Megan Williams, dolphin guide, are the epitome of all that is best in the business. They are also beautiful, blonde, sexy and savvy. They live dolphins. And so does their adopted black labrador, Kira, who goes out in the boat and swims with the dolphins, too.
After a thorough lecture on dolphins, dolphin behaviour, conservation and the things Somente stands for, we were ready to go. We were handed matching fins, masks and snorkels – another touch that puts Somente in a league of its own. The nice thing was that there was no need for wet suits. We’d swim in the flesh. Awesome!
We held hands – and our breaths — after we launched the boat and our skipper steered us into dolphin territory. When we eventually saw them playing in the waves – unexpectedly close to the beach — we nearly freaked out with excitement. For a second, the long lecture about being quiet was completely forgotten. Shhh, shhh!
Kira was equally excited. Leaning with her “elbows” over the edge of the boat, her body language changed as she zoned into her fellow mammals. True to what Noleen and Megan had told us, we could hear the dolphins long before we saw them.
“Ready — go”, we were instructed. We all jumped out and started swimming towards the dollies, following Noleen and Megan. But the dolphins weren’t keen on playing with us, so we got back into the boat.
The second time, we got a glimpse of a few of them under the water, but they were phantom-like in the bad visibility.
Third time lucky! Swimming towards the school, we heard them communicating, squeaking, and then, all of a sudden, they were everywhere!
They circled us, swam above us and below us, tumbled under the water and played with each other. They were so close we could touch them. It was an experience we have yet to find words for. Sacred and sublime are but two that come to mind.
And as suddenly as they appeared to play with us, so they faded into the void as if they had never been there.
Back on the boat we were in complete awe of what had happened.
The weather was perfect and the water was warm, so we made a quick stop at Doodles Reef, where we snorkelled for a while until the motion of the ocean took its toll, and we returned to the shore to get our babes’ feet back on mother earth.
The bond between the girls after the dolphin encounter was indescribable. We had shared something unique — something that few people are destined to experience.
Still dolphin dazed, we changed into our Bush Babe gear and set off for an afternoon of quad biking at Back to Basics. In true Bush Babe style, no one rushed for the biggest or newest quad – we chose the ones that matched our sunglasses!
Fun girl that she is, Wild Babe had bought each of us different coloured sunglasses for the trip. They looked super cool and will henceforth be a trademark on Bush Babes trips.
We had planned our visit to Mamoli Children’s Home for that afternoon as well, so Jannie and Andre needed to drive behind us in the Babe Mobile with all our stuff.
We attracted quite a bit of attention on the roads – a group of branded babes in uniform, sporting Smartie sunglasses, travelling in single file through sand and thicket. Heeee haaa!
En route, we stopped at a few interesting pubs and restaurants. Sunset Shack and Come to See were two of our favourites.
Our visit to the children’s home was heartbreaking! The children have no mattresses; there is no electricity, no running water, no furniture apart from rusted army style beds, with hardly any bedding or blankets. Little girls walk around with siblings strapped to their backs – they have no choice other than to raise their baby brothers or sisters as best they can. Their eyes are dull and serious. It was only when we started handing out toys and clothes that there was a flickering of “child” on their faces.
We have already planned a follow-up visit to take mattresses and blankets. They need all the help they can get.
On our way home we tried our wheels at a bit of dune driving. Despite it being loads of fun, we all agreed that even with quad bikes, you are really in trouble if there is no 4×4 option.
Back at Cafe Batuque we had time to titteweit and get pretty. We planned an authentic Bush Babes Christmas party on the patio, complete with self-made creative hats, gifts, crackers, the works!
Jannie and Andre were very surprised at what we managed to put together without them knowing. The seafood was out of this world, and as on the previous nights, the party was soon rocking! We danced the night away and chatted until the wee hours. Our Ponta Ambush was certain to end on a high note.
The most perfect day of our weekend! The sky was clear; the clouds perfect meringues of white floating above… and the sea bright, blue and warm. We couldn’t resist going to the beach for a while before leaving for Joburg. Sadly, there was no time for a proper swim, so we had to be satisfied with a few fun moments in the breakers.
It was difficult to say goodbye and admit that this, the mother of all weekends and adventures, had come to an end. We had achieved, overcome and mastered so many things in such a short time. Together we had cried, faced our fears, got sea sick, partied the night away, swum with sea turtles, danced with the dolphins, conquered dunes, mastered quad bikes and made a little difference in the lives of children who would probably never be as fortunate as we are.
We went home a sisterhood – or is it a “babehood”? — wanting to share what we’d done with other women out there. Our Ponta Ambush was an experience that changed our outlook on life.
Although the trip was intended as a recce to refine the planning of a similar trip in March, and a bosberaad to discuss and finalise the details of launching the Bush Babes Adventure and Safaris Club, it turned out to be so much more, and exceeded our wildest expectations.
For more photos and videos, visit the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club on Facebook.
To experience this magical trip with your girl friends, become a Bush Babe and book your place now. Space is limited. Contact Leilani on [email protected]