1. Suzanne Brown, wife, mother, and woman who wears many hats. Tell us a little about your childhood, where you are originally from, and how you wound up living in Africa and Zimbabwe more specifically.
Sitting outside on the veranda under the African sky makes me on reflect how blessed my life is and has been to date. I was born in the Southern part of the Netherlands, on one of its many canals. From my bedroom window, I could watch the boats go by and I always wondered where they came from and where they were going. I come from a big family of six girls and the doors of our home were always wide open. We frequently had more than 8 people around the breakfast table. We often had the children of sailing parents come to stay and they had fascinating stories on their adventures living on boats
Being from a busy family, my dad sought solace in the quietness of nature. I joined him on many occasions and learned about the flora & fauna of our country. He taught me how to fish, row a boat, listen to the birds, and appreciate nature. The first music album I fell in love with was “Africa” by Toto and this sparked an interest in this beautiful continent that I now call home.
On one of my birthdays my dad gave me the book “Tippi Child in Africa” and the pictures about the vastness and wildlife, far greater than what I was used to in the Netherlands, made me even more intrigued and I thought how wonderful it must be for a child to grow up in Africa.
Fast forward many years later, I found myself working in the UAE at the prestigious Al Maha Desert Resort, part of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Here is where I met Luke among the desert sands of Arabia. He is a child of Africa and his stories made me yearn to explore the continent and traverse the paths that he has been walking in the wildlife areas of Zimbabwe and its neighboring countries.
Today, 15 years later in 2022, I call Africa my main home.
2. You grew up to have a penchant for travel and hospitality, spending several years in this space across different regions of the world including the Middle East. What about this industry piqued your interest?
Whilst growing up our family travels were always within a 500km radius of home. I knew from an early age that the furthest place from us was 20,000 km away, hence there were plenty more kilometres to explore. This made me think carefully on what I wanted to become. The following jobs piqued my interest; an F16 fighter pilot came to mind or joining the Royal Marines. Mothers, however, know their daughters best and mine guided me in the direction of international business and hospitality, which still meant I could travel and meet people from all corners of the globe.
Still was not entirely convinced I took a gap year to complete an international business course in Vancouver. Where I made life-long friends. After my time in the Rockys, I flew to Latin America and spent several months traveling around exotic places, staying with the families of my new friends.
This part in my life was crucial because it cemented my mother’s advice on what direction to choose.
Thereafter, my first port of call was the UK where I studied international business and hospitality and worked in Manchester for nearly 5 years. It was here where entered the world of Leading Hotels landing a position at the prestigious Lowry Hotel. My next job took me to Dubai in 2004 where I took on the post of Food & Beverage manager for Al Maha Desert Resort. Of course little did I know that here is where I met my future husband.
3. You are presently raising your two daughters in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls region, and oftentimes enjoy remarkable opportunities to be out with them in nature. In a digital age when today’s youth are often glued to screens, do weigh in on what benefits the outdoors avails to young minds in your view?
Our children have inherited the travel bug from both of their parents and so we stimulate them as much as possible to explore and venture out, using all their senses.
We travel a lot and they join us 90% of the time. Nine-year-old Charlotte and eight-year-old Annabelle were both born in Zimbabwe and have been fortunate to live in 3 different continents to date. They have already learned about different cultures, religions, languages, and landscapes.
As a family, we are all world citizens but Victoria Falls always call us back and has cemented its place as base number one. Our two young explorers have inquisitive minds and believe in research, observation, and implementation. The wilds of Africa hold many lessons in: science, geography, biology, and mathematics.
The girls like to relate back to what the world around them offers, often reading further on the subjects and experiences that they have. For instance, Charlotte will never leave home without her bird and insect books, whilst Annabelle carries the binoculars around her neck along with notebook pens and Lego in a girlie, fluffy, pink bag. Like all modern children, they get some screen time in on their iPads but when you live in a place like Victoria Falls, this is far less than most, with the preference being for an outdoor over a sedentary life indoors.
4. Talk to us a little bit about why you are known to many as “Safari Mum”? How did this nickname come about?
Our Brown clan unit is called “The Safari Family” so the term Safari Mum has come about by default. Safari comes from the Arabic word safar, which means “embarking on a journey”. I feel that I have been on a journey all my life and have been blessed to have a tribe around me that shares this passion. I am a mum, an explorer and I am passionate about the African Safari.
5. Conservation and wildlife protection are topics of huge importance to yourself, your husband Luke, and wider family? Why is this so and how has your involvement in this space become a part of your children’s learning curve?
We firmly believe we must take up the responsibility of helping to preserve and protect our wild spaces. We don’t own this planet but we are caretakers and need to look after it for generations to come. The greatest lessons in life are found in nature and none of us need to venture out far to find them.
Conservation is not a word anymore that is reserved only for scientists, researchers, activists, and policyholders. There is a shift happening in front of our eyes as many are now awakening to the importance of Conservation and Biodiversity. Modern media has contributed to this. More and more young people are embracing the mantra of people and nature together, understanding that we are connected allowing this topic to be more popular.
Luke and I share a passion for wildlife and nature. Luke studied Zoology and our girls have been brought up appreciating God’s creatures and learning about what makes each and every one of them special, even that the tiny and “annoying” mosquito has a role to play. With this background, we formed the Zambesia Conservation Alliance (ZCA). together with Luke’s brother Robin, who is also very passionate about this field. The mandate of ZCA is to unite frontline conservation efforts in the Zambesia region together and drive support more effectively to them.
To do this we have created a platform that amplifies the voices and efforts of those in Africa who work tirelessly for wildlife. We actively seek out local solutions and yearn to help show the world that Africa can be a leader in this field.
6. Suzanne on tourism entrepreneurship. How do you balance building a business in travel with the demands of parenting? What is that balance for you?
Embracing each day, living in the now, and making time for family, exercise, and work form part of my daily slogan. Women can multi-task and I actually love the chaos and diversity in my life as it gives me energy. I am very fortunate to have a husband on my side who is my best friend, who balances me out and shares the zest for life, adventure, and growth. We are equals who move as Team and raising our girls together.
One of the decisions we made earlier in the year is to put our girls onto a wonderful home-guided schooling program. Our mobile existence where we regularly move between continents has necessitated this brought routine in all our lives. Fortunately, our girls have willingly embraced this new way of learning and thriving on it. We also involve our girls in family decisions, listening to their opinions and suggestions we don’t move forwards unless everybody is comfortable.
7. Can you share with us your take on trends in multigenerational travel? What sort of experiences do you find more families traveling with children are presently looking for in a post-Covid era?
Coming out of Covid has united families and we see more and more multi-gen trips where the grandparents are at the helm.
Having a wide range of different ages, expectations, interests, and abilities makes planning the perfect family itinerary a rewarding project. I love wearing different hats and putting myself in the shoes of children, the parents who want a break, the grandparents who want family time, and the boisterous teenagers who are in search of adrenaline activities. Africa offers enough diversity to tick all the boxes
8. Top 5 destinations in Africa to travel with children and why?
Over the past few years, Africa has become a family destination, but not all destinations are family-friendly. Therefore choosing the right one requires some homework. My top 5 are (no points for guessing) Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, and Tanzania.
Zimbabwe because of its people, the rich wildlife, diversity, and the Victoria Falls.
South Africa due to its varied camps and wonderful child programs and of course, everybody loves Cape Town.
Namibia has amazing high dunes on the Atlantic, vast open spaces, and fascinating nomadic tribes.
Malawi has a lake with its colorful cichlids, which is safe to swim in and there are some lovely safaris areas too.
Tanzania allows you to have your own guide throughout, and it remains the home of the Lion King from Crater to Serengeti.
9. Let’s switch to a little practical advice for moms traveling with children on safari. Share 3 dos and 3 don’ts of traveling with children under 10 years of age.
Charlotte and Annabelle fall into this category and the three do’s and don’ts that we have first-hand experience with are the following:
- Check that the camps have attentive staff and natural barriers so that the child(ren) can’t wander off by themselves.
- Start with preparing the child(ren) at home on safari etiquettes on the do’s and don’ts but also keep the energy exciting by encouraging them to make a list of the top 10 animals they would like to see whilst doing a little bit of research on all of them.
- Gift you kids a pair of simple binoculars, an African animal check list and a floppy safari hat.
- Promise that you will see all the animals on the list (i.e. pangolins are a rare sighting).
- Wear the brightest, most sparkly, and most fashionable clothes. These will only scare the animals away.
- Take iPads with you on the game drive. Encourage the children to listen and engage with the guide, they will come away with a wealth of knowledge.
10. If you were to offer one piece of advice about experiencing the best of nature with busy moms such as yourself, what would that be?
Mothers are busy people, so this is a chance to take out. Look at the little things and marvel at its creation. After all, the earth itself is female, we never talk about father nature.