The sun is yet to set as we sit quietly watching three hippos who have been languishing in the waterhole, barely moving and semi submerged for the best part of 24 hours. It’s early and there’s a quiet joy in simply sitting and watching and waiting.
Almost as if one hippo mutters to the others ” ok, time to go now ” they all suddenly rise up from their almost fully emerged state, walk out of the waterhole and stride off behind the trees within a matter of minutes. I am sitting next to Jane, one of the visually impaired people who are on a traveleyes tour of Swaziland. I describe to her the scene before us and her face lights up, delighted to have witnessed these extraordinary animals finally making a full appearance after so long.
Traveleyes is a tour company with a difference. They offer worldwide holidays to visually impaired people ( vi’s) alongside sighted people. Each day a vi is paired with a sighted person and they spend the day together. It quickly becomes clear to me that the whole concept is about making new connections, sharing experiences and enjoying adventures together. And when I say adventures I mean it. Traveleyes have upcoming tours of Columbia, Peru, Burma and Cambodia amongst other far flung destinations .

Many of us have something to learn from a few of the people I met along along the way about not letting anything stop you in life. Ian who has taken almost 25 trips with Traveleyes to all manner of exotic locations and is looking forward to a trip to Indonesia and one to Madagascar in the latter part of this year. And Jane who is up for any adventure from horse riding to sky diving. I asked her if there was anything she wouldn’t do. Her reply was “no not really”. Then after a moments thought she replied ” actually I don’t like bungy jumping ”

We are at Hlane national park in the north east of Swaziland. My favourite of the three places we stay during our time in Swaziland. There is no electricity here so every night we come back from dinner to paraffin lanterns lit outside our beautiful round huts to help us find our way back at night. When the lanterns are all blown out and it is time to sleep, we lie there listening to the lions roar throughout the night, the occasional roar sounding alarmingly close to the huts. And it is the call of many different birds getting louder that alerts us to the approaching morning.

That afternoon during our safari we witness two lions playing the long grass, a group of giraffes in the trees and an elephant who is distinctly unhappy with our presence and trumpets repeatedly to ensure we make a hasty retreat in reverse in our Land Rover.
I feel like I have taken 3 days out of the real world and been immersed in a wonderfully slow paced African escape. Hlane has definitely stolen a little bit of my heart.

Through the remainder of the trip we visit a traditional healer, watch traditional Swaziland dancing and share a memorable last candlelit dinner complete with barbecued impala steaks and a wart hog family keeping warm by the open fire next to us. We all leave Swaziland having shared experiences and made many new friends.

You can also view a short documentary film that I made for Traveleyes online here