Life beyond the screen – your guide to a digital detox in Africa

I don’t know about you, but the fatigue I have is real! Pandemic fatigue, news fatigue, election fatigue and especially social media fatigue – I am exhausted! We are constantly bombarded with negativity, opinions and statistics from the moment we wake up until we put out heads on our pillows before one last scroll – pair this with lockdown for the last seven months and we’ve literally had no escape from our phones, computers and devices.

With #workfromhome being the – dare I say it – ‘new normal’ and schools turning to online learning as a long term solution, it is no surprise that screen time has rocketed over the last few months. There is no denying that technology and the internet have greatly improved our circumstances during this pandemic by enabling us, the social human species that we are, to interact and see one another on virtual platforms whether it be for work or leisure. Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Instagram and the likes are all remarkable applications that allow for seamless connectivity, but now that lockdown regulations are starting to ease, are we making time for life beyond the screen?

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There is a great deal of research to support the fact that people are spending more time on their devices now than ever before, myself included, but at what point do we say enough is enough? The concept of a Digital Detox is not a new one but in the current climate of COVID-19, it’s more relevant than ever. Oxford Languages describes a Digital Detox as a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world. Simple, right?

For most of us, being immersed in the digital world is just part of everyday life but with the universe at our fingertips, it is so easy to accidentally fall down the rabbit hole. There is no one reason for a temporary break-up with your phone or device but ultimately it comes down to the longing of fewer distractions, less stress and gaining control over addictive behaviour. The technology that we love so much may also be causing us harm in the long run and alarm bells might be going off that a digital detox is indeed required. Can you relate to any of the below points?

·       Technology Can be Stressful – The ever-present digital connection and constant need to keep checking emails, texts, and social media can contribute to higher stress levels.

·       Digital Devices can Disrupt Sleep – Screen time can interfere with sleep quality & quantity and the use of social media in bed at night increases the likelihood of anxiety & insomnia.

·       Constant Connectivity Affects Work/Life Balance – The feeling of always being connected can make it difficult to create boundaries between your home and work life, especially when you are on vacation.

·       Constant Social Comparison Makes it Hard to Be Content – Was it Roosevelt who said comparison is the thief of joy? Scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and comparing your life to those tiny curated glimpses of family, friends, complete strangers and celebs is a recipe for disaster – nobody has a perfect life.

So, what do we do? There is no one size fits all solution but in our experience as a boutique luxury travel company, disconnecting is truly the key to reconnecting. It’s time for a digital detox in Africa, and believe it or not, there are still places in the world where modernity hasn’t quite reached, and which are governed only by the rising sun and the rains.

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Dedicate a few days of your itinerary to switch off completely

If the idea of a whole holiday without your device induces anxiety or panic, then allocate a few nights of your African itinerary to a remote tented safari camp deep within the vastness that is the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Located on a distant stretch of the Selinda Spillway, in the heart of the private 130,000 hectare Selinda Reserve, Selinda Explorers is an intimate camp designed in the style of the early explorers. The camp’s magic lies in its expedition-style, with campaign furniture and vintage travelling trunks that lend an authentic, transient atmosphere to the camp. Technology really does feel out of place here.

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The heart of the camp is the Bedouin-style main area consisting of a lounge and dining room. The atmosphere of the camp is one of bush elegance with a relaxed bohemian style complemented by attentive staff, outstanding guiding and fabulous food. Nestled under jackalberry tree canopies are the four canvas tents, rekindling the magic of safaris gone by.

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Wildlife viewing is focused on guided walks in addition to drives, allowing guests to take in the smaller things often missed from a vehicle. The area is also a wildlife hotspot home to herds of elephant and buffalo with lion, leopard, African wild dog and sable and roan antelope seen on a regular basis. After days spent walking, while away the heat of the afternoon in a hammock, the perfect respite from the ‘daily grind’ of a traditional safari.

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  • Destination: Selinda Explorers in Botswana
  • Recommended length: 3-4 Nights
  • Perfect for: Families, friends, couples seeking a few days off the grid

Design a safari itinerary around camps without Wi-Fi

You need a longer break from your device and an opportunity to reboot. If you know that you will most likely sneak a peek at your emails when your dearly beloved isn’t looking, a more drastic approach might be required and all temptation removed. Luckily, we have the perfect solution – a ten night East African escape.

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Serian ‘The Original’ was the first of Alex Walker’s camps, and it perfectly captures the essence of its name: meaning ‘peaceful, calm, serene’ in the Masai language, it was designed to be a retreat from the bustle of modern life, and an opportunity to experience untamed Africa in traditional tented splendour.

Located in the private and exclusive Mara North Conservancy in Kenya, it is an intimate camp of just five vast and spacious tents. After a day out in your private safari vehicle, enjoy the ancestral ritual of communal fireplace and dining. By sharing your experiences with other guests (that’s right, other human beings), you will strengthen your memories for many years to come. Did I mention no wi-fi?

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Leave the Mara behind, and experience the most southern tip of the Serengeti in a mobile safari camp, Serian’s Serengeti South.  This part of the world is remarkable for its sheer mind-boggling immensity: think unending savannah, massive vaulted skies – and 2 million wildebeest giving birth to 400,000 calves within a period of 3 to 4 weeks. It’s vastness and numbers on a scale that stretches the boundaries of the imagination. Enjoy a safari on foot and spend time with the local guides. Part of the beauty of this spot is the Masai way of life in its most natural state, a simple life where modern technology has not quite reached.

This 10-night digital detox should leave you calmer, more focused and with a full heart from real human connection.

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  • Destination: Mara North Conversancy in Kenya & Southern Serengeti in Tanzania
  • Recommended length: 10 Nights
  • Perfect for: Busy individuals needing an escape from the city, families and couples looking to reconnect with one another.

The Digital Detox Sabbatical

Many modern-day people struggle to know where work ends and life begins, as they spend the bulk of their time in their working environment, which in 2020 could be at home. Sabbaticals are essentially an extended break away from work that creates the space to reset, put health and family first, and reignite passions. A Digital Detox during your sabbatical is perfect since you don’t need to be constantly available anyway, and you won’t have many obligations in your work and private life.

Sabbaticals are on the rise as more and more people recognise how rewarding and beneficial time out can be – especially in the current climate. For many people, a sabbatical is the one time that they can do the things they have always dreamed of, unhindered by the constraints or circumstances of everyday life.

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The options for a sabbatical in Africa are endless with so many amazing experiences to be had and the overall intention can differ greatly from person to person. For some, it’s catching up on sleep, relaxing and a focus on self-nurturing whilst for others it’s action and adventure all the way. It can be an opportunity to get to know your family or to reawaken curiosity and learn a new skill. Here are some inspirational ideas to include in your digital detox sabbatical:

  • Immerse yourself in a different culture, such as the Masaai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, and learn a completely new way of life.
  • Get back to nature through walking safaris and mobile fly camping expeditions in the South Luangwe National Park of Zambia.
  • Give back by getting involved in community initiatives in the rural communities of the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
  • Participate in wildlife conservation projects such as rhino tagging at Marataba Conservation Camps in South Africa.
  • Seek out wellness and mindfulness in a remote retreat on an island off the coast of Mozambique.
  • Spend time as a family with activities that ground and broaden perspectives, such as gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
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Ultimately, any trip to Africa is a personal gift to reconnect to self, to loved ones, and to the natural world around you. It changes you as a person and ignites something inside you didn’t know existed. We are all guilty of being consumed by our jobs, social media and our hectic schedules that we forget about real connection and a way of life that is uncomplicated and slow. Africa teaches us to be mindful in the most gentle way possible and shows us that a magnificent world really does exist beyond the four corners of a screen.

Here are a few helpful tips for a successful digital detox on your African safari:

  1. Be clear about your goals for your digital detox and decide on a starting and end point.
  2. Make a plan for any work related emails or social media to be monitored/checked on your behalf – preparation is key.
  3. Print your itinerary, be sure to pack actual books or magazines and pack a few games like a pack of cards or backgammon.
  4. Bring along a non-digital watch so you can check the time without your checking phone.
  5. If you have to connect with work or family, schedule ten minutes at a specific time of day when you can check in.
  6. Share your itinerary with a family member who will always have a contact number for you in case of an emergency
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