One of the great joys of running Mulberry Mongoose is the people we connect with along the way. Simon Reeve, Australian TV presenter and journalist, is without question one of those greats. Funny, open hearted, passionate and down to earth. His generosity of spirit meant he connected very quickly with Mulberry Mongoose and he has gone out of his way to endorse what we do.
Running through his veins is a deep love of Africa. His attraction to this continent is inspiring and heart warming. He put his money where his heart is and whisked a very young family away from the comforts of Australia to brave the African bush. I hope you enjoy his fabulous story told in his own words below.
By Simon Reeve
When we packed up our lives and crammed our suitcases bound for Botswana from Australia years ago, I had no real idea of what was in store for us. My partner Linda, our 20 months old daughter Stella and me, the bloke whose dream (and responsibility) this was. Naïve barely begins to describe it.
I’d fallen deeply, madly in love with Africa when I stepped off a Qantas plane for a show called Beyond 2000 in Zimbabwe in 1990. How different things were. Qantas flew to Harare once a week back then. Reporting from Kenya, South Africa and Zim for the Australian series ‘Wild Life’ in the 90’s, confirmed my feelings and I hatched a plan with some wonderful people at Kwando Safaris in Botswana to make a go of it.
We landed in Maun at the bottom of the Okavango Delta, beating the precious water from the Angolan highlands by just a week in 1999. The first thing I learned is that you must bend with Africa, to resist or push back is fatal. Asked to pen a foreword for a friend’s book a while back, I wrote that Africa is littered with the carcasses of well-meaning and wide-eyed outsiders. For every fiery red sunset you take in while sipping a gin and tonic, your own blood, sweat and many tears are in the soil.
Africa doesn’t surrender her treasures easily, just as it should be.
When you understand all this, the magic is slowly revealed. The unforgettable aroma of wild sage. The first call of the woodland kingfisher heralding the arrival of summer. The soft-spoken dignity of a village elder, an economy of words, each one infused with wisdom.
Two years of adventures and travel, highs and lows, with a lifelong appreciation of the lessons we learned. Humility, gratitude, simple pleasures.
Returning to Botswana and Zambia for a family holiday (with our 2 kids) in 2015, we re-united with dear old friends and made new ones, like the wonderful Andy Hogg who heads up the Bushcamp company from Mfuwe Lodge, doing so much good for communities. The incredible and inspiring Rachel McRobb from Conservation South Luangwa.
I wanted Stella and Sam to understand the complexities of conservation in countries like Zambia and Botswana. How poverty might force anyone’s hand into an act of desperation. How money and greed can poison people, even well-intentioned ones. How wildlife pays the price for our flaws and failings.
Mulberry Mongoose takes the worst of us and turns it into something meaningful. Simple, stunning elegance from the hideous and painful. In a way, this small company represents the very best of Africa and all its possibilities. To make the most of what you have, to put back and contribute to the greater good. The bonds of community welded to the beauty and style of the Zambian people.
“The biggest takeaway that my time in Africa instilled in me was my love for animals and my sense of the largeness of life. I think being able to experience the excitement of a game drive and having meerkats, hornbills and baboons right outside your window as a child has implanted a lifelong obsession with all animals. Even though my dog Beans is a far cry from a painted dog, you never lose your sense of awe for the animal kingdom. That’s why the Mulberry Mongoose jewellery is such a unique and touching idea. It’s taking the cruelty of snare traps and creating something beautiful as reminder of the responsibility we have to protect these precious animals. My dad has always said that living in Africa was “really living not just existing” and even though I was a child when I was there, it’s grown with me into my adulthood" - Stella
We can’t make our kids love something, but we can hopefully show them the way. My great hope is that Stella and Sam can return time and again in the future to African soil, long after the pandemic has faded to the background of our lives.
Africa is always with me, the unique spirit of the wilderness and the people, forever tugging at those heartstrings.