While commercial travel is no longer an indulgence reserved for the jet set, there remain countless destinations that are neither for the frugal nor the faint of heart. Championing this locally is A2A Safaris,  Asia’s first tour and safari specialists for Africa, Latin America, and Antarctica. As the company’s creative director, Tracie Anglo Dizon knows first hand what it means to venture out onto the road less traveled. Pulling from her experiences of tracking hunting lions with the Maasai and braving deadly canoe trips through Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, Dizon shares her counsel on maximizing an adventure, dismantling misconceptions, and raising the bar for local tourism.

Go without reservations

Go with an open mind, travel very light—just bring your essentials—and go with an adventurous spirit. Then you’ll have fun. If you’re constantly afraid, then you’re always going be worrying that you’re going to get eaten by a lion.

But know what to expect

The first time I went to Africa, I was also scared that I’d be eaten. We were in this jeep and we passed by a pride of 17 lions so close to us. The color drained from my face and I was crying. The guides were laughing at me hysterically. One told me, “They don’t see you! They just see the jeep.” That’s why you have to camouflage. You dress the same as nature so you don’t stand out. Just don’t think it’s so dangerous because then you’ll never go.

Rules are key to survival

You can track the lions on our tours and you get really near. You go with the Maasai, because their right of passage is to kill a lion, so they know how to do it and be safe. You just have to practice respect for the animals. When people don’t follow the rules, that’s very dangerous. That’s how people get mauled.

One time we were on a safari at night and we were tracking lions that were on a hunt. One guy couldn’t hold it, he said “I have to go pee.” The guide told him, “You can go in your pants, but you do not leave the jeep.” Then we all turned and the guy was gone. The guide went ballistic, but couldn’t get out of the jeep because he’d just agitate the animals. The lions had seen the guy, who was relieving himself by a tree with a lioness very nearby—but thankfully he got back to the jeep safely.

The experiences are the sites

What we at offer on our tours is experiential travel. Sometimes people just think of traveling as just seeing the sights. But if you go to Patagonia, there are no sights: it’s a mountain that you have to climb, or a glacier. Or you go to Antarctica, the ends of the Earth, and you have to sit on a boat for 20 days—it’s probably the closest you can get to seeing another planet.

The Earth is constantly changing—go while you can

Antarctica is not for the fainthearted, but it’s probably one of the most amazing places in the world. Our business partner just got back from a month-long trip there and he said, “I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life.” The ice is melting, so if you want to go, now’s the time.

Pick up ideas for home

The Africa model became the model for Latin America. They saw Africa and they thought, “How can we do that here?” There’s one guy with a fazenda who decided he wasn’t making money from his farm, so he made it a tourism hotspot. It’s beautiful: he converted this blue and white Brazilian hacienda from the 40s and made it a working farm and built casitas. I said it reminded me so much of the Africa experience, and he said, “Actually I went to Africa, to Botswana, and I realized I could do that here.”

For me, you take that same idea and put it here in the Philippines and it will work. I swear we can do it. We have the beauty in terms of the landscape. We can attract an international audience. How do sell the Philippines to a higher-end market? That’s always the question.

Interview by Jam Pascual

Illustration by Gica Tam

 

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