It’s been far over a year, with many hurdles, red tape, politics and other challenges to overcome until we could officially launch the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club. Suddenly everything fell perfectly into place in the most effortless and seamless way imaginable. Isuzu is sponsoring us with a Babe Mobile, Isuzu Off-Road Academy is taking care of our 4x4 training across the country, Explore Africa is heading the safaris, Hi-Tech is kitting out the crew and Mammoth Outdoor is making sure our babes have everything they need for the bush. All that was left to be done was plan the biggest, best and most babelicious Bush Babe bash to date: the Ponta Ambush!
Text: Leilani BassonPhotography: Jannie Herbst
Then...To refresh the memory of regular readers and put new readers into the picture, the Bush Babes initiative was born in October 2010. Leisure Wheels invited a few women (typical girlie girls) who represent a new market of affluent women who want to enjoy the outdoors and 4x4 lifestyle, to Marloth Park to get to know each other in preparation for one camping story.The idea showed immense potential and morphed into the Bush Babes brand and a series of articles, The Hairdryer Expeditions, where these women acted as pioneers to discover new grounds on behalf of all the women out there who’ve always wanted to do the 4x4 thing, but were either too scared or too intimidated by the men in their lives.These babes set out on various adventures to create a following and female presence in Leisure Wheels magazine. They learned to 4x4, camped in Lesotho and Botswana, showered under the stars, rode on elephant back, participated in 4x4 competitions, conquered huge dunes, mastered scuba diving and swam with dolphins.The demand from women wanting to join us on these adventures kept growing as we went along. This prompted us to open the Bush Babes Club to all women out there and not confine it to an elite group of girls. We want to share it. With women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes who like roughing it, without toughing it. Who likes camping, but prefers to stay in lodges. Who likes to let their hair down, but without leaving their dignity at the tent’s zipper.It took a while to get all the right sponsors and partners on board – sponsors and partners that share our vision and passion to get women out from behind the stove and laptop and into the bush where they can be free to be themselves again – without the pretence and pressure of what life expects them to be every day.
Now...We are ever so proud to announce that Isuzu came on board big time to make the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club possible. Not only have they sponsored us with a brand new Isuzu KB double cab that will be the Babe Mobile on all future trips, adventures and safaris, but they are our main sponsor too. With the Babe Mobile, which is now fully wrapped and boldly branded, came seat and floor covering courtesy Takla, off road tyres from Continental and ....The Isuzu Off-Road Academy is taking care of all our 4x4 events across the country to give ladies in all provinces the training they need to conquer any terrain on future Bush Babes adventures and safaris.Explore Africa Adventures, who has been a loyal partner and sounding board since the beginning, are now on board full time and will be presenting the most wonderful and exclusive women only safaris throughout 2012 and beyond. Leisure Wheels has worked with Explore Africa for many years and are confident that they are a perfect match for the Bush Babes. With Andre van Vuuren, the father figure and chaperone, Explore Babe, Andre’s adventurous daughter and Andre’s wife, Mariana or Mu Babe who accompanies the babes on all these trips, a more wholesome environment and set-up is hard to find.Hi Tec is our other big sponsor who will be supplying the crew with clothes and gear and other prizes for members from time to time.Mammoth Outdoor have come on board with a 15% discount on all outdoor gear ordered online and is giving each babe a valuable Petzl headlamp when they join. LA Sport is also offering products to new members.
To celebrate all of this and kick off on a high note, we planned a killer launch trip to Ponta Do Oura with 10 Bush Babes. This trip would also suffice as a recce for the first official Bush Babes Safari in March that is open to all our female readers. Bush Babes Ponta Ambush This trip has been long overdue. Wild Babe, one the first Bush Babes to join Leisure Wheels on 4x4 adventures for women, bought the very popular Cafe Del Mar restaurant and lodge in Ponta a year ago. She renamed it Cafe Batuque and since she took ownership, we’ve been planning to have our launch trip there. When everything fell in place so perfectly, one phone call was all it took. Wild Babe was in! With her contacts in Ponta, we managed to put together an adventure weekend of ginormous proportions. With Andre’s (Explore Africa) help, all the details and nitty gritty was taken care of to make this weekend as exciting and flawless as possible. Apart from our long term, gorgeous and very capable overlanding Babe Mobile, Isuzu sponsored us with two more KB’s for our ambush.
Everyone had to meet at Delisha’s home on the East Rand. Delisha has a knack for being late, or should be say, she often gets delayed by unforeseen circumstances. So, the reasoning was that if we meet and depart from her home, she would have no choice other than to be on time. (Delish, you did us proud, Babe!)What eventually did delay us, was the magnitude of stuff the Babes managed to collect and buy for the children’s home we were to visit during our trip. We had bakkie loads full of boxes that had to fit into three double cabs...together with dive gear, our customary not-so-light luggage and liquid encouragement.Everyone was wildly excited about this launch trip. This was the most important one – the one that would set the standard for trips to come.Where we planned to leave at 05:00 sharp, we hit the road closer to 06:00. Andre and Jannie worked out a better route for us, since our Kosi Bay excursion - just over a month ago - could have been compared to a vacation to Cape Town. Now, Delisha might get delayed quite often, but she surely has a sense of direction. “Leila, is jy seker ons ry in die regte rigting?” she continuously checked over the radio and later by cell phone as to not stress out the rest of the passengers. But, completely wrong as it seemed, we reached Ponta at about 03:30. If it wasn’t for the hold up at the border and the attempts of officials to confiscate the goodies for the children’s home, we would have made it long before 14:00. Every babe had the opportunity to put on her award-winning big-eyed, tearful, “how can you be so cruel”- look to change the minds of these seemingly heartless officials.
After tough negotiations, we were more than ready for R&Rs – Ponta’s potent and potentially fatal concoction of rum with a splash of raspberry (or rooi partytjie koeldrank, as we know it).But first, we had to get stuck a few times. And no – this had nothing to do with the capability of our unstoppable Isuzu KBs, the brown KB was just not in the right ‘mode’. So, diff lock on, four low, and ready go! Out of sand. No problemo!Fernando’s stood out like a welcome oasis beckoning in a hot, humid desert. We enjoyed the odd drink and joke at Fernandos (ja right!). Lee, who has officially been dubbed Ener Babe (since she just keeps going like the Duracell bunny) had the entire bar in stitches. Everything she does is hilarious. Wild Babe came to fetch us from Fernandos to take us to our beautiful accommodation at Cafe Batuque – Bali styled rooms in a tropical setting – just perfect for an exotic sea holiday. We paired off and decided who was to sleep with whom, so that Jannie and Andre could have some time by themselves. We then joined up at Cafe Batuque’s bar – an unrivalled wooden patio overlooking the ocean. We quickly learned that Wild Babe’s place is not only renowned for its gorgeous owner and wonderful food, but for the joll it offers when the sun goes down.
We were up very early. The itinerary said: Scuba Diving – Discover Scuba resort course. Eish! We walked a short distance from Cafe Batuque to Simply Scuba’s prime site on the beach front. We were nervous as hell. Our instructions were really simple though: “Breathe and look cool.” Richard Ashmun is one cool guy, alright! In his black wetsuit with a shocking pink skeleton printed onto it, and a joke and cute smile at all times, it was easy to relax. One of our new recruits, Elize aka Scuba Babe, is a pro, so she put the rest of us at ease. Leilani’s last diving stint was in Saudi Arabia. And since hubby took care of everything back then, she had no clue what she was doing either. Wild Babe was literally born with fins and a regulator, so she needed no guiding at all. She in fact was one of the guides who controlled the buoy line in the sea. The remaining seven babes were complete rookies.It was time to focus...and to breathe and look cool. The theory was pretty understandable. Getting to know the ‘gear’ a bit debatable. Mariet in her bikini almost edible. Getting into the wetsuits almost impossible and the pool session simply unbelievable!While some took to breathing and moving under the water like a duck to well, uhm, water, some had to get their minds around it and conquer their fears first.
A few of the babes opted out eventually. When the Simply Scuba team were convinced that the remaining lot were ready to go, we launched the pontoon with the Babe Mobile, took a few last photos and off we went. It didn’t take very long for most of us to become sea sick – despite the anti sea sick tablets we took. But, alas, with the moral support and camaraderie to feed from, we all fell backwards into the deep blue – not sure what to expect or how we would cope 12 meters under the surface. But together, we felt as if we could do anything! And we did!Despite a few very stressful moments, once we started relaxing we got the hang of it. The dive was incredible. Breathe and look cool, we kept telling ourselves. And boy, do we look cool on those underwater photos. Diving together and attempting something so far removed from our comfort zones, was really special. We held hands while finning our way forward, pulling each other by the arm and pointing when we saw something beautiful. We were really lucky: a giant manta ray, a sea turtle, two white eels and many rock fish and other ocean beauties.After 40 minutes, we started ascending. Back on the pontoon...the nausea returned for some, while others silently played the incredibility of it all over and over in their minds.After an entire day in the water, we had some time to rest before we got sucked into a night of partying as only the Ponta people can.
Everyone knew that Leisure Wheels was in town and that a bevy of babes have arrived in a Babe Mobile. (It is admittedly kind of hard to miss the spectacle.)Great music, great food, great people, a great dance floor with a great view and even a few great lang-arm moments – a skill we did not expect from the locals. Oh what a night!
Up with the birds again. Some Babes a bit more broos (tender) than others... Today was a big day for those of us who have always dreamt of ‘dancing’ with dolphins! We couldn’t wait! Since we knew what a big role the weather, the dolphins’ behaviour and good ole’ Lady luck played in having any sort of encounter with dolphins, we didn’t want to get our hopes up, but were beside ourselves with excitement, nonetheless! Somente Dolphin Encounters must be the most professionally run business in the whole of Ponta. It echoes class, style, pride, dedication and passion. Noleen Withers, owner and Megan Williams,dolphin guide, are the epitome of exactly that. Beautiful, blonde, sexy and savvy. They live dolphins. And so does their adopted black Labrador, Kira, who goes out on the boat and swims with the dolphins too. After a thorough lecture on dolphins, dolphin behaviour, their conservation and the ... that Somente stands for, we were ready to go. We were handed matching fins, masks and snorkels – another touch that puts Somente in a league of their own. The nice thing was that there was no need for wet suits. In the flesh. Awesome!We held hands – and our breaths - after we launched the boat and our sexy skipper steered us into dolphin territory. When we eventually saw them playing in the waves – unexpectedly close to the beach - we all nearly freaked out with excitement. The long lecture about being quiet was completely forgotten for a second. Shhh, shhh! Kira was equally excited.
Leaning with her ‘elbows’ over the edge of the boat, one could see her body language change as she zoned into her fellow mammals. True to what Noleen and Megan told us, we would hear the dollies long before we see them. “Ready go”, we were instructed. We all jumped out and started swimming towards the dollies, following Noleen and Megan. They weren’t keen on playing with us, so we got back into the boat. The second time, we got a glimpse of a few of them under the water, but they were phantom-like in the bad visibility.Third time lucky! Swimming towards the herd, we heard them communicating, squeaking and .... Then, all of a sudden, they were everywhere! They circled us, swam above and beneath us, tumbled under the water and played with each other. They were so close that we could literally touch them. It was an experience that we have yet to find words for. Sacred and sublime are but two that come to mind. And as suddenly as they appeared to play with us, as suddenly they faded into the void as if they were never there.Back on the boat we were in complete aw. While the weather was perfect and the water was warm, we made a quick stop on Doodles reef, where we snorkelled for a while until the motion of the ocean took its toll and we had to rush back to the shore to get our babes’ feet back on mother earth.The bond between us girls after the dolphin encounter is indescribable...we shared something so unique...something that very, very few people are destined to experience.Still dolphin dazed (and some alcohol hazed from the night before), we got dressed in our Bush Babe gear and set off for an afternoon of quad biking at Back to Basics. In true Bush Babe style, no one rushed for the biggest or newest quad – we chose the ones that matched our sunglasses. Fun girl that she is, Wild Babe bought each of us different colour sunglasses for the trip. It looked super cool and will hence on be a trademark on Bush Babes trips.
We had our visit to Mamoli Children’s home planned for that afternoon as well, so Jannie and Andre needed to drive behind us in the Babe Mobile with all our stuff.We attracted quite a bit of attention on the roads – a group of branded babes in uniform, sporting Smartie sunglasses, travelling in single file through sand and thicket. Heeee haaa! Enroute we stopped at a few interesting pubs and restaurants. Sunset Shack and Come to see were two of our favourites.Our visit to the children’s home was heartbreaking! The children have no mattresses; there is no electricity, no running water, no furniture apart from rusted army style beds with hardly any bedding or blankets. Little girls walk around with siblings strapped to their backs – they have no choice other than raising their baby brothers or sisters. Their eyes are dull and serious. It was only when we started handing out toys and clothes that there was a flickering of ‘child’ on their faces. We have already planned a follow up visit to take mattresses and blankets. They need all the help they can get.On our way home we tried our wheels at a bit of dune driving too! Despite it being loads of fun, we all agreed that even with quad bikes, you are really stuffed if there is no 4x4 option.Back at Cafe Batuque we had time to titteweit and get pretty. We planned an authentic Bush Babes Christmas party on Cafe Batuque’s patio – complete with self-made creative hats, gifts, crackers, the works! Jannie and Andre were very surprised at what we managed to put together without them knowing. The seafood was out of this world, and as with all the previous nights, the party was rocking! We danced the night away and chatted until the wee hours of the morning. Our Ponta Ambush was certain to end on a climax.
The most perfect day of our weekend! We couldn’t resist going to the beach for a while before leaving to go back to Joburg! The sky was clear; the clouds perfect meringues of white floating above... and the sea bright, blue and warm. Sadly there was no time for a swim. So we had to be satisfied with a few fun moments in the breakers.It was sad to say goodbye and admit that this, the mother of all weekends and adventures, has come to an end. We have achieved, overcome and mastered so many things in such a short time. Together we cried, faced our fears, got sea sick, partied the night away, swam with sea turtles, danced with dolphins, conquered dunes, mastered quad bikes and made a difference to the lives of children who will probably never be as fortunate as we are.We went home a sisterhood. A babehood of women wanting to share what we’ve experienced with other women out there. Our Ponta Ambush was an unequalled experience that changed our lives forever. Although this trip was intended as a recce to refine the planning of this same trip in March and a bosberaad to discuss and finalise the finer details of launching the Bush Babes Adventure and Safaris Club, it turned out being so much more and exceeded our wildest expectations. This is one weekend that none of us will ever forget. Sacred...sublime...are two words that come to mind.
For more photos and videos on this life-changing trip, visit the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club on Facebook or visit www.bushbabes.co.za. To experience this magical trip with your girl friends, become a Bush Babe and book your place now. Space is limited. Contact Leilani aka Leisure Babe on email@example.com
Our earnest thanks to:
Noleen and Megan from Somente Aqua Dolphin Centre: 0025 884 260 3229, 00258842429864, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.somenteaqua.com
Stuart, Richard, Zelda and Siobhan from Simply Scuba: 011 678 0972, 083 601 2233, email@example.com, www.simplyscuba.co.za