Slow Safari

In sub-Saharan Africa, Chem Chem and Ponya offer a more immersive, reflective, healing jungle expedition.
Chem Chem aims to create a balanced, nature-centered experience. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

By Fabia Bausch

I grew up in and with nature, and that meant exploring it on foot, blending into it with the rhythms of my breath, my heart. There were many sacred, silent moments when I let go and felt nature. A freedom began to unfold before me and within me. 

When I first traveled to sub-Saharan Africa to “do” safaris, I was very confused and a little disappointed—not by the animals, the environment, the accommodation (maybe the food didn’t impress me), but mainly by the way a safari had to be “done.” In my safari truck, which I had to share with seven other strangers, I’d hear the voice of a charming—but definitely overconfident—guide trying to explain everything around us. I just wish he’d let nature speak for itself. 

Bausch alongside a Maasai warrior. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

We have become so disconnected from the true mysticism of nature, from the ancient energy that created us all, by our desire to understand everything. Perhaps we are afraid to just be, and open up to the answers that will come, but we don’t have time to be still anymore. My favorite children’s book comes to mind, a fantasy tale about time called Momo by Michael Ende: If we have the courage to slow down, we will become the richest person on Earth—not missing anything, not being late for anything, no “wrong time,” always in the moment.

Guests can encounter herds of big tusker elephants on safari. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

Back then, I was working for one of the leading investment banks in Europe. I loved the work; it challenged me and made me think outside the box. A few years later, I decided to leave the financial world, with great memories, many things learned (that had nothing to do with finance) and a big dose of curiosity about what life would hold. My partner, Nicolas Negre, and I decided to turn a utopia, a dream, into reality. In Tanzania, one of the last places where the wilderness was still wild, we founded Chem Chem Safari, a small safari business that focused on an ancient wildlife corridor in need of restoration. 

A family enjoying a rustic bush breakfast. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

When developing Chem Chem, I remembered my early safari experiences, and really wanted to create a different environment, a place where nature invites us to immerse ourselves in it. Where no one tells us when to do what (like in a boarding school), but where we have the opportunity to live life at our own pace, sit down and just be. 

Our safari concept was slowly but surely introduced. Living in the Rift Valley surrounded by ancient volcanoes, I feel healing energy that lives gently in the trees, the lakes and the animals. That’s when I felt the need to dig deeper and see if maybe we could create a little cocoon with all the energy, patience and excitement of nature, the vibrations and the forgiveness of nature. Ponya was born. Ponya means “to heal” in Swahili.

Chem Chem offers scenic hot-air ballooning. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

Our Ponya menu contains only organic produce and local superfood ingredients, and focuses on a healing balance. We offer silent walks through the bush with a private guide. You will stroll for 30 to 45 minutes on the short grassy plains toward Lake Manyara, right next to the Rift Valley. After the walk, the Maasai guide will light an organic fire, letting the flames take over and releasing negative thoughts and emotions. After meditating around the fire for 10 minutes, the silence will be interrupted by a few deep conscious breaths. A warm organic baobab tea will be served.

On Chem Chem’s slow safari, fire cleanses and purifies. Photo courtesy of Chem Chem

We believe in the healing power of the environment. Downsizing, reducing and making space for emptiness is part of the healing process, allowing you to reconnect purely to your inner compass, your inner voice. 

Ponya focuses on overall well-being. It encourages each of us to be true to ourselves, to believe in our callings and dreams. Ponya is dedicated to a conscious lifestyle where we try to be present in every moment, without losing curiosity. We believe that with a strong connection to nature, we have more energy, are better able to deal with emotional and physical challenges, are better able to free ourselves from negativity and are more open to the unknown. We believe that fears, shame, guilt and grief can be smoothed and transformed into feelings that do not hurt us. The energy of nature supports us in following our dreams, believing in our calling, dancing with our happiness.