RdV with Alice Callander

Born free on a remote farm in Western Victoria, Australia, Alice threw in a job in the City ten years ago to found the Sally and Alice Travel Company: peerless curators of luxury safaris, idyllic honeymoons and unique beach breaks.

RdV:  What a great picture. I love the bike.

AC:  Well, I was a bit spoilt. We went on a luxurious baby moon just before my second son Freddie was born to Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives and I used to cycle round the hotel every morning for my work out wearing your lovely robe which has those really useful over the bump belt-loops.

RdV:  How would you define luxury?

AC:  Luxury is a funny one. Some people might associate luxury with white gloved butlers or 5 star hotel suites with flat screen TVs— but then there's a different kind of luxury in being surrounded by incredible scenery or being somewhere completely remote. If you’re staying at Serra Cafema, a camp tucked away in the far north west corner of Namibia bordering Angola, luxury is the privilege of being in pristine wilderness alongside the local Himba people whilst still enjoying delicious food and comforts. 

RdV:  Luxury means different things to different people.

AC:  Exactly. Even the price of luxury lodges and camps can be misleading to clients if you don’t sell it in the right way. I sent a client to Vamizi Island in Mozambique a few years ago and she freaked out because there was a gecko in her room, which was open-sided. She had obviously been expecting a different type of luxury, so that was a lesson.

RdV:  How did you get into luxury travel? Are you from a luxe background?

AC: Not at all. Our family holidays were going to the beach an hour from our farm in Victoria where the water comes straight up from Antarctica, so a far cry from the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. But I had a very idyllic childhood growing up on our sheep farm. Hiking in the mountains. Mucking about. It was heaven enough. I never wore clothes, shoes...I was a bit of a wild thing.

RdV:  When did you get bitten by the travel bug?

AC:  I started my obsession with Africa after I read “Out of Africa” when I was eleven or twelve. I picked it up in the house and the first line “I had a farm in Africa…” just really struck me.

RdV:  Is there a similarity between Africa and Australia?

AC:  I’m sounding a bit like a tribal elder now but I feel I have a real connection with the land, especially in Africa and Australia. When I go home to the farm or hike up in the mountains there is something about the colours and the smell of the dry grass that you just can’t recreate in Europe. The air is always quite heavy and it feels very ancient - almost a bit melancholy. I just love it. And I think in Africa you feel that same connection to the earth that you don’t feel anywhere else in the world…

RdV:  Where was your first adventure in Africa?

AC:  Dad always promised he’d take me before I was 21 but he never did! So I came over to London in my early twenties and was working at Morgan Stanley in Canary Wharf - a wind tunnel without a blade of grass - but after a couple of years realised that it was a disastrous career for me.  I resigned in 2007 before all the drama and took myself off on a fairly last minute trip to go and meet some Australian friends who were working in Uganda on a volunteer project in a little town called Bujagali Falls.

RdV: Where did you go from there?

AC:  Before I left London I’d got in contact with the manager of a safari lodge in Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris, and after a very brief interview on the phone he told me if I could make my own way out to South Luangwa National Park around October that they could use the extra set of hands….

RdV:  That’s pretty brave.

AC:  I look back now and think half the stuff I did then I’d never do now…taking a 40 hour train ride from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka without taking anything to eat (some lovely local women on the train had to feed me), doing a microlight flight across Vic Falls, hitchhiking across Botswana...

RdV: But you made it to the lodge?

AC:  Yes, finally. They first showed me to one of the guest rooms on my first night and I thought, wow, this isn’t too bad...but then moved me across to the staff quarters which wasn’t so luxurious.

RdV:  Was working at the lodge an epiphany?

AC:  I would say looking back it was the first time I realised I could do a job that combined everything I loved – Africa, adventure, working with people. Each night I would sit down and have a meal with the clients and talk about the game drives and the animals we’d seen.

RdV:  So you like hosting?

AC:  I always say I’m an introvert...but anyone who knows me snorts and says that’s ridiculous.

RdV:  Are there any essentials you take on safari?

AC:  Yes, I’ve got a shelf in my cupboard with all my safari clothes.

RdV:  Will your return to live on your farm in Australia?

AC:  One of my biggest sadness’s living in London is seeing the size of the garden that my boys get to play in. They're not going to grow up the way I did. So I really want my kids to know Australia. I want them to know the colours and the smells.

RdV:  Yes, it’s half their DNA.

AC:  Although I’ll be almost bred out within a generation which is pretty devastating! Australia’s not necessarily beautiful to everyone: the first European settlers thought it was the most godforsaken, arid, stony place they’d ever been; and the early European painters couldn’t quite paint the eucalyptus trees in the right way because they were so foreign and different; but yes, I’d like my kids to have a deep appreciation of it.

RdV:  Are you a sun seeker?

AC:  I was massively sun obsessed through my teens but now that I look like Paul Hogan I’m regretting it.

RdV: Which destinations are on your bucket list?

AC: Too many! But off the top of my head... Greystoke Mahale in Tanzania, a lodge on the banks of Lake Tanganyika with the heavily forested Mahale Mountains (home to one of the largest population of chimps remaining in the wild) rising behind. The only practical way of reaching camp is by boat. I adore the scenery of northern Kenya and would love to spend more time up there exploring and I am desperate to one day do a proper road trip around Australia, particularly focusing on the top end with time in Kakadu National Park at Bamurru Plains. Oh - and one of the village walks at Shakti Himalaya...