THE FAMILY HISTORY
The family’s adventures began in the late 18th Century when Richard Granville Nicholson was chosen to escort Empress Eugenie to the site of her son’s grave after the Anglo Zulu War. In the 1960’s, family members headed up the East African Game Department and trained the lions for famous films like “Born Free”. Jack Bousfield, the legendary crocodile hunter and safari specialist, embarked on a life long love affair with the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in the early 70’s. After Jack’s tragic death in an aircraft accident, his son, Ralph and Catherine Raphaely established Jack’s Camp in his memory.
Uncharted Africa Safari co. is an owner-operated company owned by Ralph Bousfield and Catherine Raphaely supported by a huge team of Zoologist and Biologist Guides, Researchers, supremely talented Chefs, friendly Waiters, creative Carpenters and Tailors.
Uncharted Africa’s camps and safaris all have a completely unique feeling, style and quality. This strong sense of individuality characterizes both the staffing as well as the style of the accommodation and, in a sea of increasingly very similar safari product, is something we are very proud of. Uncharted Africa has proven that one can make a very challenging area successful while at same time pioneering new standards. Our strengths lie in our original, but, always sensitive approach to marginal environments and sensitive community issues.
Uncharted Africa has achieved substantial recognition within the safari industry. We have received many awards including "Number One in the World" and "Favourite Overseas Leisure Hotel: Middle East, Africa & The Indian Ocean Islands" - Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Travel Awards 2010, “Best Safari Camp in Africa”, “Best Camp Guiding Team and Best Ecological Safari Camp - The Good Safari Guide 2009. We shared the Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s award for “Best Resort for Outstanding Service” with the Ritz-Carlton Dubai, were voted “Best in the Bush” by The London Times and 12th best Leisure Hotel by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller. Ralph was also selected as one of Africa’s top 4 “New Generation” Safari Guides by Travel & Leisure and we are always included in all reputable travel magazines, listings and brochures.
Ralph Bousfield comes from a long line of African pioneers and adventurers; he went on his first safari at the age of three. His family has guided safaris for five generations, the first Guide in the family being his maternal great grandfather, Major Richard Granville Nicholson, who escorted Princess Eugenie to see her son’s grave and the site where he was killed in the Zulu war on the 1st June 1879.
Ralph studied Nature Conservation and did his thesis on the Wattled Crane as an Indicator Species of Wetland Destruction. He furthered his studies at the International Crane Institute in Wisconsin under the famous George Archibald, who captive-bred the whooping crane back from extinction. Ralph then worked with his mother to establish Botswana’s first Wildlife Orphanage and Education Centre. In 1998 Ralph co-produced and presented a sixteen part series for the Discovery Channel entitled “Uncharted Africa”, which was filmed in Botswana, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania.
His passion for the Kalahari and the Bushmen began at a very young age as he was very lucky to have one of the greatest teachers and mentors, his father, Jack Bousfield. Growing up on safari, and hunting as a professional his whole life, his father worked with some of the greatest traditional hunters and trackers in Africa. Jack's respect for the Bushmen rubbed off on Ralph, and from a very young age, he had the good fortune to spend all his free time on safari with his father.
Ralph’s father, Jack Bousfield was a man of extraordinary pedigree. On his paternal side, his people were game rangers and hunters in Tanganyika; they ran the East African Game department and trained the lions for Born Free. Jack spent his youth hunting crocodile (he shot 53,000 a world record). After that, he became a safari operator, escorting aristocrats and film stars into obscure corners of Bechuanaland.
It was Jack’s vision to start a safari camp in the Makgadikgadi using 4wd quad bikes at a spot he had discovered when hunting in the 60’s and had continually revisited thereafter. However, having spent many years on safari, Jack was satisfied with the most simple of satisfactions and had no appetite for frills and fancy, he had an extremely rustic set-up and although people came to see him as much as the area and mostly brought in their own equipment.
By the 1980s, Jack was a tourist attraction in his own right, a gnarled old bushwhacker with close-cropped, white hair and beard, tanned almost black by the sun. He eschewed Western clothes in favour of a Swahili kikoi and slept under the stars most nights. Friends who shared his campfire say he had the most amazing tales, several involving a miraculous knack for walking away from crashes in light aircraft. Six he survived; the seventh proved fatal.
When Jack died, Ralph and Catherine continued to operate the camp fulfilling Jack’s original vision while softening the harshness of the desert experience in order to broaden the appeal of the camp and area. They, like Jack, felt strongly that a tented safari camp should be an authentic safari experience; with showers under the stars, no electricity and steaming water brought to one’s tent in a gleaming copper jug all serving to bring one closer to nature as opposed to our modern day lifestyle that separate one from the basic pleasures of the bush. Ralph and Catherine also noticed an unavoidable trend towards the commercialisation of safari camps where one after the other, bush camps transformed into bush hotels. In order to conserve the atmosphere and character of the old style safari, Ralph and Catherine determined to provide a safari experience that although traditional in style in no way compromised in terms of comfort.
Catherine was destined for the life less ordinary, it started at a young age when she was cast in a Johnson’s Baby Powder advert…as a boy. From there, the path less travelled continued to beckon and she trained as an Economist only to end up a Stylist in New York. Finally, she forsook the bright lights and big city lifestyle to move to Botswana to help Ralph craft the unique safari experience that is Uncharted Africa.
The menus of Uncharted Africa are personally designed by Catherine and are held in high esteem throughout the industry. Her drive and impeccable sense of style and taste mean that Jack’s Camp has become an outpost of class and luxury deep within the unforgiving environment that defines the Magadikgadi Salt Pans. Permeating all the camps and especially Jack’s, is Catherine’s – some would argue – fanatical attention to detail. And while this can often be the bane of her Staff’s existence, it also, means that every last detail from service to décor bears her personal mark, immediately impressive and obvious to all who experience it. Indeed, Uncharted’s motto and raison d’etre “Give them what they never knew they wanted” is the embodiment of Catherine’s vision and if anyone can deliver it, she can.
The marriage of Catherine’s impeccable style and vision with Ralph’s family history, extraordinary, knowledge and passion for Botswana and the Kalahari has proven to be a winning combination producing one of the most original and exciting safari companies in Africa. Uncharted Africa continues to grow and create new and original products ranging from the romantic serenity of San Camp and our ‘break the bank’ bespoke mobile safari expeditions through to the Okavango Delta to the Afrocentric ‘budget but certainly not basic’ Planet Baobab and Camp Kalahari.
Each one of these camps is a complete original and each guarantees the Guest ‘Real Adventure with Unreal Style’.