Hi Marta, tell us about yourself and your love of traveling.
I am Portuguese, grew up in Lisbon and attended a French school since kindergarten. After finishing university, I moved to Paris and have been living mostly abroad ever since.
I was brought up by two parents who love travel. They would often take me in short trips when I was young and – as I was growing up – they started to take me to more distant places. I guess my love for travel comes from a rather young age and never left me since. I often say to people that I feel the happiest when I am on a plane heading somewhere.
You say you are in a constant Traveller-State-of-Mind. What do you love the most about traveling and why does it mean so much to you?
In my head I always feel “ready to go”. I love the idea of going somewhere, of a physical – and geographical – movement towards something else. I am not a person that likes routine in general, so moving around keeps me stimulated and happy.
I like everything about traveling: it put things in perspective, it enriches you with knowledge, life-experience and memories. It’s priceless. I feel that the more I travel, in a way, the bigger I become. It brings you tolerance, acceptance, makes you value some things you have and get to know things you never thought existed. It enhances your curiosity and proves that your way of life is just one way among thousands of others in the world. Traveling is a gift, if we think about it. And that gift is a planet waiting for us to go around it and discover it.
Now tell us about Botswana, Africa. What was the experience like?
Although I have been to quite a few countries around the world, Africa is where my heart is. Or at least, part of it! I have been to Botswana a couple of times already and I have been to other African countries as well. I always say 2 things to people : you must do a safari at least once in your lifetime and it’s always best to start doing it in a more “touristy” destination. If the experience suits you, gradually travel into more authentic safari’s. Of all the places you can live the “real deal”, Botswana is for me the best one. Unfortunately it’s also quite expensive but once you get there you understand why. Whereas in some more affordable countries you have, for example, 100,000 m2 of land concession for wildlife viewing, you also find more than 50 lodges (and maybe 900 beds). What happens is all rangers radio each other, telling where the animals are and you will often bump into other cars from other lodges while all of you will stand – or even worse, queue – to get a glimpse of a poor lion. There is no real thrill of looking for animals because rangers know where they are. And believe me, seeing a wild animal surrounded by many 4x4s is not very pleasant either.
In Botswana, however, you don’t have that. You have gigantic concessions that will host around 4 lodges only (50 beds), and these are small capacity lodges too. So when you go on safari you have nothing but pristine and untouched wilderness below your feet, a day full of unexpected surprises and – if you are lucky – incredible wildlife sights. I always travel with Wilderness Safaris in Southern Africa and the reason for this is that they locate their camps in the most remote and isolated areas of each country, where you will have no access to cell phones or the outside world. All you will be is completely immersed with nature. Their expertise, taste and passion for conservation and sustainable tourism is incredible and their lodges are stunning.
Botswana and its fantastic Okavango Delta is a prime location for thousands of animal species so when in there you are spoiled with how much you see and how much variety you have too. No animal is missing there, with a very positive note on a massive control of poaching too which allows you be close to calm animals, not nervous or weary of humans.
How did it feel to be so close to the wild life?
I love it. I was never scared of that. Of course you have to trust your guide and his expertise when out there. But with time you learn to understand some animal behavior. You learn to read their body language and you feel very comfortable when close to them. You just need to understand that you are visiting their space – and not the other way around. So you need to be respectful of that. Experience also taught me that wild animals, because of their sharp instinctive nature, often feel your energy and act accordingly. If a car carries a group of calm, quiet people, you should expect that animals will not feel threatened by that.
Tell us about the craziest memory of Botswana. I am sure you have a lot!
Never had a dangerous moment on safari, to be honest. I always feel very safe. So for me craziest would be these wildlife encounters that happen so unexpectedly and then, in a flash of a second, become so exciting. Like going out at the end of a day, trying to see a leopard (because you always dream you will manage to see at least one!) after so many days looking for him and suddenly finally spotting it, far in the distance, stretching up on a tree. You get close, in a rush, because they move away so fast and silently that you can loose them in a second. But that day, that female was comfortable enough with our presence, not bothered by the car even. She slowly came down a tree while calling continuously with a raspy sound. She moved towards our car, very calmly, and stopped a couple of meters away from us. As she sat down we saw a baby cub coming to join her. They stayed with us for a good half an hour, unafraid, in the most trusting and peaceful way. That’s what I call magic.
Also, on our last trip to Botswana we got to see wild dogs quite often. For me it was a true highlight as I have been on safari many times but never managed to see these guys in the wild. They are severely endangered and can only been seen in a few places in Africa, unfortunately.
One morning, just as the sun was rising we bumped into a pack of 11 members. They were laying on the road, some playing, some half sleeping. But there is a moment – and we knew it was coming – where they would all stand and go hunt. So we stayed with them, waiting for the action to take place. And it did, lead by the alpha female and alpha male. And when you get to follow a pack of dogs hunting, believe me, it WILL be exciting. So our guide was flying the car, as we tried desperately to not loose sight of them. Their speed is extraordinary. As we hit a curve with a tree on the right hand side we barely had time to see an impala with her baby standing. They didn’t have time to run away as the dogs grabbed the baby and tear it to pieces in less than a minute. It was violent and sad but this is how nature works.
You go on a safari to feel this adrenaline. To learn about basic instincts and to listen to them. It’s a journey back to your essence in a way.
Finally, tell us about your love of photography and how it started.
I love photography as much as I love writing actually. This is why my Instagram (@lovingjune) became a travel journal and also why I created a VSCO journal. I love photography because I love image and am a very visual person. And I LOVE to shoot colorful things. I am not very creative in the way I compose a picture because I like an image to be structured, more harmonious in its “geometry” and rather simple, with not a lot of information in it. And I like to understand it immediately too. I prefer to shoot landscapes, places or animals rather than people. I guess landscapes give me a feeling of “space”. And I love big spaces, wilderness areas. This is why I have such a physical deep connection with Africa, I guess. It gives me all the space I need.
Scrolling through Marta Mota’s Instagram feels like watching the National Geography channel and that is exactly why we love it so much. Portuguese traveler says she is always ready to go and explore. Her lifestyle is a proof that travel and work can co-exist. We chose to feature her trip in African safari where she got a chance to spend time in the wilderness. Read how she describes the experience and the advice she gives to everyone planning a visit to safari of Botswana.