My Life In Travel: Wilbur Smith
'I go on hunting safaris. We have a huge area of wilderness to ourselves'
Saturday 09 April 2005
First holiday memory?
First holiday memory?
Going on safari with my parents in the Luangwa valley in what was then northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia. I grew up in Rhodesia on my father's ranch and every year he used to take us on safari in some remote area of the wilderness.
Holidays in the African bush and on my island in the Seychelles. I go on a hunting safari at least once a year to Botswana, which is fantastic because we have a huge area of wilderness entirely to ourselves. My island covers roughly 55 acres, which again I have to myself, with nearly half a kilometre of private beach with my own jetties and boats.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I like Devon and Somerset, where I go shooting with friends for a week or two each year.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife. We travel hand in hand the whole time. We have an apartment in Switzerland so we ski together there, as well as going on safaris, diving and yachting.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
A mixture of all three. I tend to avoid other holidaymakers if possible.
Greatest travel luxury?
A big fat wad of travellers cheques.
I always take a couple of my favourite books and a few of the latest bestsellers. I read a lot of biographies and books with an African background.
Where has seduced you?
Bangkok. The Oriental Hotel there has a literary theme and I'm fortunate enough to have a suite named after me overlooking the Chao Phraya river. I know it's politically incorrect but I enjoy things like the kick boxing and cock fighting.
Better to travel or arrive?
To arrive, especially if it's a suite at The Oriental or a camp on the Okavango Delta.
Worst travel experience?
I was in Buenos Aires promoting a new book when the revolution broke out. We spent most of our time there hiding under the bed as machine guns blazed in the streets and the Argentine air force bombed the city.
A trip through East Africa. As we reached the Zambezi river a huge cyclone hit the coast. Around 26 inches of rain fell in as many hours. We tried to get our truck with all my equipment across the river by making a platform out of dug-out canoes, which collapsed as it was halfway across. I never saw the truck or the equipment again.
The Belle Epoque in Bern, Switzerland. I looked it up and booked it online. It turned out it should have been called "The Rabbit Hutch Hotel" - the rooms were the size of shoeboxes. We complained and were immediately evicted!
The Oriental in Bangkok. It's splendid sitting on the terrace above the river drinking a sundowner.
Favourite walk / swim / ride / drive?
The best ski run is the Parsenn Standard in Davos.
Best meal abroad?
There's a restaurant in Paris called La Lorraine, just off the Champs-Elysées. It's not haute cuisine, but the food is deliciously fresh and well prepared.
Cape Town, where I am based. It's a wonderful place with fantastic weather, scenery, mountains and beaches. It's my spiritual home.
Back to Cape Town and then to Australia on a promotional tour.
Wilbur Smith's latest book 'The Triumph of the Sun' (Macmillan, £18.99), published in hardback, is out now
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