Red Savannah’s Africa travel specialist, Samantha Gordon, has worked for some of the best names in the luxury travel business and her knowledge of the continent is borne from over 25 years of exploration, from the sunken churches of Ethiopia to the capes of South Africa. Her expertise extends far beyond the traditional safari; she’s the go-to for flying safaris along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, a cultural journey through Morocco, riding safaris across the Maasai Mara and Botswana's Okavango Delta and diving expeditions off the coast of Mozambique.
How long have you worked in travel?
25 years. Having studied Russian at Bristol University I heard about a role with a local tour operator and went for an interview. The rest, as they say, is history! My first recce trip was to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, places I had barely heard of before, and for a few years I specialised in Central Asia, Russia and Mongolia. Then, in 2003, the chance arose to visit Ethiopia and I leapt at it. From there I continued my Africa travels all over the continent and haven’t stopped.
What do you never travel without?
I am a big believer in sleep so ear plugs and an eye mask. With those, I can block out everything and am lucky enough to be able to sleep on an aeroplane, even in economy!
What would you wish you had with you if you were stranded on a desert island for six months and why? You can choose a luxury and something practical.
Definitely some good reading material to wile away the hours. I love the classics but might need something more light-hearted such as the complete P.G. Wodehouse. On a practical level probably a spear so that I could both fish and hunt. Am I allowed a horse?
If you could travel with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I'd like to travel with my father to Kenya and take him on a hot air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara during the wildebeest migration. I cannot think of anyone who would appreciate it more.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
When I recall riding across the Mongolian grasslands for the first time I am completely transported. The freedom of life in the saddle, carrying everything you need on pack ponies, spending the evening around a camp fire chatting with nomads and sleeping on a remote hillside.
What's your secret hidden gem (such as a little bookshop, restaurant, café, little-known museum/gallery, artisan shop)?
When in Cape Town I love to visit the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. It’s packed with local farm produce and artisan goods. It’s not only a foodie heaven but also sells garden supplies and seedlings for the green-fingered. When in Nairobi, I love to shop! There are a number of great shops selling high quality crafts, clothing, furniture and accessories by local artisans such as: House of Treasues, Langata Link and Kazuri Beads, to name a few.
Have you won any awards or been recognised for a specific achievement?
Since 2019 I have been recognised as a Travel + Leisure A List Advisor for my knowledge of Africa and safaris.
If you hadn’t worked in travel what would you have liked to have done?
I would have applied to MI6; maybe I did...?!
If you could retire to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
The Dordogne. I love the slow place of life in rural France, the great food, fabulous wine and I more or less speak the language. Otherwise Dartmoor, I was born there and I love wild and remote places, where you can ride or walk for hours.
Too many to list but more less anything by Graeme Greene or Evelyn Waugh and any of the Russians. My favourite may be Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, an example of the folly of man in thinking he is greater than he is, the discovery of humility and, ultimately, redemption.