Young Teenage Bush Pilot
Savvy ‘Spirit of Botswana’ Escort
Jenny Richards’ big dreams to travel evolved out of her small South African town. An imaginative youngster, she fantasized about always ‘going on a trip.’ She played the part often: dressed up with suitcase firmly clutched in her hand, coat artfully slung across her shoulders, Jenny declared that she was leaving to follow her passion for travel.
For her 16th birthday, Dad Arthur suggested they head to Grahamstown’s Aerodrome so she could learn to fly. Right after her 17th birthday, she flew solo in a Cessna 150, fearless at a 122 mph cruising speed and of her flight instructor who made her stall the plane, cut the engine and restart the plane in mid-air to test her rational crisis skills. These were also the days of manual calculations and rudimentary compasses, if indeed any of the latter were aboard at all.
The rest is history. At 17, Jenny qualified for her South African Private Pilots License and her South African Radio Operators License – professional attainments both that also brought her recognition as one of the Eastern Cape’s youngest women flyers.
“It was the sense of being free as a bird,” she reminisces with the twinkle from knowing that freedom of soaring high and dipping oh! so! low! over her beloved African bush. Shades of Beryl Markham come to mind. Her determination to become a commercial pilot was an unusual choice for a woman at that time.
Jenny’s bush pilot days lasted for two years until she was off to college. Shortly, the opportunity – read: seduction – to head to Italy arrived. It is not hard to guess that conclusion. She bid “ ciao ” to South Africa, blew a lingering kiss to her formative years there and headed to study in Europe. Travel continued to play such a role in her life that she soon worked for Alitalia Airlines, both in Italy and back in South Africa.
Fast-forward and today, even after three decades as a successful Texas-based corporate travel agent, she has chiseled out her passion once again — by establishing Our Africa Safaris. Jenny creates small luxury journeys as a specialist for travel to southern Africa. She escorts only a select few. As with her piloting days, she is fearless about embracing her passion towards Africa, savvy about all aspects of travel, and thrilled to share her great love for the land that nurtures her.