The Odd Moments Theory of Fatherhood

Pirogue

People say that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.

At least, the great writer Umberto Eco did. He believed, “We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Umberto and his father were two particularly dissimilar souls, so perhaps his father’s teachings had to be cloaked in mystery to have their effect. In the case of the Ecos, Senior wanted Junior to become a lawyer. Junior took up philosophy and literature instead. He stopped believing in God, left the Roman Catholic Church, and befriended a group of avant-garde artists, painters, musicians and writers. Sacrilege. But not an uncommon story across different generations.

The Odd Moments Way of Fathering, however, is not lost on those more similar in nature. For instance, my father and I… our paths and passions are rather aligned. It’s a result that I’m sure has been (quietly, never to be admitted) created or at least prodded along by my father, both purposefully and at more random moments. On a walk through the forest or tending to the granadilla creepers… Moments when he wasn’t trying to educate me about the world, when he was simply being his natural self.

Such has been the way with the Bourgeois family – for one of our fathers of Relais & Châteaux Africa, Michel Bourgeois, Managing Director of 20°Sud in Mauritius.

Michel B

Together with his wife, Anne Bourgeois, Michel owns and manages what is the first boutique hotel on the island – a route he embarked on in 2005. His previous career, however, and an eternal passion of his, was as an airline captain on the Airbus 340 & 330 for Air Mauritius.

Michel is a man of many passions. But from what I gather you can distill this into one phrase – art de vivre. Michel strikes me as a man of refinement over excess when it comes to the luxuries of life, a man in favour of the delicacy of taste, feeling and spirit. And a man who has shared this spirit, his passion for life’s little pleasures, with his son. And whether consciously or not, his son has inevitably followed in his footsteps.

Today, Bourgeois Senior and Junior often share the cockpit, with Junior acting as co-pilot on personal journeys. How this came to be Michel puts down to our “odd moments” theory, moments when passion, above all, shines through unfiltered on morning walks together along the beach or private flights back to Belgium where Michel hails from…

“Aviation is not a job, it’s a passion,” Michel says.

20 Sud

In celebration of Father’s Day this year, we asked Michel two simple questions… to give us a different perspective on family compared to our Mothers of Relais & Châteaux Africa series. This is a glimpse through the eyes of the men of Relais & Châteaux Africa…

Michel, What does being a father mean to you?

On top of the fact of course that I love my children, being a father means for me mostly being responsible of people.

BELOW: Michel’s extended family, the faces of  20°Sud in Pointe aux Canonniers. “Our staff have followed us on this journey and are very dear to us.”

20 Sud

As a father, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and Africa?

I try, day after day, to teach them values such as honesty, courage, hard work, and speaking of Africa, respect for nature. I once read this beautiful phrase in a book – “The earth is not given to us, it is borrowed, and we will have to give it back to our kids when leaving.” That is what I try to teach them.

20 Sud

Above: Michel with our AC, Annie Claude Bergonzoli, the Director of  Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean

The odd moments, however, cannot be captured and quantified. Those remain private, between family members, or elusive altogether…

Discover more about  20°Sud and the island of Mauritius

10 Questions with Morukuru’s Wild Man

Morukuru

The Wild Man. Considered a rarity in modern life, he walks free and fierce across the plains of the nature reserves of Africa. The Wild Man is most at home in these corners of wilderness where the sound of silence reigns, in competition with only the sporadic cries of nature’s other natives. The Wild Man doesn’t need or desire introduction… The Wild Man just is. He exists as he chooses, travels the path of the animal tracks.

My first introduction to this rare speciman was through the lesser-known Elizabeth Gilbert book, The Last American Man, about the rogue naturalist, Eustace Conway, a man “not making a living,” but rather, “just living.” A man with a wisdom that can only be acquired from a life spent in the wilderness.

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Morukuru by Tamlin Wightman

What wisdom, you ask? In Eustace’s words… “The most extraordinary gift you’ve been given is your own humanity, which is about consciousness, so honor that consciousness. Revere your senses; don’t degrade them with drugs, with depression, with willful oblivion. Try to notice something new everyday… Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you’re not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like; … notice what bare feet feel like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is – your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbours, and this planet.”

The time for The Wild Woman will come. It is one for another post. Today, I had to reconnect with a certain Wild Man from Morukuru, my ranger from some time spent on safari at this private reserve in Madikwe late last year. Mark MacNeillie, Lodge Manager and Guide at Morukuru. This South African born Wild Man shares his own insights below in the first of our series…

*Please note that The Wild Man does not like to be photographed. Hopefully these shots, wily captured from various angles and at unsuspecting moments on my safari with Mark, will give you a good enough glimpse to piece together the puzzle that is such a creature.

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10 Questions with Morukuru’s Mark MacNeillie
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1. Five Important things to remember when living in the bush – mentally/emotionally and physically?

1. Don’t track a lioness with her 2 week old cubs, on foot, in a dry river bed.
2. Always expect the unexpected from a wild animal.
3. Prepare to work long hours. Oh, and I hope you are morning person?
4. I hope you don’t have the type of blood that mosquitoes love.
5. Work hard on finding the time to stay fit and in contact with family and friends.

2. Five things being a ranger has taught you about yourself, life and love?

1. Self confidence and an open mind.
2. If you are passionate about what you do you will be successful and happy.
3. Follow your dream.
4. Enjoy and empathise with the company of both your fellow employees and visiting guests. You meet so many interesting people!
5. One can learn so many lessons in life by experiencing it through the eyes of Mother Nature and the animals living their daily lives therein.

Morukuru by Tamlin Wightman

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Morukuru by Tamlin Wightman 1

3. What is your background and what training did you do to prepare you for your role as ranger at Morukuru?

Both my grandfathers and great grandfathers have served duties in the line of conservation, from playing a vital role in protecting the threatened Bearded Vulture and the White Rhino to being the first park rangers in the oldest game reserve in Africa. My family’s involvement in conservation had a profound influence on my chosen career path as a ranger. My knowledge of wildlife has been passed down by the family, self study, shared with me by some of the most incredible and knowledgeable guiding peers and trainers in the business and all this taken part in various South and Southern African parks I have had the privilege of spending my 13 years in.

4. We heard you recently tied the knot… What is living in the wilderness with your wife like and how did you propose?

Great! Now that she is my wife, she’s no longer afraid of bugs; she can even chase away a hyena and doesn’t get to spend too much time in shopping malls with my credit card… I proposed by taking her to the top of a mountain in the park, after she had arranged to have a full body massage… I organised a bottle of champagne and candles, littered the area with red rose petals and got down on one knee in front of the most amazing African sunset one could imagine.

Image below: Mrs Wild Man, Lindie MacNeillie, also a lodge manager at Morukuru

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Morukuru

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 5Favourite part about living in the bush and at Morukuru in Madikwe?

Not sitting in an office or traffic!

6. Favourite dish to cook in the bush?

A big juicy rack of ribs!

7. Best way to unwind on a day off?

Get comfortable with my feet up on our big leather couch in front of the television with a packet of crisps, watching an exciting test cricket or rugby game or a good action movie.

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8. What does your relationship with your tracker mean to you?

The relationship between any ranger and tracker who have been working in the industry for many years together is like that between brothers or best friends. There is a deep sense of trust and respect a ranger develops with his tracker, through tracking and encountering dangerous animals on foot and living to tell the tale.

8.     Most memorable moment on safari?

There have been so many but I would have to answer with two most memorable close calls. The first was while tracking lions on foot. I bumped into a pride of 22 lions sleeping in long grass after practically stepping on the pride male’s tail… which ended up in a pretty intense charge from almost all of them. 

The other was during my time as a kayak guide when I had to jump into crocodile and hippo infested waters to pull a guest’s kayak away from a hippo he almost paddled over. I then had to beat a 3.5m crocodile over the head with my paddle to prevent it from pulling another guest off his kayak!

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10. Next adventure for the bucket list?

I want to party a night away in Ibiza and Vegas with close friends and family and to live happily and healthily until I witness the day that my unborn boy has kids of his own.

Below: Mark and Morukuru owner, Ed Zeeman, take in the early sunrise…

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In the next segment of our ongoing series of 10 Questions, meet the other wild souls of Africa, the wild men and women of our other game reserves and safari lodges.

A Touch of Madness – Ellerman House

Veronica

“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.” 

So claimed French writer, Marguerite Duras. This spark of the unusual is one of many things that endears you instantly to Ellerman House‘s Head Chef, Veronica Canha-Hibbert. A spark that ignites similarly in her two children. Perhaps it is the artistic licence of one in the culinary arts, a trait I have detected in many a Relais & Châteaux Africa chef. Perhaps it is simply the way of a mother.

In its most honest, unconditional form, motherhood demands a little ‘strange’, a little ‘crazy’. Like love itself, “a temporary insanity,” as Ambrose Bierce wrote. And Marilyn French, who described love as, “the taking over of a rational and lucid mind by delusion and self-destruction. You lose yourself, you have no power over yourself, you can’t even think straight.”

The Hibberts

Like a painter lost in her strokes, a writer furiously channeling his words from mind to paper, a chef, in the heat of her kitchen, where all time escapes into aromas and tastes passed between bowl and senses. Or a mother reveling in the African sun with her children, with nowhere else she’d rather be…

Veronica is one such mother. Madly unconditional in her love for her children – and her kitchen. Today, we take a last look at our Mothers of Africa for this year, with a glimpse at motherhood through the eyes of a chef.

Veronica Hibbert

Veronica’s secrets for motherhood

What does being a mother mean to you?

Everything. Being a mother completely changed me and my perspective. It was humbling. My children don’t worry about tomorrow, and they forget about yesterday, they live in the moment and they make me realise that each moment is precious and to be present in each moment I have with them.

Children

A favourite adage of today’s featured mother

As a mother, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and the wilderness?

For me the best way to instill anything in your child is to live it, so they can see your example. I want to raise my children to live life to the fullest, to believe in themselves and to not let anyone else set limitations for them. And to give them the confidence to follow their dreams.

When it comes to love, to be with someone who makes them laugh and that everyone deserves to be loved, especially on those days when they don’t feel too loveable.

And as for the wilderness, The Canha-Hibbert Clan are a city bunch. Boulders Beach penguins are as wild as we get… before we dash back to the V&A Waterfront for coffee.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter in the kitchen at Ellerman House

Discover our other Mothers of Africa in The Passion of Compassion at Camp Jabulani and The Mothers of Londolozi.