The North-East might not be the obvious base for an Africa safari company, but from her farmhouse base, Boo Chrisp is introducing adventurous visitors to this amazing continent

Boo Chrisp vividly remembers her first trip to Africa. She was 18, attending a friend’s wedding in Kenya. “I remember driving along a rough dusty track, dodging elephant and giraffe - the ceremony was beside a lake with flamingos. It was all so dreamy, I had to return,” she says.

Boo, too, fell in love… with Africa. She couldn’t shake the spell of this amazing continent and when, as a recent graduate, she returned with her father on a business trip in 1983, it proved life-changing for both of them.

“We went on safari in the Okavango Delta, the Eden of Africa,” says Boo. “It really is the most beautiful wildlife area, still to this day, and we were looking for an excuse to return. Sitting around the camp fire one evening, we thought it would be fun to start a safari company, focusing on private guided safaris.”

Bushbuck Safaris was born, initially run from Hungerford, but now based in the wilds of Northumberland, where she lives with farmer husband Tom. The couple have two grown-up children.

Now Boo does return to Africa – frequently. She does four or five trips a year to check out any new camps, lodges and guides ton include in the Bushbuck itineraries. She tells Living magazine how the business has evolved and what Bushbuck Safaris offers.

Which countries do you operate in?

Thirteen amazing countries - Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the new Zimbabwe. When we started 35 years ago, we had little idea of the extraordinary adventures and long-term friendships which lay ahead. We have enjoyed every step of the journey.

How did you come to have an Africa safari business based in Northumberland?

I consider myself very lucky to be living and working in this beautiful area and going out to Africa regularly! Originally, I lived in London, but when I married Tom and my father retired it was logical to move the office North. Bushbuck is run from our farmhouse home near Rothbury. Potential customers from the region are offered a home visit, which works really well and suits our personal specialism in tailored safaris. We also have a lot of clients from the US – just the way word-of-mouth has spread over the years.

Do you meet all your clients before a trip?

High standards of personalised service have been the key to our success. Most of our guests come to us by referral, with many repeat guests. We like to meet our clients to discuss safari options and tailor the itinerary to their interests and expectations, and follow through every aspect of their safari until departure. And it doesn’t stop there - behind the scenes, we regularly check up with our operators that all is well on the ground.

For many, a safari is a trip of a lifetime. Our safaris are not about filling camps and lodges, our expertise is itinerary design with unbiased recommendations with our client’s best interests at heart. Basically, we care.

How much can someone expect to pay for a Bushbuck safari?

Gosh, always a difficult one to answer. Our itineraries vary hugely in style, so a Bushbuck safari can cost anything from £4,000 to £20,000 per person, which is a crazy price range I know, but reflects our flexibility and our wide range of recommendations. It is the same price, and sometimes less, to book a safari through Bushbuck as it is direct with a camp/lodge or operator, and clients can rest easy as they have 100 per cent financial protection with our ABTOT membership.

Can you have a boutique experience in the bush? Or should a safari be about roughing it and experiencing nature in the raw?

You can have a better boutique experience in the bush than out of the bush! There are small luxurious lodges, stunning architecture in tune with the surrounding nature, apartment-style rooms with world class interior design, amazing cuisine, heavenly spas and great resident guides. We also offer a vast Big 5 wildlife area exclusive to guests, so there are no other visitors to get between you and the wildlife. It’s all very luxurious, but you are still in touch with nature.

At the wilder end of the spectrum, picture yourself hosted by one of Africa’s top private guides – Harrison Ford lookalikes! – staying in a traditional tented camp situated in a remote wildlife area, with bucket showers and superb meals cooked by the chef over an open fire. Animals move through camp at night and elephant browse by day. There’s in-depth guiding, astonishing wildlife encounters, and a totally private safari with a comfortable camp exclusive to your party in the wilds of Africa. For many, it doesn’t get better than this, for the safari and close to nature experience.

Is sustainable tourism important to you?

Of course, hugely important. All our safari associates foster sustainable tourism. It is the only way forward.

What do you specialise in?

We have always organised camp/lodge-style safaris, but what sets us apart are our private guided safaris. These are led throughout by an expert wildlife guide who knows his country better than anyone. The safari is exclusive to a private party and usually seven to 12 days in length.

What are your most popular trips?

Our most popular trips are the walking/boating/riding safaris led by expert private guides in Botswana, also Northern Tanzania for safari with Zanzibar for beach, camp/lodge style safaris around Zambia, Rwanda for gorilla trekking and self-drives around Namibia. The Cape is hugely popular, but not for safari, more for the fun vibe of the city, the winelands and the west coast and works well after a safari to Botswana.

Describe a couple of the most amazing experiences you have had?

Meeting the mountain gorillas for the first time. Nothing prepares you for coming face to face with a silverback gorilla. It is a humbling experience. Nowadays the trekking is not nearly so arduous, as happily, gorilla numbers are on the up.

Flying over Sudan from Khartoum and landing on Lake Turkana with the famous Catalina Flying Boat which we operated in the 1980s. It was the first time a flying boat had landed on the remote lake in the very north of Kenya and the villagers thought we had crashed. They were amazed to see us climb out and hop into a dingy, and we received a heroes’ welcome! A young boy carved a flying boat out of driftwood and it sits on my desk to this day.