“While we love seeing the photos that our guests post of our hotel and location, we do love it more when we see them enjoying the moment without technology,” says Sarah Watson, guest relations manager at Kruger Gate Hotel. “Our hotel just on the outside of the Kruger National Park is something truly special as we have a watering hole right outside and animals often come right up to the hotel to use it. Moments like this don’t come around often and it’s best enjoyed by observing with your eyes rather than through your phone.”
In fact, various reports show that capturing a memory in a photograph can impact the brain's ability to accurately retain that memory. A study by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University in Connecticut revealed that students on a walking tour who took photos were unable to recall details about the things they took photos of. On the other hand, the students who were tasked with observing without a camera were able to better recall what they saw on the walking tour.
“When we rely on our cameras to memorise things for us, we don’t let our brains enjoy the moment and take everything in,” Watson explains.
With this in mind, we have a few suggestions on how to have a digital detox in the bush in order to truly enjoy the memories you make.
With the ability to work from anywhere these days, it’s far too tempting to work from everywhere. When you take time off work to go on holiday into the bush or anywhere else, leave the laptop at home. If you have done an adequate handover and all your bases at work are covered, then it should be absolutely fine to step away from your emails and work for a bit. The time off could actually benefit you when you get back, as your brain would have been given the break it needs to be creative and productive once again.
If you are someone who perhaps spends too much time on social media, then this one's for you. For the duration of your holiday, delete your social media apps from your phone and other mobile devices. You don’t need to do a daily roundup of your activities on Instagram. You can “#latergram” once the trip is done and you reinstall your apps. Far too often we spend too much time mindlessly scrolling through our social feeds. Take a break.
To avoid receiving calls, messages or notifications, simply put your phone in airplane mode. Be sure to keep the Wi-Fi off, too, otherwise some messages may sneak through. This way, no one will be able to bother you while you are on holiday, enjoying sundowners from the deck of your lodge or on a game drive. You can still use your phone as a camera if you wish to, but then it’s just that and nothing else.
Some messenger services allow users to update their status to well, whatever they feel like. You could change yours to say “do not disturb” or “currently in the bush, chat when I get back”. If your messenger service doesn’t offer this, there is always the option of updating your profile picture to clearly illustrate that you are out of office and that you do not wish to be disturbed. This will minimise the number of people reaching out to you when all you want to do is enjoy your holiday.
There’s an app for everything these days including travel guides. But before apps there were guide books and printed maps. These are still readily available at your accommodation venue or local travel agent. You could also print one ahead of your holiday and keep it with you. This way, you won’t need to log into an app every time you try to figure out what to do for the day or where to do it.
Lodges such as Kruger Gate Hotel have safari vehicles for guided game drives in the Kruger National Park. Yes, you could always do a self-drive and use the popular Paul Kruger Gate nearby, but then you would most likely need Google Maps and you would keep your phone on you to ensure you can contact someone in case of an emergency. If you do a guided game drive, the experienced game rangers will be able to take care of you and ensure that you have the best time possible. Watson suggests leaving your phone at the lodge and, at least once, taking everything in visually rather than experiencing it via a screen.
Of course, loved ones will want to know where you are and what you are doing – and vice versa. Instead of being available 24/7, schedule a time to check in with them. Let your family and friends know ahead of time that, for example, you will call them or message them at 5pm every day to catch up. This way, they know exactly when to hear from you and they are less likely to disturb you outside of those hours.
“Time in nature and away from the stressors of life is good for both your mental and physical health. Instead of using it to do an even deeper dive of social media, use it to truly relax and unwind. You will be grateful that you did,” Watson concludes.