In the new season of Travel podcast Trip Notes, former TVNZ news presenter Judy Bailey shares memories of her first ever overseas trip, her tips on how to pick a good travel buddy for future trips, and why Botswana always has a place in her heart.

Bailey re-lives her Africa experience to Travel deputy editor Maggie Wicks and Travel writer Juliette Sivertsen.

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Judy Bailey is crazy about wildlife. She has come face to face with hippos, elephants and a pride of lions in Africa, although the underwater world still terrifies her.

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"I always have a healthy fear of sharks," she tells Trip Notes. And yet, the former TVNZ newsreader says she never was afraid of being in the wild in Botswana. "Not at all scared. Just completely mesmerised by the beauty of all."

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Botswana has a special place in Bailey's heart, and she says it's her favourite place in the world, especially because she can get up close and personal with the wildlife.

"You also come to realise how important each little part of that ecosystem is. Everything depends on everything else and that's why we really need to look after our planet. It's so fragile, you change one thing and it puts the whole ecosystem out of whack."

Judy Bailey with Travel journalist Juliette Sivertsen (right) and deputy editor Maggie Wicks.
Judy Bailey with Travel journalist Juliette Sivertsen (right) and deputy editor Maggie Wicks.

"We were staying in little huts, thatched huts, thatched cottages with open sides. And the animals walk through the lodge at night. You are told that you mustn't under any circumstances leave your hut at night unaccompanied, so you have a little hooter, a little air horn," she explains.

"We heard lions and we heard what we thought were hippos in the water nearby. And in the morning, as we were going to breakfast - because the tracks were all sand - huge lion prints in the sand."

The Okavango Delta runs through Botswana and changes year round, depending on the water flow. In the rainy season, it forms myriad waterways, lakes and tributaries. During the dry season, those waterways disappear.

And it's the beauty of what's left behind that amazes Bailey. "Little islands appear and there are date palms, it's almost biblical and the wildlife there is sublime."

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Judy Bailey says she is crazy about wildlife, which makes Africa such an ideal destination for her. Photo / Dean Taylor, Supplied
Judy Bailey says she is crazy about wildlife, which makes Africa such an ideal destination for her. Photo / Dean Taylor, Supplied

One of Bailey's key tips for people going on a safari to Africa is to stay hydrated.

"It gets really hot during the day, about 30C during the day, but in the mornings it's quite cold, quite chilly and in the evening," she explains. The first safari of the day will take place early morning before breakfast, before the heat becomes too intense, as well as in the evenings when it is cooler.

And, expect to eat a variety of local game for meals, such as springbok and even crocodile.

"We were fed incredibly well and the local women were doing the cooking and they would come out before the meal every day and tell us what they'd made." Bailey describes it all as exquisite, "real 'Out of Africa' stuff", complete with homemade cakes for morning tea in the countryside.

And of course, let's not forget the sundowners - Africa's version of happy hour.

"Lots of gin to keep the mozzies away."

We'll keep that in mind when we can travel to Africa again - purely medicinal, of course.

Trip Notes is available to download at iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Photo / Supplied
Trip Notes is available to download at iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. Photo / Supplied

Go to nzherald.co.nz/tripnotes to watch video from the podcast, and catch up on any episodes you might have missed.