This summer, during fashion designer Amy Matto’s third trip to Africa, she and her husband, Kevin, found themselves getting up close and personal with the wildlife. “We were watching three lions with big, full bellies,” says Amy Matto, of the sated kings and queens of the jungle. “You could tell they’d just finished eating all night and they were drinking water. The sun had started getting really hot, and they walked right over and sat down by our car. I took a selfie where you can see the reflection of the entire Jeep in one lion’s eyes. They don’t look at you as food or a threat when they’re so full and we were giving them shade.”

But wasn’t she scared? “My heart was pounding out of my chest!”

That sense of exhilaration never left the Mattos as they spent two weeks in four different places in Botswana, experiencing the breathtaking beauty of an African safari. Their journey took them first to Zarafa Camp in the Okavango Delta in the north, where they met Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the famous National Geographic filmmakers from Botswana who have helped the world better understand animal conservation. Then it was on to Chitabe Lediba and the Vumbura Plains South Camp. There, “We had elephants coming up to the pool and dipping their trunks, when Kevin was outside taking a nap,” remembers Matto.

The Greenwich, CT, couple booked their adventure with a British company, Journeys by Design, which specializes in luxury African safaris (Ralph Lauren has also used their services). “It’s very exclusive and private,” says Matto.  “You’re looking for the best experience. My husband and I were joking, ‘Did you ever think we’d be drinking champagne in a private plane flying over Zimbabwe?,’” she says with a smile and then quickly adds, “No!”

But there was something far more meaningful than just the deluxe itinerary. “After you’ve been to Africa, it’s such a deeply personal thing,” she says. “You want to save the animals who are endangered and help the children.”

Matto got her chance to come to the aid of one child she had photographed. She noticed marks on his face and suspected they might be ringworm and she helped arrange for him to get treatment. Matto says it was these kind of intimate experiences that makes her eager to return to Africa. “I’m a totally changed person because of what we’ve seen,” she says.

Book It: Journeys by Design, journeysbydesign.com; in the U.S.: 914-292-0111.


Photographs by Kevin Matto