By Alyce Collins
THIS COUPLE are so passionate about wildlife that they introduced one of their children to it at just SIX-MONTHS-OLD and hope that sharing images of their kids wandering around Africa feeding giraffes and playing with ostriches will inspire others to get involved in conservation.
Doctor Natalie Burrard-Lucas (35) and wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas (35) from Buckinghamshire, UK, met in 2002 when they both studied in London and bonded over their love for travel.
The couple went on a few backpacking trips together during the summer breaks before heading back to university, sparking Will’s love for photography as he captured the fascinating sights he was able to visit.
The couple married in 2010 and Zambia was their dream honeymoon location, a destination they both wanted to visit for a long time prior. Shortly after the honeymoon, Natalie came across a position to work in a hospital in Zambia which she saw as an unmissable opportunity. In 2012, Natalie took a sabbatical from her role as junior doctor in London to work in a hospital in rural Zambia for a year. Will, who turned his photography hobby into a profession in 2010, moved with Natalie and frequently visited the national park to capture the wildlife.
During that year, Natalie worked frequent 30-hour shifts, there were power cuts, the nearest supermarket was an hour away and there was no hot water, however the experience enabled Natalie and Will to appreciate a new way of life. Once the sabbatical was over, they moved to Buckinghamshire where they began thinking about starting a family.
Their daughter, Rosie (4) was born in 2015 and they took trips during Natalie’s maternity leave, with Rosie’s first safari in Zambia when she was just six months old, before a six-week trip when she was nine months old. In 2017, Benjy (2) was born and went on his first safari at nine months old for two months.
Natalie now works as a locum GP which enables her to take extended periods of time off to continue to travel. The family tends to fly out to Africa for three months a year to go on safari together. The children have grown up accustomed to seeing wild animals, including African elephants, baboons, giraffes and ostriches.
“Will and I met in the first week of university in 2002 in London while I was studying medicine and Will studied physics,” said Natalie.
“We both shared a passion for travel, and we started backpacking during the first few summer holidays, which slowly turned into more wildlife-focused adventures as Will’s wildlife photography hobby became more serious.
“After university, Will became an accountant while doing wildlife photography semi-professionally, and I became a doctor. In 2010, we got married, and Will left his job to follow his passion and become a full-time wildlife photographer.
“We went on our honeymoon to Zambia in 2010, and then shortly afterwards I found out about GP Training in a hospital in Zambia. Having just been there, it felt like fate and that this was our chance to live in Africa.
“So, in 2012, I took a sabbatical from my role as a junior doctor in London to work in a rural hospital in Zambia for a year. Will had no hesitations as we’d be living close to one of the best national parks in Zambia, full of subject matter for his work.
“I felt some trepidation at leaving my comfortable job and I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect from the hospital in Zambia. I didn’t know if I’d be out of my depth or what the situations would be which awaited me.
“We were given a small but lovely house on the hospital grounds in a small village called Katete, seven hours from the capital. The nearest supermarket was over an hour away, but there were some basic market shops nearby.
“We had frequent power cuts, no internet, no hot water and an old bathtub with no shower. But amidst what may seem like challenges, there were wonderful benefits. Life was simpler. My colleagues at the hospital all lived on site too, and they became close friends.
“We spent evenings together, sat around a campfire under mango trees. It was idyllic in many ways. We had a screen detox for the year. We couldn’t go out and buy things readily, so we had to problem-solve by cooking meals over a fire in the garden during power cuts and rigging up a bucket stand-up shower in the bathtub.
“Will spent a lot of time at the national parks, and whenever I had time off, I would try and join him on safari.
“We knew that my sabbatical was for one year, so although we would have loved to stay longer, my job wouldn’t have been waiting for me. We also wanted to start a family and felt the pull of England for career and family reasons.”
Natalie began sharing pictures of the family on safari on Instagram because their journey was incredibly unique. She hopes that by sharing images of her children with animals which are becoming increasingly endangered, she can inspire other children to get involved with wildlife conservation.
The family are currently in Kenya as Will continues with his wildlife projects, but Natalie hasn’t entirely closed off the possibility of moving to Africa more long-term.
“Both of our children were born in the UK, but we initiated them to safari early. We took long trips during my maternity leave. Rosie’s first safari was to Zambia, at six months old for three weeks, but then we went back for six weeks when she was nine months old,” said Natalie.
“Benjy’s first safari was when he was nine months old, lasting two months. They started young, so it’s just part of normal life for them. However, I truly believe that most children would be fascinated and awe-struck by African elephants walking past the car, or a pack of baboons playing in trees.
“The kids love grubbing around in the dust and seeing the smaller things like beetles, frogs and chameleons. They get my undivided attention on safari, so it brings us together as a family. We switch off from the outside world and tune into each other. They switch well between both worlds, they’re equally at home on safari as they are in a soft-play centre in the UK.
“Living in Zambia changed me. It made me feel grateful for what I have, and I realised life is short. I realised that I’m very lucky, and there is little that can’t be overcome with positivity and hard work.
“Whilst many people in rural Zambia or Kenya live in hardship compared to life in Buckinghamshire, they have a support network of village folk around them in a way that we have lost in the UK.
“I loved watching Zambian’s looking after each other in the hospital. A friend or relative would sleep by the patient’s bedside, fetching food or cleaning them. I’d love to see more people helping each other in England. I’m glad my children can see how different societies work.
“We have quite a unique lifestyle and I love the bond the children are developing with the natural world. We realised that the fate of many endangered animals today will rest in the hands of our children’s generation. If images of my children can help to inspire other families to get involved in wildlife conservation, then it will all be worthwhile.”
To see more, visit https://www.instagram.com/safarichildren/