Harry’s bond with Africa – Spice Girls, life as a ranger and camping with Meghan

By Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter

The Duke of Sussex’s enduring love of Africa has gone from strength to strength over the years.

As a child, Harry travelled to Kenya with Prince William, staying on Kiwayu Island in the Indian Ocean with friends of their father.

Now he is about to embark on his first royal tour with his wife and young baby son, as they head to South Africa, followed by Harry’s solo trips to Botswana, Angola and Malawi.

The Sussexes after Archie’s christening (Chris Allerton/SussexRoyal/PA)

There is little surprise that the continent he feels so at home in is the destination for the Sussexes’ debut tour as a family.

Whether he is helping Aids orphans in the impoverished kingdom of Lesotho or witnessing land mine clearance projects in Angola, Harry has long spoken of his strong bond with the continent.

“I feel more myself in Africa,” he has readily admitted.

Plans are being made for the duke and duchess to spend an extended period abroad, possibly in Africa, as a way of harnessing their international appeal and expanding on their Commonwealth work.

Harry once said, when asked what he would do if he were not a prince: “I’d probably live in Africa. I’d like to spend all my time out there … As a job, it would probably be a safari guide.”

When he was 13 years old, he travelled to South Africa and met the Spice Girls.

His half-term trip treat in November 1997 with the Prince of Wales came just two months after the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Much of Harry’s itinerary during the eight-day break was private and the media were asked to leave the young prince in peace.

Harry in South Africa with Charles (John Stillwell/PA)

Initially, he headed to Bostwana with former nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke and Ludgrove schoolfriend Charlie Henderson for a safari in the Okavango Delta.

He went boating, fishing and hiking, and saw elephants, lions, and giraffes, and stayed in a tented camp with a reed roof and canvas sides.

Rejoining Charles in South Africa, the teenager was a hit with the Spice Girls when he attended the Two Nations charity concert in Johannesburg.

Charles and Harry meeting the Spice Girls during the group’s concert in South Africa (John Stillwell/PA)

Baby Spice – Emma Bunton – kissed him on the cheek and fellow band member Posh Spice – then Victoria Adams, now Victoria Beckham – held the hand of a smiling Harry.

Charles and his youngest son also travelled to a school in Dukuduku on the western shore of South Africa’s Lake St Lucia in the Zulu heartland, followed by a boat ride to see the flamingos, pelicans, hippos and crocodiles.

The trip was a gentle initiation for Harry into the world of royal duties abroad.

Harry watches his father holding a Zulu shield and club at the Dukuduku village school (John Stillwell/PA)

When he was 21, Harry set up his charity Sentebale in memory of his mother to help Aids orphans in Lesotho.

The seed of Sentebale was first planted in 2004 when the prince spent two months in the landlocked country located within South Africa during his gap year after being invited by its Prince Seeiso, a friend of Harry’s mentor ex-army officer Mark Dyer.

Harry during the opening of the Sentebale Mamohato children’s centre in Thaba Bosiu, Lesotho, in 2015 (Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA)

He has made numerous return journeys to Lesotho, and other African countries.

In 2008, Harry, then 24, and 26-year-old William took part in an epic charity motorbike trek across South Africa.

William and Harry pose for photographers on the eve of the start of the Enduro Africa charity ride in Port Edward, South Africa (Jerome Delay/PA)

The physically demanding and mentally gruelling 1,000-mile adventure was billed as a life-changing “endurance test” for the royal brothers.

They joined more than 80 bikers travelling across the South African wilderness in aid of three charities, including Sentebale.

Harry gets ready for the start of the Enduro Africa charity ride in Port Edward (Jerome Delay/PA)

In 2010, Harry and William took a six-day tour of southern Africa as their first official trip together.

The royal siblings flew to Botswana and Lesotho on behalf of Tusk Trust and Sentebale, where they visited projects run by the charities, before ending their visit in South Africa where they watched England’s World Cup match against Algeria.

Harry followed in Diana’s footsteps in 2013 when he travelled to Angola to see mine clearance projects run by The Halo Trust.

After leaving the Army in 2015, he lived the life of an African ranger, spending three months working as a wildlife conservation volunteer in Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana.

Harry said: “To actually get the chance to go to Africa, embed myself with the number one top vet in southern Africa, travel with him for three weeks and every job he gets called up to do, I follow him. That’s like my dream.”

The trip was followed by an official tour to South Africa, where he travelled to the Kruger National Park and saw a poaching crime scene, met retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu and honoured the legacy of former president Nelson Mandela.

Harry on a visit to the Southern African Wildlife College, close to Kruger National Park on his tour to South Africa (Chris Radburn/PA)

In 2016, Harry helped conservationists move herds of African elephants hundreds of miles to a safer home in Malawi, and described the experience as “amazing”.

He worked on the ambitious 500 Elephants project to transport the creatures from an overstocked area to another with less human-wildlife conflict and more food and resources.

The duke working in Malawi with African Parks as part of an initiative involving moving 500 elephants over 350km across Malawi (African Parks/Frank Weitzer/PA)

Harry also spent many holidays in Africa when he was dating Zimbabwean-born Chelsy Davy.

The couple, who were together for around six years, coped with a long-distance relationship while the prince was training in the Army and overseas and while Chelsy was at university in South Africa.

Prince Harry with Chelsy Davy (David Davies/PA)

The pair were often reunited in Africa and holidayed together in Mozambique and Botswana.

It was to Botswana that Harry took American Suits star Meghan Markle soon after they started dating.

Speaking during their engagement interview, Harry said: “I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana.

Harry and Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace after their engagement announcement (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“We camped out with each other under the stars… she came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic.”

The Queen was in Kenya on a Commonwealth tour when her father died and she became monarch in 1952.

The continent was also the setting for the Queen’s now famous radio broadcast when as Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday she dedicated herself to a lifetime of royal duty.

Speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1947, she declared: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”