Holiday in the Wild

Nov 8, 2019 | News

By Bronwyn McKay – Channel24


To keep her spirits high when their son leaves for college, Manhattanite Kate Conrad (Kristin Davis) has booked a ‘second honeymoon’ with her husband. Instead of thanking her, he brings their relationship to a sudden end; jilted Kate proceeds to Africa for a solo safari. During a detour through Zambia, she helps her pilot, Derek Holliston (Rob Lowe), rescue an orphaned baby elephant. They nurse him back to health at a local elephant orphanage, and Kate extends her stay through Christmastime. Far from the modern luxuries of home, Kate thrives amidst majestic animals and scenery. Her love for the new surroundings just might extend to the man who shared her journey. 


At the stroke of midnight on 1 November, Netflix launched the first of many Christmas films to get holiday lovers amped for the festive season.

Surprising as it may sound, Holiday in the Wild is the first cheesy holiday movie that left me a little astonished – while even the title suggests that it is a compilation delightful enough for any Hallmark fan, there are two love stories told.

Ditched by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari, Kate (Kristin Davis) travels to the continent alone where she meets elephant conservationist, Derek (Rob Lowe) and so, like many who visit a country on the African continent, she falls in love.

Okay, so the first love story becomes immediately evident and predictable when Kate and Derek first meet, and sure it’s sweet and serves as a great warm-up for the overload of festive films to come, that’s not why I have given this film such a high rating.

The protagonists of Holiday in the Wild are none-other than the breath-taking elephants Kate meets and in turn, falls madly in love with.

“This project is very dear to my heart since it is a love letter to all of the people trying to save elephants,” Davis wrote alongside a photo of herself while on set in South Africa on Instagram.

And I have to say; it truly is a beautiful love letter to not only elephant conservation but to Africa as well. Director Ernie Barbarash managed to capture what makes an African sunset so perfect and beautiful and even more so, the delicacy and care shown in the way the wild animals are filmed amplifies just how graceful these creatures are and just how important it is to keep them safe.

Holiday in the Wild was predominantly filmed in South Africa and Zambia and in case you find yourself wondering, all elephants filmed were orphaned and rescued due to poaching. “We used wild elephants that were rescued, and we never did anything they didn’t want to do,” Kristin shared in an interview with Parade.

And before you go thinking, ‘Okay, so they made a movie about conservation with wild elephants, but that’s all’. That’s not all.

Kristin has been involved in elephant conservation since 2009 and has been working closely with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust after she came across an orphaned baby elephant in Kenya that same year. Because of her experience and the revelation of how big the poaching crisis is, Davis came up with the idea of educating people about conservation while also entertaining them through the film – a few years of research and a finance injection from Netflix resulted in Holiday in the Wild.

Aside from the rightful spotlight-stealing elephants, I thank Barbarash and his team of producers for not making this a ‘Hollywood movie filmed in Africa’. If you are going to film a movie about conservation in an African country, using local resources is of vital importance, and they did that. Not only the location, but paying attention to details such as casting South African actors, including Fezile Mpela – who did a great job portraying Jonathan, the man in charge of the elephants and the orphanage – and using local music just made the film that much more enjoyable to watch.

Yes, Holiday in the Wild is just another rom-com gearing us up for the Christmas season. But it’s also a beautiful illustration of wild creatures that are in grave danger and need protecting. I loved this movie because it reignited my adoration for all things wild and opened my eyes to the importance of the conservation of wild animals and their habitat.