When I was in Africa, I learned how to play Mancala. It is such a great game—I think it’s one of the oldest games in the world, at least of those still being played. You don’t need anything – just dirt and seeds (or rocks or beans). The way you play is each player starts with her seeds in each of the pits. When it’s her turn she moves all the seeds from one pit and sows them in others. The object of the game is to plant the most seeds in the bank. But that’s not the important part. The important thing is that anyone can play. And everyone does. The conversations that happen around a mancala game are personal and communal. You hear about your friend’s family, or what the hippos are doing today. That’s the point.

I love how life happens during these moments. And I’m not the only one. Our guides love teaching the guests how to play backgammon—in Turkish its called tavla. Before long the sound of the dice in the game becomes a lullaby for the guests napping on deck. Some guests immediately fall in love with it, while others never get the appeal, but love the energy.

And, we’ve started to have backgammon competitions on each of our Voyages, which are an absolute hoot! The first step is teaching everyone the Turkish rules, (captain’s boat, captain’s rules) and training the novices in the basics of the game. Then, we draw brackets and let the games begin. We’ve had some unlikely upsets, which is what brackets are all about, really. And, it’s a great way for people who may not know each other well to spend some quality time together.