As you know, part of my job involves travelling to and exploring new places, so that I can confidently recommend them to you, my fabulous clients.
As it has always been my dream to visit South Africa and having the chance to see my beloved elephants, you can imagine my excitement, when I was invited on a familiarisation trip courtesy of TourVest and South African Tourism with fellow Travel Counsellors from around the World.
En route from the airport to the hotel, we enjoyed a cultural tour of Maboneng. It was great to see the journey of how Johannesburg grew from a small mining town into becoming the ‘City of Gold’.
Our first night was spent at the iconic Sandton Sun. We walked through the mall (attached to the hotel), through Nelson Mandela square for an awesome Thai meal at WangThai.
Up early next day for a tour of Soweto, South Africa's largest and most famous township. I toured in a tuk-tuk, which was great fun, but you can take a cycling tour.
Along the way, I constantly had my hand out, high fiving the local children and saying ‘yaybo’ meaning ‘hey guys’! We’d taken sweets and colouring pencils with us, and they were so gratefully received. These amazing people don’t have much, but they have such huge smiles on their faces.
I felt privileged and honoured to have made this trip and have come home wanting to do so much more. A couple of my fellow Travel Counsellors and myself are looking at doing some fundraising for the orphanage we visited, so watch this space.
As someone who went to the Nelson Mandela concert in 1988, it was a bit of a pilgrimage for me to visit Jo'burg and Soweto, as well as Nelson Mandela’s house (we could even hear his great-grandchildren playing in the garden).
We had a superb dinner, back at the Sandton Sun, on the ‘San Deck’. The food was fantastic, with an atmosphere so relaxing, firepits all lit, great music and I could have stayed all night.
I would highly recommend the Sandton district for my corporate clients. Everything is very close and the hotels are modern, with fabulous facilities including malls selling everything you might need.
Next stop was the airport for a short flight to Kruger Mpumalanga airport. This has to be the prettiest airport I’ve ever been in. It’s more like a safari lodge than an airport. There are 3 airports in the Kruger region, making it easy to get to all destinations. The flight is quick and easy, and in my opinion, preferable to driving.
After a fabulous wine tasting at Rottcher Wineries – it’s an orange winery as no grapes were available when it was established in 1916. (I may have brought some back with me as it was delicious); we checked into the Country Boutique hotel.
What a gem, perched on the outskirts of White River. We had a lovely dinner and, as ever, a superb welcome. The staff just can’t do enough for you – I have to say, to experience South African hospitality is to experience the very best. I’m drawn to huge smiles, so I was in love with this beautiful nation!
The amazingly helpful staff at Karongwe Portfolio, Becks Safari Lodge, sang for us after our braai.
A short flight to Hoedspruit, takes us to the Makalali private game reserve, based west of Kruger National Park and located close to the mighty Drakensberg mountains.
I have been an elephant lover since being a small child, so my binoculars are packed and ready for a very excited Lizzie.
After 3 days, we're heading to Hippo Hollow country estate, where we had a tour of some of the most outstanding views I have seen in my life to God’s Window, aptly name as this was heavenly!
In the evening, it was a night of Shangaan song and dance. In fact, 2 hippos decided to join us for dinner, which was an unusual event according to our hosts.
The following day, I woke up excited knowing I was off on Safari today in Karongwe Reserve, where I was about to come face to face with the most amazingly beautiful and powerful creatures in the world.
So exciting to actually see Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Giraffe and of course Elephants up close and personal. In all my excitement I did manage to get a few photos using my phone, so I hope you like them.
I know that visiting destinations are knowledge gathering as part of my business, we work really hard and it’s very tiring, but I am very lucky to have this dream come true.
I was really very pleasantly surprised to see how affordable this type of holiday is too, with the people being absolutely amazing, fantastic accommodation and very professionally run safaris, which are all about conservation too.
Suffice to say, South Africa, I WILL be back with my hubby to savour this amazing experience too!
We made a video of our trip, check it out here, ENJOY! https://quik.gopro.com/v/NWRQqVFaY4/