There’s more to South Africa than checking out the wildlife. Take it from Travel Leaders franchise owner, Marcia Grant, who recently visited Cape Town and experienced a memorable moment that she says, “was truly culinary-focused.”
“A small group of us went to the Atlas Spice Market in Cape Town. It’s a very rustic place and we had sensory overload with the overwhelming aromas, the bins full of spices, and the colors. We shopped for spices with a local woman who prepared a meal for us at her home. It was an intimate experience that I did not expect. I think that type of one-to-one experience is what my clients are really interested in when it comes to a South Africa vacation,” says Grant.
So if you want to spice things up for clients who are asking for more than just a safari vacation, South Africa delivers one heck of a vacation feast. Here, visitors can swim with great white sharks—that’s a wildlife sighting of a different kind; sip on local wines; partake in a bit of voluntourism; bask in the country’s natural wonders beyond the game reserves; and go gallery-hopping in cosmopolitan cities. Of course, there should always be some time for game drives (this is South Africa, after all), and even some time for hanging out in a treehouse, if your clients are so inclined.
new 2015 tours
Abercrombie & Kent has family travel covered this year with its 11-day South Africa: A Family Safari tour ($7,395 pp). Families will see wildlife in action at the Ngala Game Reserve; ride a cable car up Table Mountain; visit the African penguin colony at Boulders Beach; connect with local children in the rural community of Welverdiend; visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center where cheetahs, wild dogs and other animals are rehabilitated; and see the former home of Nelson Mandela. Lodgings include the five-star 54 on Bath in Johannesburg and the Vineyard Hotel & Spa in Cape Town.
If your high-end clients are looking for a small group getaway (up to 16) in South Africa, Alexander+Roberts’ 12-day Journey to South Africa + Victoria Falls tour ($6,999 pp) hits the mark. This Small Group Adventure itinerary visits Victoria Falls and Cape Town, for a full-day excursion along Cape Peninsula, as well as sightseeing in Cape Agulhas, a rocky headland in the Western Cape. Guests will stay at the Thornybush Game Lodge, set on a 28,000-acre private reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park; the Royal Livingstone at Victoria Falls, and Le Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands.
Another operator offering family adventure in South Africa is Tauck. Its 10-day South Africa: Epic Family Adventure (from $5,826 pp and limited to 34 guests) is an Earth Journeys tour, meaning Tauck and BBC Earth created it jointly. Families will visit the Spier Winery and take part in a farm-to-table lunch; take a private cruise at Plettenberg Bay for wildlife watching; visit an elephant sanctuary and zipline over Kruis River; take in a game drive; and visit a tribal village and local school. Lodgings include the Conrad Pezula Resort & Spa set on Noetzie Beach, and Lion Sands River Lodge.
To celebrate the strides that South Africa has made for the LGBT-community, African Safari Company is offering a for-women-only 12-day Out Explorations: South Africa 2015 Safari tour ($6,800 pp). Highlights of the tour, scheduled for a November 2015 departure, include a visit to Table Mountain, Boulders Beach and Robben Island; a visit to the Stellenbosch, a region known for its winemaking; and Kapama Buffalo Camp, where guests will interact with a herd of rescued elephants.
There’s also plenty of sightseeing time in Cape Town, with its narrow streets lined with original Cape buildings, many re-imagined to now house museums and art galleries, as well as cafes and top-notch restaurants. Lodgings include the boutique-style More Quarters in Cape Town and the Lion Sands River Lodge where guests have the option to sleep outside in treehouse accommodations for an additional cost.
Zegrahm Expeditions is jumping ahead with its new line-up of tours for 2016. The tour company is introducing a 17-day Wild South Africa tour that departs Aug. 26, 2016. The small-group itinerary, for up to 16 guests at $17,980 pp, includes a visit to the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, home to 150 rare birds and the Cape Mountain zebra; whale watching and great white shark cage diving, as well as a visit to Timbavati Game Reserve, home to 360 species of birds and 40 mammal species including the Big Five. Accommodations include the Grootbos Forest Lodge at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Tanda Tula Safari Camp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, and Motse Lodge, set at the foot of the Korannaberg Mountains in Tswalu Game Reserve.
Reopened last summer after a full refurbishment of its six stand-alone suites and guest areas is the Kwandwe Ecca Lodge, a Relais & Chateaux property and one of four lodges that make up the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. The six suites feature king-size beds, spacious bathrooms, separate lounge areas, and wrap-around wooden decks with private plunge pools and outdoor showers. Kids can join the Blue Crane Conservation Club and learn about the reserve while searching for insects, bones and skulls with its Bugs & Bones walk, or see wildlife like zebra, giraffe and monkeys during the daily morning Stripes & Hooves game drive; photographic safaris and twice-daily game drives are also offered. Rates, at press time and during the peak season, are $641 per adult, $160 per child (6-11).
The four-star Isibindi Africa Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge, which opened in mid-December, is situated within the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve, a 237,221-acre park. Accommodations include eight Luxury Bush Villas with twin/king bedroom, luxurious indoor/outdoor shower, private wooden deck, mini bar, fireplace, and air-conditioning. The lodge also includes two Honeymoon Villas and six Bush Suites. Activities abound with visits to a local market; game drives; lunch at a local village; and a visit to St. Lucia lake for a day of fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, and more. Rates for a Bush Suite start at $158 per adult.
South African Airways, which was recently named “Best Airline in Africa” by Global Traveler Magazine, offers nonstop flights from New York (JFK) and Washington, D.C. to Johannesburg. The airline also offers numerous domestic connections, such as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
South Africa for Families (September 2014)
Abercrombie & Kent: (800) 554-7016; abercrombiekent.com
African Safari Company: (800) 414-3090; africansafarico.com
Alexander+Roberts: (800) 221-2216; alexanderroberts.com
Isibindi Africa Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge: isibindi.co.za/rhino-ridge/
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge: kwandwe.com
South African Airways: flysaa.com/us/en
Tauck: (800) 788-7885; tauck.com
Zegrahm Expeditions: (888) 979-0564; zegrahm.com