South Africa FAM Trip : Geraldine’s experience
Geraldine had already been to South Africa 10 times before visiting for the 11th time on a FAM trip with us in December. She shared her experience and thoughts about the trip with us and we were delighted, that despite being a seasoned South Africa explorer, this trip had lots of ‘first time’ moments in it too!
1. Was this your first time visiting South Africa?
No it wasn’t, it was my 11th time!
The first 7 times were very different as I used to go volunteering in a wildlife rehabilitation centre and would only visit The Kruger National Park for safaris. I then visited other game reserves in the country up North and West. But there were a lot of ‘first times’ in this trip.
2. Do you feel that being part of the FAM trip and experiencing the destination has made it easier for you to discuss SA with your clients?
Definitely. South Africa is a very big country and the itinerary that we did is a popular one, but also only a tiny part of South Africa. While I have explored other areas in the West and North, and have been to Cape Town, Boulders Beach and Franshhoek before, I had not been to the other places. I specialise in African safaris and it was important to see the two game reserves: Amakhala and Shamwari as I have included them before in itineraries but hadn’t experienced them.
Lioness at Amakhala
It really makes a difference, especially visiting so many lodges and talking with the managers. I feel much better equipped when discussing various options for clients as I can compare different reserves from personal experience. I was also happily surprised with some smaller towns like Knysna and Hermanus. I think I had underestimated how beautiful they are! In Cape Town, where I had already been, I experienced a completely different side of the city, a great benefit of the FAM trip.
Staying in various hotels was very helpful because it will make it easier to match them with the right type of clients.
3. Which was your favourite property during the trip?
Very hard to pick one! Woodbury Lodge where we stayed in Amakhala game reserve was fantastic and more my ‘type of lodge’, small and intimate, lovely rooms and views, in the bush, delicious food and friendly staff, amazing guide which is absolutely key on safari, luxurious but not over the top and a fire to gather around after the evening game drive, which to me is an essential part of the safari experience!
Of the properties that we visited, but didn’t stay at, I really liked Safari Lodge in Amakhala game reserve, mainly because of the room facing the waterholes, meaning that there is a great chance to see animals from your bed or private plunge pool. We saw nyalas at the waterholes while visiting a room and it was only a short visit! This was really wonderful.
I also really like Lobengula in Shamwari game reserve, very cosy lodge set in nature.
The One&Only in Cape Town really impressed me. This elegant hotel was truly wonderful, the meal we had was an experience in itself as opposed to being just great food and wine. It was quite theatrical and really special to meet the chef and sommelier too. The views from the rooms are fabulous, the level of comfort absolutely incredible, and the attention to detail in every aspect of our stay, truly impressive.
4. What were your highlights and special memories from the trip?
The evening game drive in Amakhala, especially when we spotted a lioness, her daughter and the male lion at sunset was an incredible moment I won’t ever forget. They were walking towards the jeep and we reversed at the same pace as their walk, I could see them at eye level, there was complete silence in the vehicle, pure magic! I would be surprised if I am the only one to recall this moment as a highlight.
‘Just chilling’ on the suspension bridge in Tsitsikamma
I loved all the fantastic meals and wine we had from the very first to the last meal. Franshhoek is a highlight also for me, a very beautiful town, plus the wine tasting was very well chosen and well organised.
In Cape Town, the dinner at The Gold restaurant was brilliant, I thought it might feel too touristy but it wasn’t: very nice food, great concept and we had a lot of fun. I will highly recommend it to all my clients going to Cape Town.
Another highlight is the evening that started with a dinner on the Alba boat, it was tremendous fun. The following evening, we all went out together, we had such a great time it felt like going out with a group of friends.
The last 2 days were real WOW moments: Staying at One&Only hotel and going on a helicopter ride over Cape Town, I don’t think you can top this! Absolutely amazing. That’s another memory I will cherish for a long time, and will highly recommend to clients.
In general, we got on so well and the trip went very smoothly with many laughs. We had a fantastic guide, who was able to change plans at short notice due to activities being cancelled because of bad weather. It was never a problem and I enjoyed everything we did!
I cannot forget to mention the return flight in business class, which was a real game changer! Thank you very much BA!
We all arrived as individual travel agents, we left as a family. This is the magic of Africa.
Huge thank you to Somak for taking us on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa, experiencing some of the finest accommodation, restaurants and sightings the country has to offer. It has been a truly inspirational and educational trip. I am extremely grateful and realise how lucky I am to have had this fantastic opportunity!