On the road with Audley South Africa specialist, David

Up close with the locals at Oudtshoorn Ostrich Farm

David gets up close with the locals at Oudtshoorn Ostrich Farm

One of our newest specialists, David, has just returned from a trip to South Africa. These ”FAM” trips as we call them (short for ‘familiarisation’) are crucial though as they enable us to uncover new areas, hotels and excursions as well as making sure that existing ones are up to scratch.

Here he recounts his trip, the highlights of which included a self-drive journey down the world-famous Garden Route, as well as encountering some of the country’s varied wildlife.

Cheetah spotting near Plettenberg Bay

Admiring a tame cheetah near Plettenberg Bay

I was in South Africa around Christmas time but didn’t expect to be back in the Rainbow Nation for quite some time. When Audley told me I would be going to South Africa for a month familiarisation trip I couldn’t believe my luck. Hands were rubbed in anticipation and I contained my excitement for the 11 hour flight to Cape Town.

The trip began on the Garden Route, one of the highlights of any visit to South Africa. Even though I had driven down the same road just months before, I found I was seeing new sights and doing new activities every day, there is just so much to fill your time in that area of coast.

Overlooking the Blyde River Canyon

Overlooking the Blyde River Canyon

My favourite of this region was probably a whale watching trip in Plettenberg Bay. Getting to see the resident 13 metre Bryde’s whales up close, calmly surfacing next to the boat before slipping almost silently below the surface is something I will always remember. On the same trip, we looked at a Cape fur seal colony on the headland and were lucky enough to encounter a three tonne elephant seal, only 3,000 miles off course from its usual habitat in Antarctica. To get close to a seal colony, whales and an elephant seal (something I never ever expected to see) all on the same excursion, ensured my trip had definitely started on a high.

Feeding time at Shamwari Rehabilitation Centre

Feeding time at Shamwari Rehabilitation Centre

On my trip I was lucky enough to visit a range of game reserves. They were all enjoyable for different reasons: some had luxurious accommodation with spas in the camp, while some were more rustic but made you feel really involved in the bush. One thing all the game reserves did have in common was fantastic game viewing.

On one drive in Sabi Sands, I saw all the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, rhino) in less than an hour. I was spoilt for choice when it came to animals; each sighting seemed to be more spectacular than the last. A herd of elephants with tiny calves, some rhinos with even smaller ones, leopards mating, caracals hunting; the list of captivating sights on safari was longer than a big vuvuzela.

Good views in Hogsback on the Eastern Cape

Good views in Hogsback on the Eastern Cape

My favourite animal I saw on the trip was the aardwolf (a member of the ‘shy five’ with aardvark, porcupine, wild cat and the always comical bat-ear fox). Understandably, to be part of this exclusive club of five, the aardwolf isn’t seen very often. Its reaction when our Land Rover approached was consistent with this, eyes staring, jaw almost on the floor, it acted like this was the first 4×4 it had encountered (which it possibly was), before trying to nonchalantly stroll into the scrub. A definite once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

There are so many highlights on my trip to South Africa that I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details of all of them. I’m so pleased to be working as a South Africa specialist as it’s a country that really does offer something for everyone. You can visit ten times and have a different holiday experience with each trip. The countdown starts here for my next chance to head south.

To book a tailor-made trip to South Africa, call David or one of our other country specialists on 01993 838 550 or contact us online. Alternatively browse our South Africa itinerary ideas or order a free brochure for a little inspiration.