Friday 16 September 2016

Africa, à la Adventure World

                      With thanks to Adventure World for this tailor-made holiday.
This morning began with another yummy (French toast today) sociable breakfast – conversation topics included rank v platoon firing in battle, and how to do the two-handed finger snap used so effectively yesterday by Mphiwa – and then we said goodbye to the cheerful staff at Fugitives’ Drift. We drove our (freshly-washed) rental car the four hours back to Durban, past traditional villages and gradually bigger towns like Babanango, Melmoth and Ballito, finishing up back at the King Shaka Airport to begin our long journey home.

Most of this trip was organised for us by Adventure World: partly as a prize I won, and partly as a demonstration of what they do, for me to write about. What do they do? Well, as much or as little as you want, right up to "Everything, please". They have a wide range of group tours that they run throughout the year to many countries all around the world. Or you can go bespoke, as we did. Having decided it was Africa we wanted to go to, we made an appointment with their African specialist at their office in Auckland (you can also work with them through a travel agent), and had a chat about the sort of things we wanted to do and see. It was pretty vague: Cape Town, glamping, a train, and wildlife, especially plenty of elephants, all to be fitted into about a couple of weeks. We could, of course, have been much more specific.
We were emailed gradually more definite itineraries for our feedback, and when it was all finalised, we went in again to pick up the hard copy with its booklet of vouchers, and to ask any last questions. Everything had been organised: flights, accommodation, activities, transfers, and we even had some help putting together our personal travel at the end. And then we were away.

It all worked beautifully, almost. There was one hiccup with a missing transfer, which was handled very efficiently by the company Adventure World was working with in South Africa, with prompt action and reassurance from Marlene back in New Zealand. All the rest of the flights, pick-ups, hotels and so on went perfectly, which is very reassuring in a place like Africa: it's a bit of an edgy destination and not somewhere I’m brave enough now to tackle completely on my own. I certainly noticed a big increase in nervousness when we were finding our own way around, driving ourselves and feeling much more vulnerable.

And the places we went! Hotels that weren’t just fancy, but full of personality; private city tours; the fabulous other world of the Rovos Rail experience; the foray into Zambia to fly in our own little plane to Royal Zambezi Lodge for truly unforgettable wildlife encounters including a surfeit of elephants… it was all brilliant. And so, so easy. Don’t believe those stupid TV ads that sneer at travel agents and tell you to do it all yourself much more efficiently, and cheaply, on the internet. I’ve done that too, recently, and it’s been a nightmare, honestly. Do yourself a favour and leave it to the professionals, like Adventure World: you’ll be glad you did.
PS: All this, and responsible tourism too!

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