July 24, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

TravelPulse On Scene: South Africa Experience a Key for Agents

It’s been said a trip to Africa can be a life-changing experience and there’s truth in that. 

TravelPulse Canada has been on the “Kruger in Depth” FAM tour with G Adventures for the last week. Of the three FAMs offered this year to agents (Borneo and Vietnam being the other 2), this 8 day trip was the most popular with agents, and received the most applications. It’s a fairly new offering, having launched in 2021. 

Ana Santa Maria, GPS (Global Purpose Specialist) for G Adventures in Canada and a former travel agent, says having agents experience the trip themselves is key to understanding exactly what the tour entails in order to better advise their clients. 

G Adventures

G Adventures’ CEO South Africa Francois Senekal and GPS Ana Santa Maria

“There is no better way I think, to know a product than to experience it,” Santa Maria tells TravelPulse Canada after dinner one evening. “You can read a brochure, you can see pictures, you can watch YouTube videos and take webinars,  but nothing prepares you for this. That is part of my job and what I like to do – I want to make sure that travel agents have the tools to be able to sell.”

Agents agree. 

“It’s an experience that has to be experienced to properly explain,” says Tannis Dyrland, Owner, Tisson Travel Group who is on the FAM this week.

“Experiencing Kruger National Park has been nothing short of amazing!” says Beverly Edgar, Certified Travel Associate for The Travel Agent Next Door.  

“The immersive nature of this trip is all thanks to G Adventures and our amazing CEO, Francois. Of course seeing the Big 5 and all the other phenomenal animals was an epic experience, but sleeping in a slightly glamped up tent and eating a traditional Braai in a cave setting, were definite highlights for me.”

Many readers and travel agents have told TravelPulse Canada they too have a safari on their bucket list; it’s a place both agents and their clients have dreamed of visiting, but budget has been a concern. Averaging around $1600 plus airfare per person, this G Adventures’ trip is one of the more affordable safaris compared to others in the market. 

The “Kruger in Depth” tour spans 8 days and covers Kruger National Park and the areas around it, known as the Greater Kruger Area.  The actual Park is massive – it spans nearly 70 kms wide, 320km in length, covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres. This makes travelling quite tedious, with one day of driving nearly 12 hours, however that’s not a disadvantage. The bulk of the drive that day is through Kruger Park and where our group witnessed the majestical moment of a herd of elephants crossing in front of us, a mere 20 feet away.

Kruger in Depth is a classic tour, meaning it’s one of the more affordable tours available. Accommodations are very good; our arrival and departure nights were spent at the Airport Game Lodge which is basic, but homey. Our group was greeted by ostriches and impalas, and a few peacocks and rooms were comfortable. Only 15 minutes from the Johannesburg airport, it’s a welcome retreat before and after long hours of travel. The food was delicious as was the wine: our welcome dinner was a Braai – it can be compared to a traditional western BBQ (but don’t call it that) prepared by chef Monica. Due to planned rotating power outages, we ate by candlelight which only made the experience more magical. 

Awelani Lodge

Inside a tent at Awelani Lodge

We also stayed two nights at Awelani Lodge, which has “glamping” style of tents and also chalets. Tents have their own bathrooms with shower and electricity and are a great way to feel in touch with nature, while having some comforts of home. Chalets are more like individual villas, probably better for those who love being outside but with the comfort of AC, TV and walls.

Our guide Mpo

Our guide, Mpho Ramugodi

While at Awelani, guests can do a 5km nature walk through the grounds and learn the history of the area. Our guide Mpho Ramugodi was a wealth of knowledge and explained the different types of trees used traditionally for medicine and the cave dwellers from 80,000 years ago. Walkability factor is easy with only a bit of climbing on rocks in the last stretch, it’s suitable for most people.

Superior Garden View at Umbhaba Eco Lodge

Superior Garden View room at Umbhaba Eco Lodge

The third lodge is the Umbhaba Eco Lodge, located in Hazyview which was home for three nights. Opening just last year, its decor is very modern zen and with lush grounds and beautiful bushes, waterfalls and ponds around every corner. It’s sure to be a hit with clients.

“Being here is very valuable for the agents who can now talk to their clients about what it’s like to travel to South Africa,” says Santa Maria. “They might even want to expand their trip because it is long haul from Canada.

It’s really about having the first-hand knowledge and ability to now guide their clients to make their dream trip come true.”


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