There was a buzzing atmosphere on my arrival for the Showcase Event, which saw Abbotts Travel partnering with Chigwell Golf Club to present an introduction to South Africa, as well as some of the best golfing holidays one can get their hands on.
Like most, South Africa has been on my bucket list for a while and with a lovely spread of Springbok inspired food and beverages, I was ready to hear from those that know the country best.
John Fair from South African Tourism was given the impossible task of providing a 10-minute overview of his country, and by the end I was ready to book my flights. From bungee jumping, shark caging and hot air ballooning, to visiting the Zulu battlefields and driving the panoramic route to witness some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa, the list of adventures on offer was endless.
The presentation wasn’t just whetting my appetite for travel either, I left with a notepad full of helpful advice for my future travel plans, like the fact that South Africa has 11 official languages but English is widely spoken, in certain areas you’re not required to take malaria tablets, and there is currently a four month wait for a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years – it’s best to book in advance!
If you’re more interested in wildlife than history, African Pride offer some magical trips that get you up close and personal with South Africa’s big five. David Holland shared some incredible wildlife photographs taken on the trip and it was lovely to hear him talk about the threats wildlife face in the region, with rhinos being poached quicker than they can breed, wildlife tourism has never been so important.
It won’t just be the big five that you get to tick off your bucket list in South Africa, with Hermanus being one of the best places for land whale watching in the world and of course the famous penguins at Boulders Bay – there’s a whole range of marine life to see.
While the penguins at Boulders Bay aren’t much of a secret, the greatest train journey on Earth seems to be. Who knew you could travel through South Africa by train? It was something I had never previously contemplated until I heard about Rovos Rail. Tailor-made luxury travel to see the big five without the long car journeys… yes please!
If trains aren’t your cup of tea, Thompsons Africa has you covered with fully escorted tours. I’ve done both independent and guided travel and there are definitive perks to being shown around a country by somebody who knows it best. You’ll never get lost, never have to think about the time and you’ll save yourself a lot of arguments that always seem to arise when somebody in your group reads the map wrong. Plus you can never beat local knowledge when it comes to experiencing a new culture.
Alex Tollman was up next to introduce us to three of the best hotels in South Africa and if she taught me one thing, it’s that experiencing a new culture can be done in style. With the family-run Twelve Apostles offering views of Table Mountain and The Oyster Box situated opposite the legendary Umhlanga Lighthouse, you’ll be spoilt for choice. My personal favourite is the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, a hotel burrowed in the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains among the open plains of Africa. This five-star resort looks like it came straight out of a Hollywood movie.
After spending most of the evening with my head in South Africa, Red Carnation Hotels and The London EDITION brought us back to the UK to see some of the hot spots on offer at home. Turns out you don’t need to fly to South Africa to be treated like a Queen – and with some incredible raffle giveaways, a few lucky clients attending the showcase will soon be treated like royalty for a night.
Abbots Travel rounded up the evening by showcasing the Golf Collection, six of the best golf resorts in Europe cherry picked for clients to pull out their clubs for a game. With championship golf courses in the South of France, five types of sand on a course in Spain and waves crashing against the side of your last hole in Turkey, even those more into yoga would have a wonderful time. And with the ladies open next year at Terre Blanche, I think I may have found my new hobby!
A massive thank you to Abbotts Travel, Chigwell Golf Club and all the incredible speakers for hosting such a wonderful evening, it’s time for me to start planning my next trip.