Mention the word Africa in a travel context and some would immediately think safaris – see the image above. Girlahead wants to congratulate Beks Ndlovu, Group CEO of African Bush Camps, for stressing collaboration with competitors to give global travellers a more unified and even more professional product. Africa Change Makers, for instance, are urging like-minded travel industry leaders and trade organizations to help preserve Africa’s vital ecosystems by contributing a proportion of the value chain towards a crisis fund to ensure more tourism dollars stay within Africa. At the same time, the initiative aims to influence more informed and responsible decisions among future travelers allowing them to make a conscious contribution to Africa’s future. Sadly, despite being one of the world’s most sustainable destinations, Africa has less than 5% of global tourism revenue.
Girlahead remembers the joys of G&Ts in the Botswana bush. After what seemed like ten hours of being in a washing machine – in reality a couple of hours’ jolting and careering in an open-topped vehicle brilliantly driven by an expert chasing whiffs of Big Five through semi-forested totally-bumpy bush – heaven was stop for sustenance. Vehicle stops, driver and guide both set up picnic rugs, open a wicker hamper, take out all the necessary. Tumblers to hold the gin, expertly poured without measures. Ice and tonic. And the sunset, sensation for a lifetime of selfies.
One could monologue ad infinitum about a day in the bush but it is time to turn to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, which is definitely not all safari-speak. In Kenya, the joy used to be the overnight train from Nairobi to the Mombasa coast: the behatted guard blew a whistle on the hour and off we went, with pineapple sponges actually made from scratch by the onboard chefs as finale to a jolly good dinner. Apparently that train ride has lost several star rating recently.
Across to the west of the continent, in Senegal, follow the Obamas and others in a short boat ride pilgrimage to Goree, the island that was slaves’ staging post. Far south of Senegal, in Namibia, fly over an endless sand-dune landscape that looks like the world’s biggest chocolate cake, milk chocolate and scooped up into mini mountains.
And then, how about South Africa? Some of the best hotels in the world. Franschhoek fields BABYLONSTOREN, elder sibling of England’s THE NEWT and the -farmers, vineyard workers, gardeners and hotel and restaurant teams. In Cape Town, TABLE BAY HOTEL offers ocean views one way and, the other way, up Table Mountain.
Not far away are two more amazing luxury hotels, ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN and MOUNT NELSON, the marvellous ‘Pink Nellie’, a Belmond treasure. And finally, in this lightning tour of sub-Saharan Africa, let’s drop in on Johannesburg, at THE SAXON, where Mandela lived long enough to be able to write his 2004 tome, Long Walk to Freedom. Now a 53-room Leading Hotel, this is the ‘discreet’ place in town. It’s owned by comparethe market billionaire Douw Steyn.
The really savvy travel another three hours north to Vaalwater, where Douw Steyn’s 11,000-hectare SHAMBALA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE – also Leading – is an eight-room delight. Stay there and you will be 100% certain to see not only The Big Five but every wild’un, in the wild, imaginable. Mr Steyn keeps his gated reserve well stocked. His table, too, is splendid, and, at night, sit around a blazing log fire entertained by a carcophany of frogs.