INDABA 2013: Africa’s top travel show

INDABA 2013 meetingsTrip Report by Keith Holshausen, Lazy Lizard Travel LLC

Even though I grew up in Southern Africa, every visit ‘home’ is filled with excitement from the moment I step onto the South African Airways flight in JFK, to the first sight of the rising sun and that unforgettable orange glow as we wing southwards.  SAA is an award winning airline with three South African airports ranked the best in Africa which are also currently rated higher than any American airport (Skytrax survey).

INDABA is owned by SA Tourism and attracts some 13,000 delegates with 750 exhibitors.  At INDABA you can discover all the latest travel products available and window-shop for travel opportunities, as well as network in an industry that thrives on connections. I squeezed in 38 meetings in three days not to count the various ‘sundowners’ and cocktail events that go with the territory.  Show organization is top notch and the service and efficiency is undoubtedly ‘first world’ but with a delightful flavor of Africa.  May is a perfect time to be in South Africa as you get to experience Autumn at its best.

Numerous African countries are represented, including the hearty Southern African contingent of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique (not forgetting the host country, South Africa) to the East Africa clan of Tanzania and Kenya with a special contribution from the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion.

The South African Minister of Tourism was also visiting INDABA as tourism is a leading earner of foreign currency, even overtaking gold exports.  They say that one job is created for every 12 foreign arrivals in South Africa.

No visit to INDABA would be complete without a few ‘site inspections’ and the travel industry is always ready to showcase their splendors.  I traditionally visit the game reserves in the Kruger National Park area and my sightings of leopard at Mala Mala this year were breathtaking to say the least.  I then dropped in at Kapama Private Game Reserve which stretches over 30,000 acres and has four sophisticated bush camps.  In Cape Town the Table Bay Hotel on the waterfront boasts stunning views of Table Mountain and you are also pampered with exceptional service.  The scenic Cape Winelands have been described by many overseas wine experts as the most beautiful in the world.  The Cape wine industry dates back to the 17th century with the Dutch settlers and French Huguenots.  My wife’s ancestors were wine farmers and settled their Paarl estate ‘Den Soeten Inval’ as far back as 1688.

So next time you are looking at your ‘bucket list’, I strongly suggest you write in Africa and perhaps even write it in twice.

Hamba kahle….travel well.

Safari – in the old continent

Anticipating any adventure is pleasurable but there is something decadently thrilling about the anticipation of a safari! We were on a small propeller driven plane (my husband affectionately calls them “puddle jumpers”) flying out of the Indian ocean port city of Durban north towards the greater Kruger National Park for a three night/four day stay in the “bush”. The sky was clear and filled with sunlight as we skirted the coastline and flew a little inland and towards this world famous region renowned for exceptional wild life and a forward thinking approach towards conservation of land, vegetation and its game.

We landed at Nelspruit airport, or KMIA – Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, a delightful thatched building which looks to all intents and purposes like a bush lodge – and stepped straight out onto the tarmac to walk to the arrivals and baggage hall. I must make reference to South African pilots here, who all seem to take the landing of their craft as a point of pride and measure of their professionalism. Being used to the shuttle-bus attitude of the American air industry and the way that their planes seem to leap out of the air towards the earth landing with a bone-jarring thump and bounce, it was entirely refreshing to enjoy smooth earthly arrivals with such obvious care and skill. And it is not unusual to hear the pilot apologise if he feels the landing was a little rough and not up to his usual exacting standard in any way at all!

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There are various ways of reaching the Private Game Reserves or Kruger NP from the KMIA. It is possible to fly in via small plane as many of the lodges either have their own or share a common dirt air-strip. It is certainly the most direct and convenient way for many and is easily added onto the safari as an air transfer. More common is a road transfer from the Mpumalanga airport to the lodge and these can be as shared or arranged as a private transfer, most often by a local transport company. Some of the lodges have their own vehicles. By taking a shared transfer it is possible to visit some of the other lodges on the way which is an interesting insight into the general area. We opted to hire a car from KMIA and drive the 2hr distance and include that as part of our experience.

We were headed for Sabi Sands which is one of the private reserves bordering the Kruger National Park to the south and west. It is where our lodge is situated. These private reserves have exclusive traversing rights for the guests who stay at the lodges and camps and as there are no fences between them and the National Park, the animals are free to move around this large area. In recent years the governments of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa have co-operated in the formation of a Transfrontier Border Park creating ever larger areas for the wild animals to roam which in turn has relieved the pressure on the land and created ever healthier herds, flocks and prides – and outstanding game viewing opportunities for the visitor!

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