Welcome to the new 1st edition of the Curious Curator. We took a break for a while as we were concentrating on our new website, improving our itineraries and a few other exciting projects, but we’re back and we hope you enjoy reading all the news and reviews this month…
Interview with Jono Green:
Most of you know our Jono, but for those who don’t, he is the lovely General Manger of our London office. After his recent promotion, I asked him a few questions about what drives him and what keeps him at followme2.
Q1. How long have you been at followme2?
Almost 9.5years, I started back in May 2008 on a 6-month maternity contract covering Angie’s Account Manager role when she had her first child….9.5years on I am still here!!
Q2. What’s a typical working day for you?
I like to start my day with a short meditation, a full body work out or yoga session and a bowl of organic fruit….OK who am I kidding it’s a strong cup of coffee on the way to work!
No two days are ever the same in my role as I oversee the operations of the London office and all the curve balls that come with it. A typical day involves checking through new emails, working on various projects such as the organization of different events – be that a Cross Border Travel Academy, pulling together bespoke training presentations for client training, liaising with visiting suppliers to arrange sales/product/training appointments with our various UK clients, accompanying suppliers to meetings with our clients and analysis of sales production in relation to that client/supplier, business development and support of followme2RUSSIA, client support/liaison with direct calls for bookings/enquiries. Basically sitting at my desk trouble shooting and problem solving various aspects of the whole company.
I like to end my day with a large glass of something cold!
Q3.) What do you love about working for the company?
I love working for a company that has such a young vibrant feel about it. You can feel the genuine passion that followme2 has for the destinations we work with and that is why I am still here 9.5years later. Followme2 is more than just a company, it feels like family and that’s not easy to find in a place of work.
Q4.) Where is the last place you went on your holiday?
I recently came back from a week on the Balearic Island of Ibiza. I’m getting a bit too old to party hard, but I gave it a go…
Q5.) If you had one day left on the earth, where would you like to spend it?
Mmmmm, tough question, and there is no simple answer. Definitely Southern Africa though! I think sitting on a lookout point gazing out over any wide-open space watching an African Sunset with my wonderful partner by my side…and of course a Gin and Tonic in my hand! If I had to choose one then it would have to be Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe for the best Sunset I have ever seen!
Up next month is our interview with Angie Fuller, Senior Account Manager in our UK office.
Big bookings last month:
A big shout out to Kristiana Choquet from Ovation Travel in the US who made a fabulous booking to Kruger (Singita) and One&Only Cape Town, worth over USD30,000!! Very well done and thank you so much!
For a taste of what this super cool area of Maboneng in Johannesburg has to offer, click here to read our Product Director Tony Brink’s review http://www.followme2africa.com/inspired/maboneng-rising-star-joburg/
Our Finance Director Karen Naidoo loves to hike on Lions Head in Cape Town. There are so many hiking options in and around Cape Town and the scenery is simply stunning! If your clients love walking they won’t be disappointed. Lions Head is the distinctive shaped mountain slope found alongside Table Mountain. The proud lion overlooks the city and Table Bay on one side, and the scenic Atlantic Ocean coastline on the other. On a clear day the views from atop Lions Head are spectacular and great for taking photographs of the Cape Peninsula and Robben Island. It’s a spectacular walk to the top and although it can be quite steep at times, the stunning views of Cape Town on the way up will keep you motivated to reach the top. The walk to the summit should take approximately an hour and thirty minutes and is highly recommended.
Wish You Were Here:
Take a look at this stunning island in Mozambique. This most amazing tiny Island (Medjumbe) is just 1km long by 200m wide. They convert sea water into fresh water and they also have a unique solar panel plant that gives them electricity, so they are the only 100% natural island, fully reliant on the natural elements of nature.
New Hotel Openings:
Due to the massive demand we’re seeing in South Africa over the high season, we desperately need more rooms – in particular in Cape Town, so we’re delighted that the following hotels are ready for guests.
Radisson Red (V&A Waterfront)
Radisson Blu Hotel and Residence
Tsogo Sun SunSquare & Stay Easy Cape Town City Bowl hotel
New Product Highlights:
Samara Private Game Reserve now has two new air charter services that make Samara and the Great Karoo even more accessible. A new scheduled flight operated by Plett Air Safaris now links Plettenberg Bay with Graaff-Reinet, the local town near Samara, and is scheduled to coincide with arrivals into Plettenberg Bay on CemAir from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The 40-minute flight operates 6 days per week and provides the ideal beach-to-bush transfer.
Belmond Safaris Introduce Kosher Safaris in Botswana “Kosher travel demands a level of catering that needs to meet rigorous and precise specifications. In the past this has proved particularly challenging when Kosher guests are on safari in remote locations, where all the ingredients are flown or trucked in and where there is a lack of required equipment, or Kosher kitchens in lodges, as well as the lack of true understanding of how complex the logistics are in order to provide Kosher catering and supervision in countries without any significant Jewish population. The only means of offering Kosher catering on safari in Botswana had been to arrange prepacked meals that were flown up commercially and then into the lodges. This process resulted in the offering not being as fresh as it could be, and the pre-packed meals would often need to last as long as ten or twelve days! Ultimately, this has meant that we have not been able to accommodate Kosher requests at the Belmond level of luxury. But this has now changed. Belmond Safaris has partnered with Tourism That Cares and is now able to provide fresh Kosher meals across all three of our lodges, offering a much sought after and valued service to our Kosher Jewish guests.”
Mara-Dikwe Air Taxi will be launching in January 2018 and will whizz guests from Grand Central, J’burg to Marataba and Madikwe game lodges. In partnership with Angel Gabriel, this will complete The MORE inter-property air circuit. Please ask us for more details.
How’s this for a Wow Experience:
If you have guests staying at Ellerman House in Cape Town, money’s no object and they’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience or ideas of how to mark a special occasion, suggest Ellerman House’s 24hr ‘Greatest Day’ experience to the Antarctic. After arriving in Cape Town and enjoying a few days of complete relaxation at Ellerman House, they will be primed and ready to take on the ‘Greatest Day’, a 24hr round trip to Antarctica. Their Antarctic Adventure is set to depart in the African night on a private Gulfstream jet for a speedy 5.5hr flight. Travel over thousands of icebergs as they enter 24hrs of continuous sunshine. Landing at the specially prepared ice runway, they will then be transferred by 4x4s to the magnificent Schirmacher Oasis. A land of cliffs, lakes and science bases – all of which will be explored throughout the day. With an aim to spend 8hrs on the ground, they can partake in a host of activities: some completely gentle and others as adrenaline-fueled as they wish. Expert guides are on hand to escort them every step of the way. The day culminates with a gourmet Champagne dinner, in celebration of the spectacular setting that is the Antarctic. Landing back in Cape Town 24hrs later, they can nestle themselves into the crisp white sheets of their Ellerman House bed. Call us for prices and more details…
Closer to home and off the beaten track – Wild Coast Trail
The often, over-looked Wild Coast isn’t usually on a first timers’ itinerary, but if you have clients who want to get off the tourist trail and experience some of the most beautiful rugged coastline in South Africa, give us a call to discuss this fabulous 6 day trail.
The trail is fully catered and supported which allows hikers to travel light, carrying only a small daypack with the bare essentials and a scrumptious packed lunch. A support vehicle will transport luggage to each overnight stop where you will be accommodated in comfortable beach camps or lodges with en-suite hot showers. All linen and towels are provided.
Each day is guided to ensure the safety of the group. This also guarantees that no secrets are missed along the way and you enjoy a genuine Pondoland experience; harvesting oysters and mussels off the rocks, making bread, collecting berries, diving for crayfish and catching that elusive Kabeljou. The rich Pondo culture and history will be shared together with many wonderful tales of adventure, shipwrecks and survival that have taken place on this coastline.
The Wild Coast moves at its own pace and it’s essential to take the time to appreciate its unique microclimate and the many endemic plants, animals and birds that occur in this region. Time will be governed by the tides and the numerous river crossings along the way.
However beautiful this coastline is, it is too fragile to sustain thousands of people visiting its shores on an annual basis. The Pondo Trail is an exclusive, high-end product with low environmental impact that hopes to educate the fortunate few that grace its shores, that they may realise its true beauty and play a vital part in preserving its future.
Our Product Director Tony Brink recently ate in the amazing Foxcroft in Constantia and here’s what he had to say “Foxcroft – an assault on the taste buds! Owned and started by one of the legendary La Colombe Chefs, Foxcroft does not disappoint. They serve a select menu where you can choose two Tapas, 1 Main and 1 Dessert. It’s all about combining the visual, with the senses (textures) and the taste buds – and boy is it a knock out. You generally leave there thinking ‘what just happened’. This is a must for anyone visiting the Constantia Winelands, and more important Cape Town in general!”
Seta at Villa 47, Cape Town is a new cocktail bar opening on the 22nd Sept – where cool cocktails, delicious small plates and an up-tempo buzz are the order of the day! Click here for more information: https://insideguide.co.za/cape-town/villa-47
What’s on in…
There are so many amazing events happening each month across South Africa, but we thought we’d highlight this popular Western Cape Music Festival happening in Franschhoek this October. From 27th-29th October Franschhoek comes alive with concert performances throughout the many wine estates, restaurants and the historic landmark NG Church in centre of the village. With an intimate line-up of a broad range of classic music (piano recitals, opera, cabaret and jazz) by outstanding musicians, it promises to be an entertaining weekend. For more information, click here: http://www.winelandsweb.co.za/classic-music-festival-franschhoek/
What can you expect to see in Southern Africa over the Spring:
South Africa – Every year whales migrate from feeding grounds in the Antarctic to give birth in the waters off South Africa’s coast and from July to November the waters from Cape Town to Cape Agulhas are alive with them. Do you know your right from your Bryde’s (pronounced broo-dess) whale? If not the Hermanus Whale Festival in late September, with its famous whale crier music and whale-related events will soon set you straight.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria the Jacaranda trees are blooming and wildflowers carpet the landscape along the Cape coast as the fynbos comes into bloom, creating a particularly spectacular backdrop to the deep blue of the sea.
Whale sharks can be seen off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal while in the Eastern Cape game reserves, spring brings new births and the arrival of the next generation of African animals. There are few cuter sights than a trio of tiny warthogs running along after mum, and the game viewing is generally superb at this time.
Whilst in Botswana – Unique to the Okavango Delta, the catfish run happens each year, starting in early August and ending in November. During this period, the receding water levels concentrate the smaller fish species, causing predatory catfish to gather in their hundreds and work their way upstream as they hunt. In their wake, they attract an eager supporting cast of water birds that also congregate in equally impressive numbers to feed on any remaining survivors.
A Few Specials:
We always have a fantastic selection of special offers available throughout the year (excluding a few peak dates), but we thought we’d highlight a few we think will hit the spot with your clients. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on these offerings/promos.
Blue Train – 1 x complimentary nights’ stay in either Pretoria or Cape Town – valid for 2018. Experience the Blue Train with 1 x complimentary nights’ accommodation (bed, breakfast and transfer between the hotel and the station) at one of the following properties in Pretoria: Castello Di Monte or the Sheraton Hotel, OR should guests prefer to stay in Cape Town, they are offering a night at the Taj Hotel or The Westin. This special is available for all new bookings made for guests travelling during 2018 (subject to availability). Please note that this offer cannot be used on any discounted rate or combined with any other promotion. This offer can only be booked directly with followme2AFRICA and not with the The Blue Train or properties directly.
Ulusaba, Sabi Sand, Mpumalanga – 4 nights for the price of 3. Stay anytime between the 10th January – 30th June 2018 and your final night is complimentary.
Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek, Cape Winelands – 3 nights for the price of 2. Stay anytime from the 16th April – 30th September 2018 to enjoy this offer.
Hotel Closures and Renovations:
Most hotels close for a set period every year to refresh their properties, in particular to re-paint and to deep cleanse the rooms. We endeavour to keep you abreast of this information as and when we receive it, however most closures are usually only for a couple of weeks at the most. On occasion a hotel or lodge may decide (and often at the last minute) to upgrade and undertake major renovations, so we thought it important to highlight a couple.
Stanley & Livingstone, Victoria Falls will also be closing for major renovations. This will commence from 12th November 2017 and is expected to be completed on the 1st August 2018. This property will then become part of the MORE portfolio.
City Lodge OR Tambo will be undergoing building renovations and soft refurbishments as of 1st August 2017 until 31 March 2018. The property is adding 62 rooms to their current 303 rooms. Construction work is on the outside of the hotel and will have no affect on guests. Work will be carried out between 07h00 – 17h00 Monday – Sunday.
Visas for Mozambique:
Following President Filipe Nyusi’s announcement identifying tourism as one of the core props of economic recovery (along with agriculture, energy and infrastructure) earlier this year, the Mozambican government has moved to address one of the main impediments to tourism identified by local tour operators; the high cost and complicated visa process for international travellers. In April this year, government announced that it would be allowing visitors from all countries to purchase visas at all of Mozambique’s 26 international border posts. Previously, travellers from countries where Mozambique had Embassies, High Commissions or Consulates were obligated to purchase a single-entry visa in advance of travel; an often expensive and time-consuming process. This also barred international visitors to neighbouring South Africa, Swaziland or Zimbabwe from adding Mozambique to their itinerary once they had arrived. Under the new dispensation, visitors from any country may purchase a double-entry visa at any international border, including sea and airports. The country’s Minister of Interior, Basílio Monteiro, announced that the price of the visa would be cut by about 30% from US$70 to US$50. He commented that the new price was “reasonable” and added that it is between US$3 and US$7 lower than the levels excised by neighbouring countries in Southern Africa. The fee is set in US$ and thus the value paid in Rand or Metical would fluctuate with the prevailing exchange rate.
We always recommend you advise your clients to check with their local embassies and, most particularly, with their inbound airlines’ boarding policy prior to travel. All visitors must hold a return air ticket as well as a confirmed hotel reservation.
We’re running a photo competition until the end of September to find some new inspiring pictures for our website homepage. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a budding photographer and you’ve recently taken some snaps whilst on holiday or on a fam trip to Southern Africa (and you don’t mind sharing them with us), send them to email@example.com. Please only send a max of 1MB. A case of South African wine is up for grabs for the winner.
Simon Jones (VP Marketing, USA)
To like us on Facebook…..www.facebook.com/followme2africa
See you next month