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An interview with our local experts in South Africa

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South Africa has a lot going for it. Encompassing incredible wildlife, jaw dropping scenery, fabulous beaches and some of the most vibrant cultures out there, there’s enough excitement for a lifetime of holidays. Our lovely local experts are passionate about providing a deeper experience of this amazing nation, and are experts at crafting the perfect itinerary for their guests. We caught up with Nick, the owner of one of our partner companies, to find out more about what South Africa has to offer.

Who are you?

Nick, our South African local expertI am Nick - I own a local South African tailor-made tour company that partners with TravelLocal.

What is life like in South Africa? What is your fondest memory?

Life in South Africa is very different than life in Europe. It has pros and cons of course, but for us the pros definitely top the cons! I am Dutch by origin, and moved to South Africa over 10 years ago. I swapped a life of 'security' for the 'unknown', sold all my belongings and left all family and friends behind, all just to be able to live in this amazing country.

Something else that was very important to me was starting our own creche, so whilst we work on putting exciting tours together for our clients, we can hear the laughter of our kids, and can see them when we have a break. It allows us to still feel very close and involved with our children, even though we work full time.

My fondest memory is difficult to choose: maybe the moment at Amakhosi Safari Lodge when my girlfriend said 'yes' when I asked her to marry me. Or the amazing day on the beach of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park when we actually got married. Or the day in Richards Bay hospital, when our baby girl Ariel was born.

What is your favourite place in South Africa? Why?

Coast near St Lucia EstuaryThey call South Africa 'The World in One Country', and I believe this is true. It is so diverse: oceans, great beaches, impressive mountain ranges, fantastic safari, culture, cosmopolitan cities, and so much more. If I was pushed for an answer, I would choose my current home town as my favourite place; the little town of St. Lucia Estuary, completely surrounded by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, with savanna and forest on three sides, and the Indian Ocean bordering the fourth.

What three words most represent South Africa for you and why?

Diversity, safari and culture. As said above, few countries in the world, if any, can offer the same diversity in terms of landscape, ecosystems, biodiversity and attractions. It is also a fantastic safari destination, offering safaris through the savanna, the more forested areas, and all the way to the semi or full desert. It has 11 official languages (and many more 'unofficial' ones), showing the incredible diversity of culture.

Do you know any cool facts about South Africa that most people wouldn’t know?

Lioness in Hluhluwe Kruger is NOT South Africa's first or oldest national park. In fact, there are three parks in the Elephant Coast alone which are are older: The famous Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the Pongolo Nature Reserve, and the St. Lucia section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

What is your favourite South African food?

It sounds clichéd, but I would say the 'Braai', South Africa's equivalent of the barbecue. Not only is it a great social event, South Africa is renowned for its great quality of beef and venison meat. Partnered with a good South African wine of course!

What are the experiences people travelling to South Africa definitely shouldn’t miss?

Cape Town from the skyThe reality is that South Africa is so big, and so diverse, that it is impossible to see all major highlights in one trip. Hence why South Africa enjoys a great number of returning tourists. (We have a group of people that are travelling with us for the sixth time this year!) For first timers, we recommend two or three weeks to the Elephant Coast, just above Durban. It offers a great mix of safaris and subtropical beaches. Those more interested in sightseeing and fine dining, instead of safaris, should definitely visit Cape Town and the Garden Route. Those wishing to come for a second time could do the Northern part of South Africa, including the more remote (and less busy) areas of Kruger National Park. Third timers should consider the rugged Northern Cape with its wildflower displays and safaris in the arid Kalahari.

Do you have any top tips for any TravelLocal customers thinking of visiting South Africa?

South Africa is as big as the whole of Western Europe, and 32 times the size of The Netherlands. Don't try to see 'everything' in one trip. Choose a region, spend 2-3 weeks in that region alone and enjoy it. We are not going anywhere; there is always a next time, whether it is next year or in a few years, that you can come again and 'experience' another region properly.

What is the story behind your company? What inspired you to start the business?

Once upon a time, we travelled to South Africa and felt that most tour operators completely missed the point of 'being on holiday in South Africa'; dashing through the highlights and cramming too much in. This is not a holiday, we thought, it is a race against time with hardly any opportunity for enjoyment and relaxation! No time to feel, to smell, to experience the true South Africa, no time to actually get to know the people and have meaningful interactions with them. And no time to relax after a whole year of hard work. We saw this as a 'gap in the market' and seized it. Our motto is: Drive less, Experience more!

What have been your favourite and most memorable experiences as a tour operator?

Family holiday to South AfricaWe feel humbled by the fact that some families that travel with us have saved for years in order to take their family to an exciting destination as South Africa, and then trust us to make it happen! It drives us to ensure their experience is not only wonderful, but also worry-free. Every single one in our team feels the same way, and loves his/her job for this reason. Getting great feedback from clients is always celebrated in our office.  

What’s next for the company?

I am gonna retire at age 40... Just kidding! As I said, we love what we do, and I believe we do it well. However, in order to make it one has to evolve with the market and with new technology. So we will continue to focus on embracing new technology that will allow us to serve our clients better, and to improve our travel products. Partnering with TravelLocal has been a logical step in this process. They offer a great user interface, as well as financial protection that we as a South African company cannot offer to Europeans.

And we’ve got to ask, do you have a dream location that you want to visit?

Definitely! I have travelled quite extensively before settling in South Africa, and haven't seen enough of Asia. I'd love to visit Bhutan or Vietnam as I have always been really curious about those two countries.

Make it happen

If you are inspired to see South Africa’s myriad attractions for yourself, or simply curious to find out more about the destination, have a look at our South Africa pages. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.

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