I reserved this place to start our Travel Club Tour to Africa in April 2023.
Because I had the rare opportunity to sketch a bespoke, one-off itinerary that would be handcrafted by the Imagine Holidays team. And then we would set off on the journey of a lifetime.
I started by writing a list of countries in southern Africa that I felt safe taking a group of travelers to. Botswana and Zambia were at the top and they both have all of the wild, scenic and cultural aspects that I appreciate so I just focused on those.
Planning a trip for the readers (and for me of course) is like writing a story. I want the days to be smooth, beautifully paced, rich and enriching. I want a beginning, a middle and an end. I want a sense of enlightenment and of course some fun.
It turned into a complex and quite surprising exercise. Alex Sirman, Managing Director of our partner Imagine Holidays, worked on it personally and his team had to replan and recalculate it six times in both Australia and Africa. Many lodges have increased their rates significantly overnight, typically to more than $1000 per person per night. Domestic flight costs skyrocketed. For example, the flight from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls cost around US$150 before Covid and now costs US$700 per person.
The situations kept changing, overnight.
It’s a unique idea and tour, but our travel partners at Imagine Holidays couldn’t keep the cost to what we were all hoping for and it ended up at $18,999 per person, double share. This includes all flights, five star lodges and accommodation, game drives, travel between and most lodges are full board and all inclusive.
Another reason we embark on tours, rather than just taking part in all the “travel media inductions” that we’re offered as travel writers, is that it allows us to learn more about the inner workings of the travel industry. We’re “behind the scenes” rather than just attending and writing about elaborate media trips where everything is going perfectly. It’s part of our commitment to our readers and our integrity.
Alex and I spoke on the phone, and I suggested that when the job was done, we would just write to any readers who had already expressed an interest in the trip and explain the situation.
Because I had mentioned on these pages a while back that we were planning to go to Africa and asked for expressions of interest, and more than 100 readers emailed us.
The long and short of it is that the trip sold out in a matter of days. It is now fully booked.
So, while I had this page set aside to start the journey, to my delight, we have a full quota of this handcrafted one-off that is not offered anywhere else. I have no doubt that this will be the journey of a lifetime for many of us.
And this story has two purposes. First, to let you know the level of engagement we have with our readers – the response we receive when we mention something and ask for expressions of interest. If we do in the future, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re even remotely interested, as we’ll then carefully manage these responses in chronological order to keep things fair.
And second, to publicly thank and commend Alex and the team at Imagine Holidays, and in particular Shannon Lees, who patiently and skillfully constructed (and reconstructed and reconstructed) a distinctive and customized trip. Shannon handled all the bookings and is a longtime friend who took us to the Abrolhos on a previous Travel Club Tour in partnership with Imagine Holidays.
Imagine Holidays is the company with offices in Perth and Brisbane that puts all these colorful full page ads in our newspapers. But it is important to know that they offer special travel services in addition to the package deals.
I am really looking forward to the trip. Some fellow travelers and reader friends from previous trips come, and there are many new friends.
I have khakis and long camera lenses ready. I can barely wait for it.
+ Imagine Holidays also has a non-hosted South Africa holiday based on a trip on the Blue Train. It starts at $9999 per person, double occupancy, four stars throughout and much more at hotels than lodges and places that are much easier to get to. There is some time in and around Cape Town, taking the Blue Train from Cape Town to Pretoria, and then time in Pilanesberg and then at the Victoria Falls. 1800 958 405 or 07 3558 9913