Texas A&M’s faculty of Agri-Business recently concluded a field trip to southern Africa along with students and faculty leaders from the University of Tampa. This trip was facilitated by African Quiver, a tour operation specializing in special interest tours with a strong conservation bias.
Day 1-3: Johannesburg: Apartheid Museum, IRR, Soweto Bike Ride
The trip began in Johannesburg with a visit to the Institute of Race Relations, here Dr Frans Cronje provided the students with an expert analysis of South Africa’s socio/political and economic scenario. This aspect has been designed to provide the travellers with an in-depth understanding of what makes South Africa tick and learn from this unique country, whose young democracy is under scrutiny.
This seminar is followed by a bicycle trip around Soweto, taking in the epicentre of South Africa’s revolutionary period. All visitors are heartily welcomed in Soweto which bears testimony to the miraculous transformation that has occurred since 1994. A subsequent visit to the well curated Apartheid Museum further entrenches the real scale of the South Africa’s modern history.
Armed with this understanding and infusion into the workings of South Africa, the group had ample ammunition as a backdrop to perfect their Qualitative Marketing Strategy techniques, and with this we headed for the magical Kingdom of Swaziland. Read more on Swaziland here, but in short, this is where animals are to be seen, adventure is to be had and culture is to be immersed into.
Day 4: The Kingdom of Swaziland: Travel day and Ngwenya Glass visit
We entered via Ngwenya Glass, whose own story is that of a forebear to sustainable and responsible trading, while producing world class glass products, from recycled glass, powered by KFC cooking oil!
Day 5: Tree Top Canopy Tour and Meeting Nedbank
Onwards then to Malolotja National Park, a mountain reserve with few peers. The fascinating Canopy Tours were well enjoyed by all, while taking in breath-taking scenery, bird spotting and warming up next to log fires in the cabins.
This trip was followed by a visit to Nedbank where Ms Fikile Nkosi, MD, generously provided her time to explain to the group the workings of the banking system in Swaziland. Of great interest is their partnership with SWADE and a heart-warming story of rags to riches for impoverished villagers – led by a public private partnership that, well, just works!
Day 6: Museums, Shisa Nyama, Sunset Game Drive at Hlane Royal National Park
No thorough introduction into Swaziland is complete without a step on guided tour of Swaziland’s Museum and Sobhuza memorial, this interesting excursion was followed by a hearty Shisa Nyama – an opportunity to barbeque meat and mingle with the locals.
Day 7: Hlane and Village Tour
We headed down into the Lowveld to visit and base ourselves at Hlane Royal National Park. The rhino sightings at the waterhole were epic, while under the watchful gaze of the heavily armed rangers.
It was appropriate to move into second academic gear at Hlane considering the topic under discussion was the rhino poaching crisis. Swaziland’s Big Game Parks, of which Hlane is a member, has held the record for the most successful anti-poaching success and our group were to meet with the CEO and founder, Mr Ted Reilly soon after.
While at Hlane, the group went to visit an authentic village high on the Lebombo mountain range, walking past a church group singing anthems. This was en-route to see a traditional healer and to sample umcomboti.
Day 8 SWADE site visits
We followed this excursion up with another to learn about LUSIP under the watchful guidance of SWADE and RMI. This is the project Nedbank is involved with and essentially it is about knowledge sharing, training previously impoverished farmers how to take their product to market and being able to irrigate from the LUSIP system. The travellers from the agri-business faculty found this most fascinating.
Day 9 Mkhaya Game Reserve
Our next stop, also in the Lowveld was to Mkhaya Game Reserve, “A refuge for endangered animals”. It is also under heavy surveillance by professionally militarily trained rangers, armed with automatic weapons. This reserve has the most unique accommodation we stayed in – the open sided stone and thatch chalets at Stone Camp. With black rhino sightings, white rhino sightings while on foot, this winter viewing opportunity afforded great encounters with large animals. The visit was made more complete by the fortunate encounter of some of the conservation world’s heroes. Ted Reilly, David Cook and George Hughes. At this impromptu fireside gathering, the students were afforded the opportunity to test their interviewing skills at these masters of conservation. Much was learnt on both sides of the fire but a wonderful evening was had by all.
Day 10: Mlilwane, Candles Factory, Roan Antelope Game Drive
Our merry band of travellers then headed up to the middleveld region, home to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and HQ of Big Game Parks. The group got to test the beehive accommodation units before settling into Sondzela Backpackers, the Wildest Backpackers in Swaziland. Mlilwane is an outdoor lover’s paradise and an opportunity to embark on personal discovery in the company of plains game – the absence of dangerous animals makes this a unique opportunity.
Days 11,12,13&14: Rock of Execution Hike, Sondzela Backpackers, Nguni Cattle Visit & Overnight Horseback Cave Trail
We sampled much of what makes Mlilwane famous – among those pursuits were a scramble up the infamous Rock of Execution – a 3hr hike that can be described as strenuous but so far accomplished by every member on an African Quiver expedition – this was followed by the overnight horseback trail where our lodgings for the night on this fully inclusive horseback trip was a cave, expertly hosted by various members of Chubeka Trails (the trailing division on Mlilwane). Some of us took to the hills via fresh trails marked for their annual Imvelo MTB Classic, we whizzed past wildebeest, kudu, warthog Nyalas, blesbok, while searching for crocodiles and hippos. Some of the group enjoyed an adventure caving experience at Gobholo caves, reputed to be the second largest chain of granite caves in the world, this was followed by wallowing in the Cuddle Puddle hot springs munching on awesome pizza.
We arranged to view the Nguni Cattle on Mlilwane, a breed endemic to Swaziland which faced extinction in the early 1980’s owing to their small size. Here we learnt about the importance of cattle to the Swazi’s as well as the different types of Ngunis. It was here again that we encountered Ted and his fellow conservationists where we had another great evening’s discussion and learning at over 150 year’s worth of hand’s on conservation experience.
Our Intrepid group then headed for a three night safari expedition in Kruger National Park. We were based at Lower Sabie for two nights before rounding the whole trip up with a wonderful stay at Berg en Dal. Lion, Elephant, white and black rhino, buffalo were all to be seen, what remained elusive on this trip was the leopard. Next time!
This trip represents an area of expertise for African Quiver, we know this area exceptionally well and thus able to tailor trips suited for specific groups. We recently conducted a similar trip for a group of 7 adventurers, also from America – stay tuned for the next trip report of the King Expedition to southern Africa.
While not on tour, African Quiver has been involved with several television productions, most notably to French and the Polish version of “Who is the Mole.” These major productions required logistical planning, accommodation and general fixing and the areas covered so far: Johannesburg (Soweto, CBD & Haartbeestpoort Dam) The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, The Kruger National Park, Pilgrim’s Rest, Zimbali / Durban / Pietermaritzburg, the Drakensberg.
We have arranged a Botswana tour as well as extensions in and around South Africa – Lukimbi, Idube, Shepherd’s Tree Lodge, Ivory Tree Lodge as well as Cape Town…fantastic 3 and 4 day packages.
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your affordable trip that is steeped in adventure, wildlife and immersion into our wonderful territory.
+27 13 492 0769