Sunday, April 6, 2008

‘On Assignment in Africa’ – an update from the Original 2AFRIKA, INC.’s Director of Operations, Dominik M. Zakrzewski


On my first full day in Johannesburg, I woke up at 6:00AM local time to keep with my usual waking schedule - and had some delicious coffee in my room and laid in bed for a couple of minutes watching TV. “Sunrise” seems to be the Good Morning America of South Africa.

Breakfast service at The Safari Club S.A. starts at 7:00am. Myself and an English couple (they spoke the Queen’s English so they had to be from one of ‘those’ countries) sat in the spacious breakfast room, didn’t speak (I even said good morning and they ignored me), while the most pleasant Zulu woman served me my usual eggs and ham.

I had to catch up with my e-mails so I made my way to the main lobby (the guest rooms are well appointed between the landscaped gardens of The S.A. Safari Club)to greet Emile (long time friend and owner of The S.A. Safari Club) and catch up a little. My laptop was running low on battery power but thankfully Emile has a ton of international plugs, which I assume will be available at hotels throughout my journey.

Because I always like to be extra early rather than late I got to the airport three hours prior to my departure for Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. IT’S NOT NECESSARY TO STRESS THE DOMESTIC FLIGHTS. This is how it went: Justice, my driver, dropped me off at the airport (currently undergoing major renovations in anticipation of 2010), and we exchanged e-mail addresses as he told me he’s “always on the internet.” I proceeded to the Domestic Departure Terminal, before buying some post cards and a magnet, and it was smooth sailing from there. Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International is really smooth (despite the ongoing renovations). The Domestic Departure Terminal is not unlike being in a domestic airport in a medium-size city in the U.S. - Philadelphia, perhaps?

I walked over to the Nationwide Airlines counters and asked them where to go; in a very heavy Bantu accent (which I am still getting used to) I was told to go over to counters 1-8-H … I simply walked in the direction that the woman told me and saw huge signs where to check my luggage. Seriously, there’s nothing to freak out about. Everything in South Africa runs smoothly. The people here ARE very friendly and I can’t help but to notice how many beautiful and warm smiles I was greeted with.
I went to check my luggage and the woman checking me in made some small talk. What is my nick name? Where am I from? I proceeded to talk about how my mother says my name with her thick Polish accent when she tries to speak English. I also connected via Skype whilst at The S.A. Safari Club, with my father to show him via video what it looks like.

I had time to kill so I bought some local compilations and now I’m sitting waiting for my flight - WAY TOO EARLY!!! I got here when they were boarding the flight to Cape Town before mine. Airlines are the local means of commuting here. They are to South Africa what the Subway is to New York City. Might I add that there’s Wi-Fi virtually everywhere within the airport but it costs. An hour of internet time costs ZAR50 - $6.

The Nationwide Airlines flight from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga was roughly 35 minutes - definitely better than driving the 5 hours there. It really is NOT that much of a scenic drive. It’s all mostly farmland so it’s not like you’ll see game on the way there.

In Mpumalanga Province there is a town called Hazyview. It’s right outside the western boundary of the Kruger National Park and close enough to the famed ‘God’s Window’ and the picturesque ‘Panorama Route’. I arrived here and checked into Perry’s Bridge Hollow, a sister hotel to the Hippo Hollow located on the banks of the Sabi River. Perry’s Bridge Hollow has individual, air-conditioned chalets and outdoor (as well as indoor showers) - I always prefer the outside showers. It’s located, technically, in a sub-tropical climate so it’s ALWAYS pleasant here. You can go swimming in the winter time, if you’d like. The nights are cool but the days can get hot.

The drive from the airport to the hotel took me through small towns reminiscent of Northeast Pennsylvania but with an African flavor to it. The closer we got to the hotel the more rural the surroundings became. You really get a taste of real, rural Africa here and to be honest, it’s no different than rural America. While at Perry’s Bridge I hopped over to Elephant Whispers. Elephant Whispers is a ranch that takes in elephants that usually roam the wild. There is an overflow of the elephant population in southern Africa which disrupts the eco-system and threatens other animals. The folks at Elephant Whispers have a great love for the elephants and you can interact with WILD African elephants.

No, they’re not tamed, training nor domesticated. Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures and through positive reinforcement (giving treats, respect for the animal and love) the elephants got over their fear of humans and seem very happy here. This is a great place to visit in order to learn about these majestic creatures. For example, they have poor day vision, don’t have tear ducts and can lower their temperature in the heat by 3 degrees Celsius.

I also visited Hippo Hollow - a more upscale hotel owned by the same owner for a more mature crowd. It’s definitely exotic as the whole building focuses on South African culture (Zulu, Tswana, Sotho, Afrikaner, and Xhosa, to name a few) and its river-side chalets (reserved more for families or groups of four) face the Sabie River which is home to many hippos.

The Hippo Hollow also features the Shangaan River Club – a collaboration between the local tribe living in the area and fellow hoteliers bringing to life the Shangaan culture and benefiting orphans of the area infected with HIV/AIDS. These kids are the magnificent dancers who proudly display their strong identity. Their performance benefit’s the local orphanage most of them live in.

So far South Africa has been a very friendly country. The music is absolutely amazing. I stocked up on compilations at O.R. Tambo International. Dinner consisted of Ostrich and my dining companion was one of the two cats that roam the property and followed me during my time here.

As is customary here at the Original 2AFRIKA, INC., we are always on the look-out for new and innovative Safari products for our valued passengers – and usually, we time these ‘on-site’ inspections to coincide with visits to properties that are already featured in our Safari Collection to be sure that the standard of requirements that we set have enhanced themselves to suit our Collection but most importantly, our passengers.

Each day (or at least each day that he is internet accessible), Zakrzewski will be writing his evaluation reports on the day’s activities, emailing them to me, and I will be posting them. The title of this Blog will be ‘On Assignment in Africa’ – an update from the original 2AFRIKA, INC.’s Director of Operations, Dominik M. Zakrzewski.

I do hope that you will follow the trail and enjoy the newfound information that Zakrzewski has to share on a regular basis.

For further information on this informational Blog post or any other Safari in the Original 2AFRIKA Collection, visit us on the web at

The Original 2AFRIKA, INC. remains committed to Corporate Social Responsibility in Tourism.

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