Testimonials From Happy Travelers
Melissa McKinley, Plano, Texas
Traveling to Africa has been a dream of mine for some time. The scenery, the people, the differences all attracted me. This journey certainly gave me a renewed appreciation of the freedoms and opportunities we have in the US. I booked with Hills of Africa Travel because Sandy rocks! I know and trust her. My trip was perfect…nothing more could have been done to make it any better!!
LOVE my zebra and giraffe. What wonderful memories of an amazing trip! Start to finish you gave us all we expected and more! Your thoughtful care and deep knowledge meant we could relax and soak in the wonders of Africa. Thank-you!
Robin Stroud and her daughters from Birmingham, Alabama
Our African safari in May 2019 was inspired by my daughter wanting to go so we made it a mother/daughter trip. Our trip took us to South Africa and Zimbabwe and while on a safari game drive, we watched lions finishing off a meal while the hyenas stood around “laughing”, waiting for the leftovers. We could not have asked for a better guide than Mbongani at Simbavati River Lodge, he was wonderful, knowledgeable and entertaining! Our funniest moment happened on safari, I dropped by glove out of the Land Rover and a hyena picked it up. Another hyena grabbed one end of it and they ended up in a tug of war over my glove until it ripped in half. Each ran off with a half!
While at the Simbavati River Lodge (best location and best luxury), we saw 4 elephants walk across the river and started playing in the water right by the deck on our room.
This quote from my daughter says it well: “Take me back to my new favorite place. Seriously can’t believe how beautiful God’s creation is. It was completely unfenced land. The animals roam freely. There are preserves you can visit that are fenced, but that is basically a zoo. It is truly amazing to see these animals do what they were created to do.”
Trey, Beth, Amie, and Alex Todd, New Orleans
Dear Sandy, Replying to your email will be an absolute pleasure for me! Any chance to re-live some of the life altering experiences that my family and I had on our ” Hills of Africa” safari is most welcomed. Nothing can beat watching the African sunrise over the Okavango Delta with loved ones or feeling the exhilaration of a charging elephant testing the abilities of our dedicated guide as we back up quickly down the road! Nothing compares to the playful antics of leopard cubs wrestling in the tall savanna grass! When will we ever get another chance to view the majesty of a pride of lions against a backdrop of acacia and baobab trees or a family of cheetahs lounging on a termite mound before an evening of hunting impala.
The magic of Africa now runs through me as surely as if I were a child of the Kalahari leaving my footprints next to the spoor of the hyaena. This same magic that rekindled the passions of my daughters and wife for nature and the great outdoors. Everyone needs to share the experiences of a trip like this with their loved ones. It was unforgettable, spiritually uplifting, and truly just fodder for the soul. Throw in a couple of world cup soccer games and I believe one has found the formula for the perfect holiday!
Many thanks to the “Hills of Africa” people who made this trip a reality for my family. Thanks to the staff of the Chitabe, Tubi Tree and Duma Tau camps for the meals, the dancing and entertainment , and the camaraderie. Thanks to the extremely knowledgeable guides for teaching us the species and the environmental impact of everything we do. Lastly, thank you Sandy for helping us get through a very trying time when we thought all the preparation would be for naught after we missed our flight. I can’t wait to schedule our next trip to Cape Town or Kruger or to recommend your company to friends.
I just wanted to take a long overdue moment and thank you, Sandy, Amy, and Susan, for the most wonderful trip of a life time and, yes, dreams! It was just perfect! Even the weather was fantastic! I think of the trip, and you guys, just about every day!
The memories and experience will last a lifetime! Thank you. Words seem so inadequate to express our appreciation of the fantastic trip you planned for us.
It was so unexpected to have a bottle of Champagne at the Lokuthula Lodge, and then the anniversary song/drums with special cake at the other camps! Oh, my! We were truly amazed at each experience.
The white water rafting was a good choice, for us, as an activity! I am glad that we physically, made and survived the 800-meter climb down, and up! The rafting itself was a ton of fun, especially since we got dumped on one of the level 5 rapids! Of course we purchased the DVD!
The safari portion was perfect, as were our guides, accommodations, and wildlife river crossings (yes! we saw two of them – some folks did not see any while at our camp!)
Thank you SO MUCH, for all your hard work, recommendations, and thoughtfulness in planning this trip of a lifetime.
Karen and Barry McClure
As we tell everyone, the trip exceeded all of our expectations and we loved all of Hills of Africa’s extra added touches. We are recommending you to EVERYONE! Another highlight from our trip is that we now have a greater understanding of Apartheid and its implications on all the peoples of South Africa.
Karen Sirois, Boston, MA
Hi Sandy, There is so much we could say about our trip, all good, but we thought this might sum it up (below). I’ve attached some pictures too. I couldn’t decide on the pictures so I included a bunch. At Blaauwbosch there is a sunset and our Sundowners (cocktails on safari), our Cape Malay lunch (my sister and Gamidah and then the tree of us with Gamidah), our lunch at Kalp Bay (with Pam), shopping at Plett Bay and my daughter Emily with Dave.
Thanks to Hills of Africa we had a very unique and personalized experience on our visit to South Africa. We would never have been able to find all the wonderful places we visited without their invaluable advice. We even learned to cook a traditional Cape Malay meal in a home in the Bo Kaap District of Cape Town! Tour books don’t come close to what they did. We had a fairly rigid time line and lots of things we wanted to do. They put together a fabulous itinerary that not only allowed us to fit in all the things we wanted (touring, shopping, wineries, safari, etc…) but also gave us some flexibility to add things along the way. They booked us with hotels, game reserves and tour guides that they KNEW would be top notch. Hills of Africa met all our expectations and more. We can’t wait to go back
Alan and Debra Ladwig, May 2018 Safari Trip
From day one, EVERY meal we had was extraordinary. The prices were extremely reasonable and the quality and quantity of the servings was fabulous.
We had not been aware of how many magnificent mountains existed across South Africa. We enjoyed climbing them and the panoramic views they offered.
Every place you found for us to stay was terrific. Each catered to, and exceeded our every need and expectations. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but we could have stayed for a week at La Petite Dauphine. It was magical and luxurious; thanks so much for the upgrade. Also, thanks for the many gifts waiting for us in our rooms along the way.
You found excellent guides for us everywhere. We especially enjoyed touring with your private guide in Cape Town; is there anyone or anything she doesn’t know in Cape Town? She introduced us to the man who established the District 6 Museum and he treated us like family.
We met so many interesting people at each stop, both locals and fellow travelers. They all had great stories and experiences to share. Everyone was friendly and helpful.
It was a pleasure planning our journey with you and you have 100% satisfied customers.
Alan and Debra Ladwig, May 2018 Safari Trip
(VIP client of Jeannine Bottorff, Classic Family Journeys)
Clare & Fran Wohlgemuth, Hingham, MA
Uganda stole our hearts. The people were just amazing and always smiling. One of our favorite guides on this trip was Eric in Uganda. He was a former guide and ranger to the gorillas, so very knowledgeable and was able to help us decide which trek was the best fit for us. He also was in contact with our trek guide on the trails and checking on how we were doing. The gorilla trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest of Uganda was one of the most memorable experiences we have ever had. If you can work this into your visit to Africa, then it is a must do experience.
Everything was just perfect and Sandy and Amy could not have been more helpful and attentive to our needs. They were able to take out all the stress of planning such an extensive trip and made it the most memorable trip of our lifetime. We would change nothing! Hills of Africa Travel made our trip a seamless experience. We were met by someone who helped us out at each airport, escorted us through immigration/customs point and handed us off to our guide who took over from there. Thank you for that!
This trip was absolutely amazing and I cannot thank everyone at Hills of Africa enough for planning it for us! If I had to choose my favorite part of the trip (and there were many) it would be the visit to Gotu Village and the Kachuru Primary School. It was so touching to see the people and especially the children. They were so excited to see us and let us put stickers on their hands (and some faces too)!
The school visit was quite overwhelming for me and I cried at seeing their school and what they have to deal with on a daily basis. The one thing I did take away is that they are a very happy people and very welcoming to strangers. The headmaster was grateful for all the school supplies that my kids’ classes had collected and was amazed at how much we had brought for them. We made a monetary donation as a group to the school and also to a recent widow in the village.
Another experience that was tops for me was what I call the Morning Animal Symphony at Joys Camp. Every morning at about 4:30 the birds and animals were waking up and the noises were unbelievable!!!!! I taped them and have listened to them quite often since I have gotten back. It really makes me smile.
Thank you for the trip of a lifetime! My husband and I plan on taking the kids there when they are older and although I did get to see the Big 5 I have to get back and see a cheetah!
Marti Gillen and Ed Knutt, New York
We loved (loved) our trip and are already starting to save up for our next trip! Pam, our guide in Cape Town was delightful…a wealth of information. It has been my dream for years to experience Africa – to see all the amazing animals. Traveling opens my experiences and how I interact with people. I learned a lot about myself on this trip – that I really like meeting new people! You came highly recommended and I liked Sandy the first time I spoke with her! Now I get the chance to recommend you to others!
Libby Hertz, Atlanta, GA
Wow! I really don’t know what to say. We’re on our way back to the US today and I cannot believe this trip is over. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful and perfect it was. Every place we stayed at was incredible. Thank you so much for all the planning and work. We truly had the trip of a lifetime
Laura & Joe, OR
The &Beyond camp was great. We loved the personal attention we got and the wildlife in the Mara was incredible. We arrived about a week after the migration, so we didn’t get to see many of the wildebeest, but the rest of the animals more than made up for it! We were able to see the leopard on multiple days and found the cheetah! The walking safaris were a great addition to all the game drives. Especially after all the good food we ate there.
Zanzibar and The Hideaway were beautiful. Our room had a great view of the water and the gardens. The food was delicious and the dive shop was great. We ended up going on 4 dives while there- two dives off of Tumbatu and two off of Mnemba. The guys that ran the shop were great- very professional, good rental equipment, and reasonable prices. The reefs and fish were so colorful!!
Thank you so much for planning this trip for us! It was even more incredible than either of us could have imagined! We have so many great memories that will last a lifetime.
What I am missing most is eating by the light of either campfires or lantern. Coming back from the evening game drive to the twinkly, romantic atmosphere at Tinswalo was so special. I can see why both sets of couples that were in our land cruiser were honeymooners.
A surprise was how intense the game drives were. No frolicking cubs for us, in three days we saw three kills including a pride of 6 lions that took down a cape buffalo. Truly the “circle of life.”
The trip was a perfect mix for us of excitement, relaxation and mental stimulation. All the accommodations were first rate, the staffs and guides could not have been more genuine or helpful. Hats off to you and your crew. It was also very nice of you to have the welcoming cards at each venue and we enjoyed the lunch in Franschhoek very much.
Andi & Scott, VIP clients of Alex Khoshaba, Travelex International
Hi Alex and Sandy. Thank you is not enough to say to you for planning this trip of a lifetime! Your attention to detail is unbelievable! We enjoyed every minute of this trip (except for the long flights!) You listened to what we wanted and customized a trip that we will never forget. You made sure that there was someone to meet us at every leg of our journey. Every single guide that we had was awesome!! I would not change a single thing about this trip. All of your recommendations were remarkable! So glad we decided to go with your choice of Nottens!! What a wonderful safari camp! We met such terrific people. The staff was beyond terrific, and our safari guide was the BEST!!!!! We were also very spoiled and impressed by the food at Nottens! Unbelievable, 5 star meals!!! I hated to leave!
Bella Helen Rienstra
What a surprise when my two daughters took me on a safari for my 80th birthday. It was the best trip ever! I saw so many great animals and had a fantastic time with my two grandchildren and my two daughters. Thanks to the people at Royal Madikwe, they really made us feel special and were wonderful to all of us. Thank you for an unforgettable, once-in- a-lifetime experience.
A sequence of events best described as synchronicity led to Dave and me joining Hills of Africa Travel on their Soul Safari 2009. Having much in common, we struck up an online conversation beforehand (via our respective blogs, twitter and facebook), which quickly developed into a warm friendship. The Soul Safari concept held instant and powerful appeal, due to my spiritual curiosity and dedication to personal development, particularly since it was planned for two favorite (and first class) destinations. Reading Ainslie MacLeod’s book further enhanced my fascination, so we were delighted to accept Sandy and Meredith’s invitation to join them as their official photographers, and to meet them in person! The trip was a true inspiration and absolute joy (as the videos attest to ), leading to many lasting connections, including the one we share with Hills of Africa. This has soundly expanded the reach of our company (Outdoor Video & Photographic) to North America, while blessing us with the opportunity to share our love of Africa, its wildlife and culture, with others around the world. Apart from pampering and privilege, 2010 Soul Safari Transformation offers more fun, exploration and insight, as well as another fabulous benefit: a long-anticipated visit to Zimbabwe and Vic’ Falls. We can hardly wait!
Jackie Cohen, July 2018
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the trip to Tanzania. It was everything I was hoping it would be. Our guide Venent was amazing. He was informative, kind and patient. He took care of us like family. The only thing I would have changed about the trip was more time… I loved having the animals so close to camp. All of the staff at the Noana Moru camp were incredible. They went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable. And honestly–when we pulled into camp and took a look at the place- I was a little nervous– I am not much of a “rustic” kind of gal. When it was time to leave, I was in tears. They are such a warm, friendly and happy staff.
Kristen Mayo and Steve Coffman
Well our trip was wonderful! The handoff went great at the airport with the person that greeted us and the other person that took us to the hotel. The tipping guide that Amy sent us was very helpful. Our wedding was stress-free and everything went smoothly! They second day we were there they showed us three options they were thinking of having our wedding spot at. We choose a spot overlooking these beautiful mountains. We worked with one of the managers Carmen regarding wedding things and also our Ranger Rico. Carmen was very thoughtful and detailed in every aspect. Of course the day of the wedding the weather was beautiful. It had been a little drizzly off and on the days up to. The cake was made by their chef and delicious. The flowers were beautiful. I was very pleased with my hair and makeup stylist and we both liked the photographer. She is going to make sure we have photos in time to share at our reception on June 18th. Her husband was there as well and he took some photos on my i-phone so I had some photos to share right away with my family after the wedding. After the wedding, we went on a game drive and came back to a romantic dinner at our room. Rose petals and candles were everywhere and we had our very own 4-course menu printed with our name and wedding date including our wedding cake for a second desert! The food was delicious there. After every game drive, a staff member with a hot towel greeted us! During game drives in the morning, it was a bit chilly so our ranger Rico had hot water bottles to slip our hands onto and blankets. I think one of my favorite mornings would have to be our coffee break and snacks while hanging out near the rhinos. The game drives were never disappointing. We have so many good pictures. He made it his mission to get the Big 5, some in one day. The lodge is at a really Our son gave us a Photo Safari gift which Hills of Africa developed private tours around the safari good location. They upgraded us to the honeymoon suite the when we got there. It was the furthest one away and we were able to see elephants and monkey’s and hear so many beautiful sounds of South Africa. The staff waited on us hand and foot the entire time. Carmen, Rico and Sophia gave us a photo from our wedding with a frame one of the staff made as a wedding gift. Everyone there was so thoughtful and it was such an amazing experience.
Lucie Tonon, Charlotte, NC
I am headed home to Charlotte tomorrow. Just wanted you to know your entire Hills of Africa team has been unbelievable. Your choice of bed and breakfasts boutiques in South Africa have been first class. The owners give 100% to please especially the Three boutique B&B in Cape Town. Mike, the tour guide for our Table mountain hike was wonderful today as was Natasha in Joburg and yesterday’s Cape Tour guide. Your team here in Africa has been quick to handle any last minute problems we have encountered. What a wonderful team of folks you have put together. I have had a lovely time.
Gail and Steve from San Francisco, CA
Our inspiration to visit Africa came from wanting to learn more about the people and the country — what impact Apartheid had on life, what has happened since 1994 and what the future may hold. Our view around political, social and economical aspects of the country have all changed since our trip. Loved all the little surprises – personal notes, gifts and treats in our room compliments of Hills of Africa. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat, whether it was on the Zambezi River or the land safaris as well as engaging with the guides and people we met were some of the best moments of our trip overall. We can’t wait to return to Cape Town and explore other areas of the country. Thank you Hills of Africa for all the information sent ahead of time, we were well prepared for this great trip!
Jen Miff, Dallas, Texas
We absolutely loved every minute and cannot wait to go back with Cailin. So many of our jeep mates were on their 6th or 7th trip to Africa and we met a tour operator from Melbourne who was on his 60th visit. You’ll have to give us some ideas for say 3 years from now, maybe sticking to the Malaria free areas, and bringing Cailin and my in laws along. Thank you again for all of your wonderful guidance and a flawless execution.
As for the details, the game viewing at both Mombo and Zarafa were unbelievable. On our first drive, we saw a cheetah, 2 male lions, and 4 lionesses with 7 cubs! The next morning we saw Pula with her cub with a fresh kill, which she proceeded to drag into the bush. We had the privilege of watching the two of them for three days…it was amazing. I think both places spoiled us forever in terms of wildlife!
On another note, we could not have been luckier with the weather. Not too cold at night on safari (45 to 50, but not freezing), and low 80’s during the day and sunny and 70 most of the time on the Cape. Only one day of rain the entire trip, and it was in wine country, so it just gave us an excuse to drink more wine 🙂
As for the rest, I stumbled across a “Best of” list we had done for our tour operator upon our return from Australia a few years ago. We had such fun reading through it, so we thought we’d repeat the activity for this trip and share it. Hope you enjoy it! There’s also a few constructive points at the end, but all were minor.
We cannot wait to go back!
Thanks again to you both and all of your staff.
BEST ROOM The Maharani Suite at La Residence TIED with the tent at Zarafa (except for the bed — see below)
BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE The foodie tour of cape town — especially the Samoosas and meeting Sandile; close second was the Spice Route charcuterie tasting and The Old Biscuit Mill market.
BEST DINING EXPERIENCE The Bush Dinner at Zarafa for the location/ambience and some of the best Duck Vindaloo I’ve ever had — including in London; Loved the atmosphere and food at Babel
BEST BREAKFAST EXPERIENCE Formal breakfasts on the decks at Mombo and Zarafa the last morning at each when we skipped game drives; Birkenhead house — how they get flaky croissants in all that humidity is amazing to me
BEST MEAL OVERALL Babel and Jordan were amazing; the Greenhouse was incredibly inventive but still tasted amazing too; but Pot Luck was the overall winner – unbelievable
BEST SINGLE FOOD ITEM Cannot pick one — that milk tart and duck vindaloo at Zarafa; the fish at Babel, the Samoosas on the foodie tour and EVERYTHING at Pot Luck Club
BEST LOCATION We just loved Mombo and the deck — maybe because it was the first camp. And also Birkenhead House and those views — room was small, but so thoughtfully designed and the view!
BEST LUXURY The five best at Birkenhead House was perhaps the best massage I’ve ever had
BIGGEST (GOOD) SURPRISES That Bush Dinner at Zarafa; the Boma dinner at Mombo; the GMs at Zarafa (Willem & ) and La Residence (Andrew)
BEST TOURING De Toren wine tasting was unbelievable, especially the viticulturalist; loved getting to do the vertical tasting; the chocolate and charcuterie tastings at Spice Route were a very pleasant surprise
COOLEST EXPERIENCE Besides seeing Pula and her cub, it was a tie between the herd of elephants surrounding us in full moonlight on the night drive, followed by spotting the two male lions that had eluded us all day (Zarafa) AND being surrounded by three herds of elephants at breakfast one morning while we were out of the jeep. Crazy!
BIGGEST FOOD DISAPPOINTMENT The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais was really not good. They just tried too hard. Beautiful plating and crazy creative, but didn’t really taste good. I’m sure we just hit an off night, so that was a bummer.
BIGGEST HOTEL DISAPPOINTMENT None — they were all amazing, but one small thing was that the pools were not very inviting at either camp. I cannot imagine how hard it is to keep them clean, but with a film of dirt over the bottom of all the pools, we didn’t really want to swim. Maybe a brown pebbled finish would help disguise it and make it more inviting?
CAN’T WAIT TO RETURN Zarafa Dhow Suite with our Daughter
BEST THING OVERALL All of our guides (Moss, Reuben, Pam) and the staff at all of the hotels — unbelievably great through and through; And Amy’s help preparing us in advance of the trip — I was blown away when she sent me pictures of the charging ports — it was perfect! I shared that story with a few folks and they were majorly impressed.
FUNNIEST MOMENT – Our second night at Mombo — “Steve…roll over; stop snoring.” He wakes up. I realize it’s not him! It’s apparently a very large animal snoring under our tent. It sounded like it was right next to me! When the guides came to wake us up, they said…don’t come out alone, there are two cape buffalo under your tent. So now we know Steve snores like two Cape Buffalo 🙂 Made for a great story (for everyone but Steve) on the rest of the trip!
THE FEW MINOR THINGS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
- The beds are Zarafa were crazy uncomfortable — really hard and the pillows were really thin.
- The towels at Mombo seemed like they had fabric softener in the them and they wouldn’t absorb much water; and the towels at Zarafa were really worn out and a bit stained.
- The bush breakfast at Zarafa was disappointing — except for the passion fruits and yogurt, things were tough or cold by the time we ate it; coffee was good
- Our first dinner at Zarafa I had a steak that was so tough I could barely cut it; but the roasted vegetable tart and the milk tart with praline crust for dessert were amazing, as were all the other meals — especiallly the Bush Dinner — see above!
- The dining room chairs at Zarafa were more for lounging around a campfire and were very unsuited to be able to have a comfortable dinner. Fortunately, we only did lunch at that table, but it was really uncomfortable.
WHAT WE WISH WE HAD BEEN BETTER PREPARED FOR
- How bumpy the safari drives are. I didn’t realize just how jostled we would get. Not that it would be different, or I would change anything; but being mentally prepared would be good
- How long we’d sometimes stay out on game drives — they tell you you’ll be back for brunch, but one day at Zarafa we were out for 7 hours — a good problem to have from a game viewing perspective, but my hunger for something beyond the bush breakfast made me a little grouchy and overly jostled being out that long. Our last day at Zarafa we finally just skipped the last game drive in the afternoon and the next morning; sunset on the deck and a fabulous morning breakfast were the best possible way to spend our time; I wish we hadn’t been so overly gung ho to go on every drive and had just enjoyed more; it was surprisingly exhausting as most days we only ended up with maybe one hour after lunch to rest before going out again — at either camp
ONLY THINGS WE WISH WE’D DONE DIFFERENTLY
- Too much gourmet dining in wine country; Jordan and Babel ROCKED. We should have planned to skip dinners and just pick up meats and cheeses for a small dinner on our balcony or in our room. We were so full for Foliage, La Residence was only ok, and The Tasting Room was such a disappointment. And there were so many great artisinal markets…same on the day tour of the Cape.
- More interactions with wine makers/viticulturalists in wine country; too many were straight tastings
Renee Hughes, Concord, NC
The trip was wonderful, especially the safari! I miss the animals already! All went well; it was just too short (not surprising, I’m sure). The people of South Africa were absolutely wonderful – welcoming, hospitable and very kind. Thanks again