“BREATHING RAREFIED air on the roof of Africa” it’s a quote from Safari guru Andrew Rae, who had the pleasure and task of driving us from mzansi right up to the SADC highest Pub in Africa-Lesotho (Sani Pass) as part of the SADC Media Expedition.
Albeit it revs off March 2019, the organisers saw it prudent to whet the appetite of those who made it on the tour, on what is to follow as it begins from Gauteng, and hits Lesotho, eSwatini and other African States. It wraps at the highest Mt on the Continent-Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
One of the fundamentals of the expedition is to inculcate the experience of travel on the African Continent and explore what it has to offer, first –hand.
Tumi Mogongoa from DetourSA -the ‘makhulu baas’ who is overseeing the progression of this first of its kind sojourn, says they’re optimistic all the support needed will comeforth in turning this 21-ardous journey into a nostalgic affair.
“Its an exciting, well thought two-year plan that has been put into realizing this dream,” he says.
“Expectations are high, so are doomsayers- but so far we’re on track and this soft launch that took place at the annual Tourism Indaba, Durban recently was indicative to the world, what we’re capable of and by the Grace of God, we got thumbs up from the minister of Tourism in SA and other leading figures within the sector throughout the African Continent, who are ready to welcome us with open arms.”
We stayed at the Sani Lodge, situated on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, sitting 2874m above sea level. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is by far one of the best kept secrets in Africa, although the trek to get to the lodge is tricky as only 4×4’s are able to navigate the famous Sani Mountain Pass in the Mokhotlong District-Eastern Lesotho.
One night is probably sufficient for this location but the experience of meeting the locals- in their signature blankets and traditional hats (modianyeo) is always serene; and the shepherds who spend the summer months in the highlands tending flocks of sheep and goats and get a sense of the life they lead.
“Ours is to provide a gateway to tourists-with the experience this area prides itself with,” says the owner of Sani Pass Lodge, who frequents between Lesotho and Pretoria.
“Since taking over, we’ve come up with innovative ideas to better the standard of the lodge because this days one has to catch up with technology. Apart being the highest Pub and Lodge on the African Continent we’re not resting on our laurels but seek to improve on our marketing strategies,” she pointed out as international guests kept streaming in upon our arrival.
We took a drive to view Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa at 3482m, before heading out to KZN in time for Indaba opening on Sunday.
On Monday, yours truly had to abandon the team and jet off to CT for the launch of the much awaited X Class Mercedes Benz Van. Upon the return on Tuesday, Tumi and his team did a soft-launch of the expedition on Wednesday that was carried by the Durban Tourism.
By then Swaziland that had changed its name to eSwatini, was calling –as the Kingdom Calls- always.
Meandering through irritating traffic out of Dbn City, we passed through tranquil, lush and an abundant of sugarcanes strewn along Richards Bay, La Lucia, Ukhuhlamba, Ntuzuma, and so on.
As part of our ‘ubuntu’ culture, we took turns for a plate of mogodu and pap at one of the make shift tents to lend support to the locals along the busy road that led to the Lavumisa Border Post, in time for checking into eSwatini.
Our arrival was at the Mkhaya Game Reserve that was contributed for land expansion by His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherland.
Mkhaya is best known, or should we say, famous for, its unparalled wildlife viewing because its tucked away in a rich riverine forest alive with birds and wildlife.
Species like black rhino, white rhino, elephant, buffalo, hippo, tsessebe and sable antelope can be seen here more reliably than anywhere else in Southern Africa.
Our gracious but well informed guide S’busiso took us on a Land Rover safari for a night/morning bush drives before zig-zagging back to our 4X4 vehicle. We met our match in the form of rhino passing, hippos indulging in swimming lessons and Giraffes showing off their features, that’s all I’m prepared to say…
Rooms, that’s if its the best way to describe that beauty- are open, so forget about privacy as animals roam freely. Oopps don’t be surprised taking a shower or ‘reading a book’ in a toilet-suddenly you have peeping Thomases staring at that THING… Channel Africa (broadcast partner) staff Selinah Ntobong and Mamolefe Segakweng, Tumi and Andrew can attest to that. Amen…
We left the game reserve inspired by nature of course, and headed to off to Mountain Inn Hotel- in the city center Mbabane some 100km away- for our last expedition.
The establishment is family owned and one of the managers’ Patrick Ward, says being in the hospitality industry was the best the decision ever.
Having an audience with us, the bespectacled Ward pointed that although eSwatini is way too different to SA, business is good and they’ve reached break-even.
“Our tourists are mainly international because we benchmark on SA and other regions when implementing our marketing case studies. It has worked hence today we’re one of the finest hospitality players’ in the country,” gloated Ward, who said it will take time to consider any move, including SA.
The hotel is fully-booked for the forthcoming MTN Bushfire taking place from May 25 to 27.
As the night went by, our safari guru and Real Africa Expedition Tours owner Andrew celebrated his 46th birthday, and boy what a ball we had.
Still recovering… but the SADC media expedition countdown has begun!