Traverse SA and be ‘aroused’ by the tapestry it possesses

WITH the prospect of annual Tourism Indaba on our minds, off we jetted to Margate Airport (for the uninitiated like yours truly) to kick off media week-long Sho’t Left excursion.

Punted as a resounding success in a row now, Indaba welcomes thousands of local and international delegates to converge under one roof at the ICC, Durban, to showcase key tourism products SA and Africa has to offer.

Albeit unaccounted at the time of publishing, millions of rands are generated into the coffers of the province pre and post the four-day pilgrimage (May 13 to 16, 2024), as part of economical spin-offs.

For starters, it was my first encounter to come across one of the tiniest airport’s in the country Margate, that welcomed a handful of travellers on a windy Saturday morning.

Image (Mark Brand, horse owner, engaging with media corps ahead of a horse-ride along the Beach, at Margate. Looking on SAT’s Fisani Nyandeni, far left, and Mabeka Makola).

For the uninitiated, that’s how Sho’t Left campaigns rolls- getting you to the unknown, finish & klaar!

To ‘our’ surprise and some of my traveling colleagues from Jozi, and few international guests, there were locals who seemed happy to welcome us with broad smiles and waving of flags (not burning it)- and quickly it hit me- aha that’s the beauty of local tourism.

Only snag, there were no signs for ablutions to such an extent had to ask security, who politely walked me until at the entrant door. Oh, if you expect “please collect your bag at the following carousel” beaming on your phone, forget it. You wait for aiport staff to offload luggage right there on the spot, don’t say I did not inform YOU!

Excited like a kid who has just had his lolly pop, off we boarded the bus in the company of tour operator sis Bongi Thabethe, who assured us “if you’ve NEVER been on a Sho’t Left experience before, then brace yourself for the unexpected”, she welcomed us, with our jackets and beanies on.

No ‘cold-drinks’ are permitted for now cos’ we’re off to an exhilarating ‘trial’, she declared, in reference to quad-biking and ziplining at Oribi Gorge Wild 5 (Port Edward Adventures), a good 1-hour drive from Margate Airport.

“Mchana, you look swagger, but just that you know, after this experience, you’ll be dusty and all,” remarked Fisani Nyandeni- South African Tourism, media liaison officer, our host.

Image (The Gorge and Wild 5 Adventure in Margate, says it all).

And it happened as he predicted but yours truly was on a ‘high’ after that spectacle of quadbiking, that ‘almost landed me in the bushes’ I shared that unfortunate ordeal with one of the finest guys on the trip Katlego Thulare, an influencer.

The group was divided into 5 (with others opting for ziplining) and the remaining opted for quads.

The less said about what was meant to be a ‘lunch’ the better as the likes of Christiaan Schultz, from Tourism Update, had to be assisted to order his food and drinks. Amateurish from the owners of the restaurant, but hey, they had to improvise since (forbidden waters) is not sold- we imbibed a ‘very hot’ cider in mugs, ooops sorry for blowing your cover…

With a bit of drizzle, we hopped yet back onto our shuttle and off we headed to our first evening in Margate, Umthunzi Hotel- 3 star graded, for a night.

Our morning ‘glory’ on Sunday began in earnest at Rennies Beach- Port Edward, (Selsdon Park Estate, Trafalgar- for a horseriding along the Rennies Beach, yes talk of ‘breaking virginity’ as my ride known as “Shelly”, galloped lazingly well, apart from being naughty as she ate anything and everything along the way.

Image (‘Breaking virginity’. The horse-ride along the Beach way too ‘awesum’).

I’ve heard and read unsavoury stories about horse-rides that got riders injured and that resurrected a chill down my spine- amplified that’s until the horses owner Mark Brand and his entire family, advised the lot to calm the nerves, as the horse can easily sense tension, et al.

With nerves and tension jerking me up, finally got on “Shelly” and guess what, that word ‘jockey’ came out. “Why not become one”, asked Brand sheepishly, in shorts and brown hat. “Who, me, never,” was my hesitant declaration, as “Shelly” along with others trotted on the beach, now taking selfies with other colleagues and talking endlessly with the young lady, who is a seasoned horserider, keeping an eye on me. Yes, me.

After the experience, the unassuming Brand boasted that the likes of 2023 RWC winner and Boks’ Eben Etzebeth (Sharks), and seasoned radio presenter Unathi Nkayi, and other well-known figures, have visited his expansive place.

A sumptuous lunch at Paddlers restaurant, that straddles between KZN and EC had to be expected.

Image (All aboard. Thabang Goya, ‘captain’ of our boat-cruise sharing, responsibilities with Nokuthula Khwela, an influencer).

Boat-cruise though, did not take long due to time factor, but saw what is aptly coined the ‘mouth’ where KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape meet, and according to our ‘captain’ Thabang Goya (26) an iMpondo (clan name) from EC, the place is very close to him, having been given a job ‘since my childhood’.

He alluded that the place is popular with tourists and some of Tropika Island 2024, Black Diamond and Shaka iLembe, contents, were shot at this thriving, signature spot that also boast what is called ‘Carribean Estate’, also pointing at the famous Mitchell or Mtamvuma Bridge that connects both provinces, as one of our own Nokuthula Khwela, another influencer, shared the ‘captains’ seat with Thabang, showing off a thing or two…on how to cruise.

The father of two daughters also made a mention that there’s a place called Savanna, named after the famous Savanna cider- yes, the one we drank from the mugs, remember it was mentioned in one of my stanza?

Image (Hell no, Mabeka Makola, what was going on, a hand in a pocket, whilst on your horse)?

With Gods of rain having opened, we got in Durban say around 9:30 pm, due to traffic, and ache upper body.

We checked in at one of the longest operating hotels in the country, Elangeni for the duration of the Indaba.

With interviews and meetings all arranged, we had to hit the ground running.

With packed busy scheduled, we managed to dine at ZAI restaurant perched at the busy Florida Rd, where the likes of Patriotic Front’s and MMC for Transport in Joburg Metro, Kenny Kunene, was living it up with the young, beautiful –ones.

Unbeknown to us, we had lunch at Durban Golf Course Club, (my very first considering, I visit eThekweni almost every two months).

Image provided (African rituals. That’s what we experienced at the Mangwanani Spa).

To wrap up what was truly an amazing Sho’t Left excursion, Mangwanani Spa (Elangeni Hotel), welcomed us with its par excellence warmth and spoilt us with a full body massage.

Image SAT (Members of the media corps, SAT staff and influencers at the Indaba after-party, Durban).

During my interaction with SAT’s domestic head Mashoto Mokhethi- responsible for Sho’t Left campaign, they will be launching it in September (Tourism Month) to conscientious locals to visit other provinces and experience the tranquillity on offer.

Sydney Morweng was hosted by the South African Tourism

Image (From left- Tumi Magongoa- SATOVITO, Khwezi “Mapholobo” Ngcobo, radio presenter and guests at the SATOVITO activation, outside Tourism Indaba, Durban).

All images SLM (SAT’s GM- Marketing & Comm, Mabeka Makola, having landed at Margate Airport, with bags in tow).

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