It goes without saying that we at Bench Africa have a passion for Africa. We talk about it incessantly, travel there as often as we can and make it our mission to ensure that others get to experience it. We all work for the same great company and share a love for the experiences we offer. What we don’t ever get to do however is enjoy travelling to Africa together. Despite our mutual passion we are always travelling with others but never ever ever with each other. The company can’t just shut down because we all want to travel as a family. That just doesn’t happen.
That is, of course, unless you have a good excuse…
This year sees Bench Africa mark its 50th year of operation, from its humble beginnings as a South Africa specialist called Bench International in 1969 to the well respected and successful African expert called Bench Africa today. It’s been a “wild” ride as we have watched Africa and the Australian travel industry transform in front of our eyes.
On the other side of the world in a South African private reserve bordering Kruger National Park the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve family is coming up on their 40th anniversary. We have a wonderful relationship with them, having worked with them for their entire history and sharing values of excellence and attention to detail. With both brands reaching major milestones this year, why not head over and celebrate with them in Africa?
For over a year, the Bench senior management team managed to harbour a big secret as they worked on the logistics of getting everyone in the company to Africa. Sabi Sabi were keen to welcome us and South African Airways (another long-time partner) were keen to help out, coming to the table with air tickets.
At our Christmas party in 2018 the team was told to save the date for June… destination unknown. As you’d expect, speculation ran wild. For weeks the destination varied from a weekend away in Queensland to perhaps even (dare we dream) an international trip. At the official 50th anniversary celebrations in March the details were revealed.
South Africa! And what’s more, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge! It really doesn’t get much better than that!
On June 6th we all left together for a whirlwind long weekend away. Catching the overnight SAA flight from Perth saw us arrive in Johannesburg bright and early where we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast with old friends at the Intercontinental Hotel. Back to the airport for another short hop found us in the Sabi Sands conservancy where we were greeted by the Sabi Sabi family and shortly afterwards by giraffe, elephant and kudu on our game drive to the lodge.
The next three days were spent in a constant state of belt-busting contentment as we ate fine food, drank our gin and tonics, Amarula and more, and took our seats for the spectacle that is an African safari. We encountered rhino after dark, a wild dog play-hunting an unimpressed wildebeest, close up meetings with elephants and a peaceful stint with a female leopard. There were curious hyena, grumpy buffalo and noisy eagles as well as the unforgettable roar of the lion as we watched the sun set.
And before we knew it, it was over. Back on the plane home for a bleary-eyed beginning to the day.
Although our memories of the animals burned bright we had even brighter memories of the time spent with each other indulging our shared passion for Africa. After all, it’s the love of the destination that brought us to Bench but our relationships with each other that keep us here.
And so, a huge thank you to our friend Jacques, and all of our extended Sabi Sabi family for all of your kind hospitality.
It was sad to say goodbye but we'll be back. Here’s to another 50 wonderful years!
Whilst in Africa we also shared our good fortune with a Sabi Sabi run community charity called Swa Vana. To read more about that, stay tuned.
Enquire with our friendly team of Africa experts if you want to know more about the warm, welcoming luxury safari experience at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, or indeed any of Sabi Sabi's other world-class lodges.