My First Impressions of Africa – by Lauren Roby

by Guest Blogger: Lauren Roby - Cross Country Tours
27th March 2017

Staff Recommended, South Africa


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I recently had the wonderful pleasure of travelling to South Africa on an agent familiarisation trip with Bench Africa.


© Rachel Xiberras - helloworld, Richmond


It’s been at the top of my bucket list since I started working in travel 12 years ago and was thrilled beyond belief that I had been offered this opportunity to make my dream a reality!

Being an agent working with Bench is always seamless, however, to experience first hand what our passengers do in travelling with Bench, was going to be invaluable.

In the lead up to our departure, dealing with Bench Africa from start to finish was a refreshing breeze. They are true professionals at the top of their game and reign supreme as the number one Africa experts in Australia.  Even the smallest detail is carefully considered and their travel documents are truly destination specific. I could even smell Africa upon receiving my documents in the post.

When travelling with Bench Africa you travel with confidence. As a group of travel agents from all states of Australia, we had arranged to meet in Perth prior to our onward flight to Johannesburg. This transition was made easy due to the fact we had been given prior information and knew to look out for the lady in the ‘Black Bench Africa’ uniform. Upon meeting Lara, we knew we were in very capable hands and from there on in, the trip went without a hitch.

From flying South African Airways to our numerous transfer providers and our accommodation arrangements, Bench ensured all aspects of the trip were thorough and they left absolutely no margin for error.


Camp Jabulani


Camp Jabulani was our first port of call, and an extraordinary African Experience! The accommodation was complete and utter luxury and the silver service somehow seamlessly blends into an experience of genuine hospitality and sensory indulgence. We were spoilt, pampered, indulged and entertained. The back-story of the camp, and the experience of the elephants is at the heart of all that they do.

© Rachel Xiberras - helloworld Richmond


The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is a must visit for all travellers staying in the Greater Kruger area. The centre has established itself as one of the leading private research and breeding facilities for endangered species in the country. It was here that we truly became alive as we worked hands on in assisting with the daily operation of the cheetahs.

Our Lovely Group, at HESC - © Grace Beal - Escape Travel Toronto


As volunteers we worked in the abattoir preparing their daily meals, before traversing the enclosures and feeding them. It is a life altering experience to be so close to the fastest land animal and be a part of the extraordinary work that the centre does to protect the wildlife.

Next on our itinerary was Makutsi Safari Springs; surrounded by nature and wildlife, mineral spring water and tranquility. They certainly capture their motto of ‘sharing with you a little African paradise away from home’. We spent three nights in camp. It is rustic, clean and well organised, offering privacy and personal attention to each and every guest. Here we went on the three-hour Rhino Safari and the five-hour Simba Safari over the 4 days. With thousands of hectares to roam, most of the African wildlife can be seen here, including all of the Big 5. I had the pleasure of staying in a newly built 2 bedroom family Rondavel, set amongst the tropical grounds, in complete serenity.

Shumbalala Game Reserve


We then headed south for our new adventures that awaited us at Shumbalala Game Lodge, located in the Thornybush Nature Game Reserve. This property exudes sophistication and indulgence. We felt as if we were in heaven and never wanted to leave. To receive this kind of luxury in the middle of the African bush, left us speechless. Management and staff here left no stone unturned when it came to pure indulgence and relaxation. On our short stay here we went on another two game drives; sunset and sunrise. One word… breathtaking.

© Rebecca Forster - Flight Centre, Newmarket


Whilst still within the Thornybush Reserve we relocated to the Thornybush Game Lodge for our last night in Hoedspruit. This was yet another remarkable, luxury 5 star property. Relaxation is the word that springs to mind when I think back. Comfortable seating in open-plan living means you can admire the views of the game reserve and watch the animals in their natural habitat.

© Rebecca Forster - Flight Centre Newmarket


We were fortunate enough to see all of the Big 5 on our South Africa safari. Something that not everyone gets to experience, especially on a first trip to Africa.

Views of Sun City © Rachel Xiberras


With the end of our trip in sight, we spent our last two nights at The Palace, Sun City. This property was a complete eye opener. It has old world charm and luxury and certainly appears to be a world within a city. There are just so many options for visitors staying here to explore, enjoy and lose themselves. It was a great way to end our African experience. Together we wined and dined, recapping on our phenomenal experiences over the past two weeks and how very fortunate we were to have to have seen what we did on our South Africa safari.

I was delighted to have experienced the culture, food, people, attractions and different types of accommodation in South Africa. This was all made possible thanks to Bench Africa.

Read about my Top 5 Moments in South Africa.

Thank you to Rachel, Grace and Bec who took these wonderful photos on the trip!  And to Lauren Roby, from Cross Country Tours for this wonderful insight! 


My First ever Safari! - Lauren Roby - Cross Country Tours
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