South Africa, the Rainbow Nation, is spreading its colours out to Asia. The country is keen to showcase its awesome natural beauty, rich heritage of cultures and modernising progressive face to meetings and incentive groups.
Johannesburg and Cape Town are the two natural entry points but the country offers such a range of destinations, climates and peoples that it seems only a matter of time before the combined offerings of South Africa help it to emerge as one of the favourite destinations in the world.
Known as the Mother City for its role as the first European settlement in Southern Africa, few places bring geography and history together the way Cape Town does.
This very multicultural city offers not only an unforgettable urban experience but is also surrounded by a wide range of natural wonders from game reserves, wine and fruit areas, and some of the richest and most varied plant life found anywhere on the planet.
Linda Chonco, executive manager, PR & Corporate Communications for Cape Town Routes Unlimited, says: “Cape Town and the Western Cape boasts a range of iconic tourism attractions like Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robben Island, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Agulhas (the most southern point of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet), Cango Caves (near Oudtshoorn), winelands, ostrich farms and much more.
“Cape Town and the Western Cape is also home to the Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site. The area contains roughly 3 percent of the world’s plants,” she says.
Table Mountain is one of the world’s most instantly recognisable landmarks and one of the most accessible. While it is possible to walk up the mountain, a cable-car ride to the top is an experience in itself. The trip takes only a few minutes to reach the observation points on the top, but the views of the city, Table Bay and the Twelve Apostles mountains below are stunning.
The rugged Cape scenery, a product of the battering of wind and sea down the ages, is breathtaking. The Cape of Good Hope was, after all, originally named the Cape of Storms.
A drive along the Atlantic Ocean coast will take you past the scenic inlets of Clifton Bay and Camps Bay toward the awesome Hout Bay, which offers one of the most picturesque outlooks on the continent.
While Capetonians are often blasé about the Cape of Good Hope itself, few visitors will want to miss the trip through the nature reserve to the point.
The lure of big game brought many a traveller to Africa and, while thankfully for most the telephoto-lens has replaced the telescopic rifle, the thrill of finding animals in their natural habitat is still hard to beat.
About an hour and a half outside of the city, is Aquila, a four-star safari lodge and private game reserve. Your group can take a tour in specially converted trucks to see rhinos, hippos, wildebeest, springboks and lions, and guides provide their own insights into the animals and their personalities.
Finally the day is rounded off with an outdoor dinner, in front of a blazing campfire before retiring to a luxury chalet for your overnight stay.
The next morning, after enjoying their open-roofed showers beneath the African skies and breakfast, your group can be introduced to a pair of young cheetahs, so tame they purr like a cat that’s swallowed a power generator.
Then back to Cape Town itself, perhaps taking a detour through the Cape winelands, stopping off for a winetasting lunch.
South Africa’s troubled relationship with race is being put firmly behind it and the Rainbow Nation’s full spectrum is nowhere more visible than in Cape Town.
The city is home to a substantial Cape Malay community, whose ancestors arrived as slaves and indentured labourers from Asia, principally but not exclusively from the then Dutch colony in Java. They were later settled in an area of town called Bo-Kaap. This district retains houses dating well back into the early Victorian era and the narrow streets and colourfully decorated buildings draw in many a wandering visitor.
The Cape Malays brought with them the spicy cooking skills of their homelands and in contrast to the much blander food of the Dutch and British colonists, the Malay influence of turmeric, cinnamon and chillies provides a fiery culinary experience.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront hosts some of Cape Town’s best restaurants and bars. It also boasts fabulous sea and mountain views. From the Waterfront you can visit the Robben Island Information and Exhibition Centre, which explains the 400-year history of one of the world’s most notorious prison islands.
From here you can book a four-hour tour of the island itself, which is reached by ferry. The island’s most famous prisoner, of course, was former president Nelson Mandela. Some of his former co-prisoners now act as guides on the island, personifying reconciliation as well as remembrance (see box next page) .
But the new South Africa seems determined not to remain a captive of its past and Cape Town is something of a pioneer in this regard, showcasing the best in culture, nightlife, food and wine, and hospitality that South Africa has to offer.
Vibrant and elegant, Cape Town is a captivating destination.
The new South Africa calls itself the Rainbow Nation and logically, therefore, Johannesburg might be considered the Pot of Gold at its end.
Known in Zulu as eGoli (The City of Gold), Johannesburg boomed during the 19th century gold rush and is today one of the most important business and financial centres on the African continent.
The city is naturally an important hub for events, particularly conventions, corporate conferences and business meetings.
However, as with conferences in any big city, what makes the difference between a routine event and a memorable one is the amount of effort and imagination put into its organisation and programme.
For your incentive winners or small conference group, you might consider holding a cocktail party underground.
Gold Reef City is a multi-complex theme-park, 6km south of Johannesburg, styled on a reconstructed gold-rush town. Here 225m below ground are the remains of Shaft 14, a Victorian-era gold mine.
The mine goes down 57 levels or 3.5km. Over its 90-year lifespan it produced some 1.4 million kg of gold, blasted out of the ground by 30,000 miners.
On Level 5 of the old mine is a converted donkey stable. Before mechanisation, the animals were used to drag pans full of rocks laden with gold. About one tonne of rocks was needed to produce four grammes of gold. The underground temperatures range from 30 to 50 degrees, but with cooling systems temperatures can be maintained at around 28 degrees. With each drop of 100m underground, the temperature increases by one degree.
Guides will explain the mining techniques and show how some of the old equipment was used. An earsplitting five-second burst from a more modern electronic drill will certainly get your participants’ attention.
Your delegates can learn about Fanagalo, a 100-year-old language created by the miners themselves. Since they spoke 50 different languages and had to have a means of understanding one another. Fanagalo has a 2,000 word vocabulary – 500 of them swear words.
One popular tour in Johannesburg is to Soweto, an acronym for South West Township. The scene of enormous conflict during the apartheid era, it has an historic place in the country’s history. Tours can take in the museums and monuments that commemorate the 1976 rising, as well as see for themselves how far the lives of millions of people has changed in the years since.
The city has been working hard to shake off its reputation for crime. The local tourism industry points to statistics that show a substantial reduction in such incidents despite a number of high-profile events that capture international headlines.
In any case, the South African government has announced a large increase in policing budgets between now and the World Cup in 2010.
The country’s executive and administrative capital, Pretoria, is an easy half-day trip from Johannesburg. Its strong Afrikaner flavour is still evident in such sites as the Voortrekker Monument. The city played a major role in the Boer War and Winston Churchill spent some time here as a prisoner.
Pretoria’s architectural attractions are well worth the trip. If your group is in town during the spring, you will see the blossoming Jacaranda trees that line many major roads, earning Pretoria the nickname Jacaranda City.
Just a couple of hours’ drive from Johannesburg adjacent to the Pilanesberg National Park lies Sun City, one of South Africa’s premier resort destinations and dubbed the” Vegas of Africa”.
The complex has four hotels; the Palace of the Lost City, Cascades, Sun City Hotel as well as some traditional African-style accommodation the Kwena Chalets. Two onsite casinos explain the Vegas comparison but there are many other leisure options such as two 18-hole golf courses and an inland beach, the Valley of the Waves.
The resort offers a sensible addition to programmes that are mainly Johannesburg-centred. They can incorporate a trip to the national park to watch the rhinos and to feed the elephants, orphans of culls from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
If your group is particularly adventurous, tours on elephant back are also possible along the old game trails in the park.
You don’t even have to stay on land. Hot-air balloon rides add an unforgettable angle to the African sunrise. Early morning wake-up calls rouse your team and, after coffee is served in the hotel foyer, the group is off into the reserve. At dawn, a fleet of balloons lift off for an hour’s exhilarating safari over the park. Sparkling South African wine is served after landing and a bush breakfast is served at a nearby game lodge.
An educational and entertaining part of your stay is to join the show at Sun City’s cultural village.
This showcases many of the cultures and tribes in South Africa, highlighting dress, song, dance and food. Guides will explain a little of the history and beliefs of tribes such as the Tswana, Zulu, Pedi Xhosa, Ndebele, Venda, Shangaan and Ntwana people.
In the evening, your group can relax and enjoy a “Night at the Shebeen” (township tavern), enjoying South African beers and a typical brai (local barbecue) with the backdrop of bonfires and the sounds of a Kwaito Jazz band from Soweto.
The news that direct flights will link Shanghai and Johannesburg, alongside other obvious routes such as Singapore and Hong Kong, can only be seen as a good omen.
South Africa’s capacity to surprise and delight seems certain to win hearts – and business.
Robben Island Museum
Just off the shores of Cape Town lies one of the most remarkable and unusual event venues in the world.
For almost 400 years, Robben Island was a penal colony. Its most famous prisoner was Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years here for his defiance of apartheid, but at one time or another it housed dozens of members of the current leadership of South Africa. It was the scene of such intense political discussion, debate and education among the political prisoners that the prison was even dubbed the “Nelson Mandela University”.
Today this unique location is one of South Africa’s UNESCO heritage sites and home to the Robben Island Museum.
The museum has a range of venues for hire, from the modern Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island facility at the V&A Waterfront on the mainland, to the historical buildings on the Island itself.
The museum can arrange related tours, luxury catering, transport on the island and special cargo freighting for large items, as well as overnight accommodation on the island for delegates.
The Guest House
Consists of the old Dutch Reformed Church parsonage and the British Commissioner’s Residence, both built before 1900 and restored in the 1960s. The Victorian complex boasts superb views and has an enclosed observation deck on the roof. The conference room can cater for up to 60 delegates. Conference delegates not allocated rooms in the complex can be lodged in ex-warders’ Van der Sandt and Wyntrein houses nearby.
The John Craig Hall
Built during the Second World War, this can accommodate up to 200 delegates. Close by is a house built in 1841 and two other break-away facilities that can accommodate up to 20 people each.
Those interested in holding workshops, conferences and special events on the island itself can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nelson Mandela Gateway
The Gateway is Robben Island Museum’s “front door”, a mainland symbol of the importance of the Island for South Africa’s young democracy. It is located on the V&A Waterfront. The meeting spaces consist of a 20-seater Boardroom and a larger auditorium with a maximum capacity of 150 delegates.
For further information on Gateway facilities and their hire,
GREAT TRAIN JOURNEYS
There are many ways to see a country but few beat the elegance of travelling aboard a vintage steam train or a classic airplane in the lap of luxury.
Pretoria-based Rovos Rail and its sister company Rovos Air have recreated both the magic of the steam age and the golden era of aviation and complemented it with a touch of old-style opulence.
The company runs a wide variety of rail routes and hire options that can be worked into a pre- or post-conference tour or serve as the highlight of a top-end incentive programme.
From a private half-day lunch or dinner trip, to long-distance trips to Tanzania or Namibia, your group can blend the mysteries of the African continent with the personalised service and comforts
The search for an authentic feel of a bygone era is the deliberate lack of intrusive modern gadgets such as televisions, computers and the like. Although for those who absolutely must keep in touch with the office, mobile phones can be used in private areas.
If your incentive group is made up of mixed-level winners, say Silver, Gold and Diamond, you can accommodate them in suitable levels of luxury,
The Royal Suites, each of which take up half a carriage (16sqm), have their own private lounge area and full bathroom with Victorian bath and separate shower.
The Deluxe suites (11sqm) also accommodate two passengers in either twin or double beds and have a lounge area and en-suite bathroom with shower.
The “Pullman” suite (7sqm) also includes en-suite bathroom with shower but with a bunk bed for twin set-up or a double bed for couples. During the day, this can be converted into a couch.
Since all excursions, meals and drinks (including alcohol) are included in the price, incentive planners can easily avoid running up unplanned extras.
Guests are served by a 24-hour butler and bar service and to ensure that house proper standards and etiquette are upheld, strict jacket-and-tie rules apply for on-board dinners.
The group’s aviation arm, Rovos Air, also provides a vast range of group-tour permutations that can be combined with a rail trip or offer a standalone experience to circle over the Victoria Falls or Kruger National Park. It operates a fleet of reconditioned classic aircraft, a DC 4, a pair of Convairs and a DC 3. The planes have been refurbished to offer business class comfort throughout.
The Old Karoo Pioneering Trail
This is a 1,600-kilometre journey through the grasslands of the gold rich Highveld to the barrenness of the Great Karoo. Trundle through the spectacular mountain ranges and scenic winelands of the Cape. Journey’s end is Cape Town, with Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lions Head. Highlights of the north and southbound routes include a visit to the historic Victorian village of Matjiesfontein. A stop is also made in Kimberley providing an opportunity to enjoy a city tour and a visit to the Mine Museum and the world’s largest man-made excavation, the Big Hole.
15h30 Depart Rovos Rail’s private Capital Park Station aboard the Pride of Africa.
10h00 Arrive in Kimberley. Passengers visit the Big Hole, the Diamond Museum and take a tram ride.
12h30 Depart from Kimberley and proceed overnight via De Aar and Beaufort West for Matjiesfontein.
08h15 Visit the historic village of Matjiesfontein.
10h00 Depart Matjiesfontein and proceed via Touws River, De Doorns and Worcester to Cape Town.
18h00 Arrive Cape Town Station,
Arrival at Cape Town International Airport. Meet and greet and transfer to Table Bay Hotel. Upon arrival group will be served cocktails to welcome them to Cape Town.
Lunch at the Atlantic restaurant, Table Bay.
15h30 After lunch and freshening up, transfer to Table Mountain. Board the cable car and upon arrival at the top of Table Mountain, the group will enjoy champagne cocktails and explore the mountain, relishing the incredible views. As an alternative to Table Mountain due to bad weather, we suggest a visit to the Bo-Kaap area for a high tea.
18h30 Transfer to Summerville Restaurant, overlooking Camps Bay Beach for dinner.
22h00 Return to Table Bay Hotel.
08h30 Transfer to the V&A Waterfront.
09h00 Board a high-speed power boat for an exhilarating trip from Table Bay to Hout Bay, enjoying the magnificent views of the City, Table Mountain and Twelve Apostles en route..
11h00 Disembark at Hout Bay where group will be chauffeur-driven in classic Cadillacs and/or Buicks to Buffels Bay in the Table Mountain National Park (Cape Point).
12h30 Complete with umbrellas and picnic blankets, in the beautiful setting of Buffels Bay. the group can enjoy a lavish five-star picnic lunch.?
14h00 After lunch the group arrives at Seaforth by coach.
14h45 Groups will board the stable two-person inflatable canoes and paddle their way through the channels between the rocks to see the penguins waddling
along the beach or gliding through the ocean, enjoying the bays and
16h30 Return to hotel to freshen up.
19h00 Dinner at Arabella Sheraton.
22h00 Return to hotel.
08h00 Group is met at the hotel by motorcycles with sidecars. Transfer to the Elgin Valley.
10h00 The group changes mode of transport to 4×4 vehicles and embarks on the world’s first biodiversity wine route, the Green Mountain Eco Route. The Elgin Valley is the centre of the second largest apple-producing area in South Africa and is an integral part of the Four Passes Fruit Route. It is renowned not only for its apples and fruit, but also for its fine cool climate wines. Tri Active takes you on a journey that explores the beauty of the Elgin Valley?and the Green Mountain Eco Route with its endless mountain peaks and valleys in our comfortable Safari 4x4s, through private farmlands and estates.
As part of the UNESCO protected Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the heart of the Cape floral kingdom, this area is home to a rich variety of species. Along the way you can enjoy the presence of game such as springbok, zebra, bontebok, ostrich, eland, red hartebeest and klipspringer. Wine will be tasted at some of the many estates in the area such as Paul Cluver, Beaumont and Oak Valley.
12h30 Lunch at one of the wine estates.
13h30 Group continues on to Cape Town for an afternoon of shopping.
20h00 Farewell gala dinner and entertainment.
Early breakfast and then departure for airport in time for flights home.
South Africa has three international airports; O.R. Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport (CIA) and Durban International Airport (DIA). There are regular flights from Asian cities such as Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur Tokyo and Mumbai
There is very little difference in average temperatures from south to north. Maximum temperatures often exceed 32ºC in the summer, and reach 38ºC in some areas of the far north
English is one of 11 national languages and is spoken and understood throughout the country
Safari By Air
10h00 Guests meet at the Rovos Lounge at Lanseria Airport. Sparkling wine and other refreshments are served. Pre-departure announcements and welcome will be made by the general manager or chief pilot.
11h00 Take off for Hoedspruit Airport. Beverages and canapès are served
12h30 Arrive at Kapama game lodge. Game drive. Lunch, dinner and overnight stay are provided.
Morning and afternoon Game drive. All meals are provided at the lodge.
10h30 Depart from Kapama Private Game Reserve for Hoedspruit Airport.
11h30 Take off from Hoedspruit for Lanseria Airport. Snacks and beverages are served on board.
12h30 Arrive at Lanseria and collect luggage at the Rovos Lounge, a fleet of limousines will transport the group to the hotel for a late lunch.