Founders Carl and Jakes have always dreamed of operating tours in different countries and on different continents. The one that truly hit home, however, was South Africa, their home country.
For years now, Carl and Jakes have been ‘selling’ South Africa indirectly to the guests who travel with Expat Explore. As South Africans living and working abroad they have been proud ambassadors of their home country. The pair have also always been vocal about the fact that South Africa shaped their love and passion for travel.
“I always say travel is part of our DNA. But, for us, South Africa is also a big part of that equation,” Carl explained. “As young travellers, South Africa and its rainbow nation introduced us to the notion of travel. It sparked our wanderlust,” Jakes emphasised.
Five years ago Carl and Jakes set a plan in motion to start the design of tour itineraries for South Africa. “The time was just right and we’ve had so many requests from travellers to offer tours to our home country,” Carl recounts. “We knew from the start that we wanted the tours to introduce people to our South Africa.”
To get the ball rolling, Carl embarked on a three-week-long trip throughout South Africa. He hit the road and drove more than 2500 km from Cape Town to Tzaneen. Along the way, he explored numerous provinces, including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. At the same time, Jakes worked to get a team together in Cape Town. The city is set to become the home base from where all South African Expat Explore tours will depart. “Cape Town is an award-winning destination and mecca for tourism in South Africa. There is a big focus on tourism in the Western Cape. Cape Town functions as a portal for international travellers making it the perfect departure point for our tours,” he said.
The pair came across quite a few challenges while designing the perfect South African tour. In total, it took five years to complete this momentous task. The hiccups weren’t what you’d expect it to be either. “Unlike in Europe, South Africa has more 5-star hotels than 4- and 3-star accommodation venues. I can create a European itinerary in a matter of days. This was not the case with South Africa. To keep the tour affordable, we had to work hard to find the right partners,” Carl said.
“The final South African Escape tour will connect two of the country’s most popular regions with a domestic flight that makes for a unique route through South Africa. The country has flavour. Our tours encompass it all and offer travellers an amazing, value-for-money experience.”
As founders of one of the largest tour operators in Europe, Carl and Jakes travel extensively. Yet, despite all they’ve seen and experienced, South Africa remains one of their favourite destinations.
More than 10 million visitors travel to South Africa each year. It is known as one of the best travel destinations in Africa. Unlike existing Expat Explore tours, the South African tours are very focused on nature. The tours will introduce visitors to the Cape Point National Park (a Cape Fynbos haven) and the Garden Route. There’s also the Cango Caves in the Karoo and award-winning beaches along the east and west coast. And that’s just a few of the many highlights.
“Many visitors experience travelling to South Africa as a homecoming of sorts,” said Jakes. Personally, he loves the Garden Route and Tsitsikamma National Park. “It’s naturally beautiful and there are so many adventure activities on offer! Bungee jumping, ziplining, hiking, you name it. It’s like one of the adventure capitals of the world.”
A three-day stay in the Kruger National Park is another highlight of the trip. “An African safari has almost become a luxury experience that’s only available to wealthy travellers. We wanted to make it available and affordable for everyone, so we did. It’s unlike anything Expat Explore offered before. We’re confident it will be quite an adventure for our passengers!” Jakes explains.
The operations team finalised the itinerary at the end of 2016 and the trial tour embarked in February 2017. It was a special experience when the pair hopped on board and led the tour themselves. “The trial tour (with more than eight nationalities on board) proved what we have always suspected. People fell in love with South Africa and were amazed at what the country has to offer. Prospective visitors might know about Table Mountain, Nelson Mandela and our country’s complex history, but there is so much more to it than that. Everyone who joined us on tour wants to come back!”
The range of South African tours is also a massive opportunity for Expat Explore to give back. “Having grown up in South Africa, we’ve seen and experienced the country. To us, it’s more than just another destination. We hope that these tours will contribute to the communities we visit by creating jobs and contributing to South Africa’s tourism industry as a whole. We’ve already received the most amazing support from local tourism boards and travel partners. It’s time to give back to South Africa,” said Jakes.
“I can’t wait to see our Expat Explore branded coaches roaming the highways of South Africa!” Carl enthused.
“These SA tours were tailored to give guests the opportunity to experience the country’s cultural diversity. The South African public are hospitable, friendly and interesting. We have our feet on the ground and are ready to give visitors the true, insider experience. And did I mention that Roger Federer’s mother is from South Africa?” Jakes, a dyed-in-the-wool tennis enthusiast, couldn’t resist adding.
Hoping to embark on a South African adventure in the future? Check out our South African Escape tour, Cape Town & the Garden Route and Kruger Safari & the Panorama Route tours for a taste of our South Africa tour offerings.