Sat 12 Nov 2011
The Guardian has accepted a SA Tourism-sponsored series of ‘My Mission’ articles, written as ‘celebrity blogposts’ by four UK media personalities, each of them reporting back on their visits to experience their ‘mission’ of interest, creating good exposure for Cape Town, the Western Cape and other parts of the country.
The first to visit the country, in September, and to write about his experience was TV presenter, wildlife expert, photographer and author, Chris Packham, whose Mission was Wildlife and Safari. His journey started at Klaserie Nature Reserve, on the border of the Kruger National Park, doing game-viewing on foot in a guided walking safari, and a game drive. He also experienced the highly regarded Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, with further games drives, guided walks, and night drives. Packham writes about the ‘diary written in the sand’, being the spoor left by animals and telling a story. He has visited the country before, and praises the friendly locals and good roads. Packham saw white rhino, saddle-billed stork, giraffe, a pack of wild dogs, and a herd of elephants. He concludes positively: “Back then, safari meant Kenya. Today, for me, South Africa is by far the best place to come on safari. There is incredible biodiversity - everything from savannah to tropical forest, as well as a huge surfeit of animal life from great white sharks to lions to raptors, all within a couple of hours’ drive of each other”. Packham also praised the accessibility of the country, its good roads and flights, and well-trained guides. Despite his mission having been accomplished, Packham writes that he will be back, as there is more to see and learn in the bush.
TV presenter Jamie Theakston is a sport- and music-orientated TV and radio presenter, whose Mission was Adventure and Sport, which he experienced in KwaZulu-Natal. He started off with a walk in the UNESCO World Heritage site iSimangaliso wetland park, seeing a Red duiker, and a family of vervet monkeys. He went out to sea, and the boat was surrounded by eight humpback whales: ‘..the actual experience exceeds my anticipation in thousands of ways. It is a a few minutes of rare and special wonder‘, he wrote. His next adventure was game viewing in Phinda game reserve, and he was excited to see a young cheetah. Dinner was in a clearing in the bush, a surprise venue, ‘creating the prettiest restaurant I have ever dined in’. Tracking white rhino on foot at Phinda concluded his visit to South Africa, his heart beating: ‘…I realise just how lucky I am to be given the chance to view these animals - one of South Africa’s famous Big Five - up that close and that personal’.
Last month we wrote about TV presenter Gloria Hunniford’s visit to Cape Town and the Winelands. She visited Camps Bay, Bo-Kaap, Chapman’s Peak, and New7Wonders of Nature Table Mountain in Cape Town, and Delaire Graff, Warwick, and Spier, where she stroked a cheetah. Her Mission was ‘Affordable Luxury’. Hunniford visited the Western Cape stand at World Travel Market in London this week, said Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, in a media release. She is quoted as saying: “I had a most amazing time. The weather was perfect! I was amazed at the flowering landscape on one of the wine estates, it was like a piece of heaven”. She must have been referring to Delaire Graff in the Helshoogte Pass, whose garden was created by Keith Kirsten.
Monty Don is also a TV presenter, and a writer and speaker on Horticulture. He is yet to visit the Cape, and to write his blog posts for The Guardian. His mission is Flora, Fauna and Culture. Don will start his visit at Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek, to see its fruit and vegetable garden, inspired by the Company Gardens of the Cape when Cape Town was a halfway station between the East and Holland for the Dutch East India Company. Then he will visit Grootbos, between Hermanus and Gansbaai, close to shark cage-diving, and Southern Right whale watching. He will be taken to the Harald Porter National Botanical Park in Kleinmond, to see its wealth of fynbos, and will conclude his tour with a visit to Kirstenbosch National Botanical garden.
The UK celebrity endorsements of the tourism highlights of our country are powerful, and do not appear to have lost credibility in that they have been sponsored by SA Tourism. It seems a shame that so much energy and money will be spent on this campaign, when so few British tourists will be travelling this summer.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage