My wife and I originally planned this trip way back in 2019 and Julian Harrison had recommended Botswana over Kenya for our safaris, based on our interests. Needless to say, things were put on hold for quite some time but we were able to leave for our adventure on September 4, 2023 and arrived in Cape Town on the 5th.
Julian had booked us into the Welgelegen House, a boutique hotel in the Gardens District, with a wonderful staff, led by their manager, Memory. Julian arranged for a private guide to show us around Cape Town on Day 1, including a cooking demonstration and lunch in a private home, a trip to the Cape of Good Hope and surrounding area on Day 2, along with a trip up Table Mountain and, finally, a day of wine tasting in the wine country on Day 3.
We left Cape Town and flew to Maun, Botswana, where we were flown by a small charter plane to the first of three safari camps, Camp Okavango. This camp is in the Okavango Delta and the twice-daily outings included travel by boat, canoe and walking tours. Lots of animals and a different kind of safari camp. Accommodations were superb and food, drinks and daily laundry were all included. We spent three nights there and then flew on to the next camp, Camp Xakanaxa, for another three nights.
Safaris in Camp Xakanaxa were done in jeeps, with no more than six of us, and usually four in the open-air jeeps. The guides were very knowledgeable and we were able to see every animal, save for rhinos, that one would expect on a safari.
Our last stop in Botswana was the Savute Safari Lodge, with much different geography from the previous two camps. As we were still coming into spring, the vegetation had yet to sprout leaves and the area was very arid. On our flight in, I wondered what, if any, animals we could expect to see, but this area provided us with a plethora of wildlife. Because of the dry conditions, the government sponsors some manmade waterholes, as does the Savute Lodge itself. One could probably just sit in the camp and watch almost every animal we saw while on safari just walk up for a drink.
After our third night, we flew to Zimbabwe to spend two nights and one day visiting Victoria Falls. We were led by a private guide and it is hard to put into words the magnificence of this wonder of the world. In the late afternoon, we were taken on a sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi River, where we saw everything from crocodiles to a large group of elephants going for a swim.
Overall, the trip was terrific. From the time our plane touched down in Cape Town, until we left Victoria Falls on September 21, Julian and Lisa had arranged for everything to be taken care of. Usually, I’m a “do it yourself” type when it comes to vacations, but it was a pleasure knowing that I had nothing to do but show up and somebody else was going to look after us.
I would highly recommend Julian and his company, as he took the time to listen to my “wish list” and more than delivered with the itinerary he put together for us.
This was our second safari in Africa with Julian Harrison in two years. It was three weeks from the end of August till end of September. We visited South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We were really excited as Julian got us into three 5-star Great Plains camps—Duba Plains, Zarafa in Botswana and Tembo Plains in Zimbabwe.
The trip started out great, flying nonstop from Newark Liberty to Cape Town. We stayed again at the beautiful One&Only property for two days. We did not need more days since last year we were in Cape Town for 5 days. We requested Jacqui as our tour guide in Cape Town. She was excellent! We had already been to the major sites so she decided to take us to two places off the beaten path. The first was the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town. It was fantastic and depicted how the Jewish people arrived and built up their culture in CT. The 2nd day she took us down the northwest coast, which was breathtaking. About 90 mins from Cape Town down the coast there is a community that portrays the San people tucked away in a little valley. We got a guided tour on everything San culture and we learned so much about the people, their way of life, language, etc.
Once we got into Botswana, Duba Plains was our 1st safari stop. The first day was fantastic with our guide Ona. It is a wet environment and the bird life was stunning. We witnessed a lion kill of a red lechwe in deep water. It happened so fast we barely had time to photograph it. Had a wonderful dinner in the Duba Plains interactive kitchen.
Unfortunately, that is where the safari took a very wrong, scary and painful turn. While getting into bed at night I was stung by a venomous neurotoxic scorpion. That at least is what the nurse and doctor from Great Plains camp guessed. The pain was off the charts and my husband and I were trying to get help, which only came an hour later. The camp manager was non responsive and my husband had to hunt him down in the middle of the night, which was extremly dangerous! When the camp manager finally called the Great Plains nurse/doctor I wanted to have a doctor flown in as my foot and up to my knee was severely swollen and I could not move the limb. While I was very unlucky to step on this creature, the response in handling this emergency from DP was appalling. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but we received a letter from Derek Joubert (one of the owners of Great Plains) on how abysmal the care I received from the staff at DP was. The doctor said if I did not have any “neurological” issues within twelve hours then I should be OK and continue my safari. He told me to “trust” him.
Once Julian found out from Great Plains he worked behind the scenes with all the camps/hotels so hopefully I could continue my safari, which I did on crutches, wheelchairs, being carried until I could walk which was about a week to ten days.
Julian and Great Plains had us helicoptered to Selinda out of Duba Plains when it was OK for me to travel. We were flown to Selinda. We had been to Selinda last year and it is a beautiful camp on the Selinda Spillway with a good staff and they took good care of me since I still could not walk. I was propped up lengthwise on the game vehicle with pillows (had to keep my legs elevated) so I could at least partake in a game drive or two. When it was time to head to Zarafa, the camp manager from Zarafa (Naledi) took amazing care of me and helped me walk on crutches. She was an angel! Another standout from Zarafa was Baby, who is the chef. She prepared amazing dishes and was another wonderful, caring person. Zarafa is a beautiful camp on the Selinda Reserve and we took a boat on the Channel, which was lovely. The staff at Zarafa was excellent.
Next stop was Batonka Lodge in Vic Falls and Julian made sure my crutches and other things I needed were there. This lodge was a pit stop to get into Zimbabwe. We took a very nice helicopter ride over the falls and it was beautiful. Batonka Guest Lodge was on beautiful grounds, but some of the staff were quite lackluster and not service-orientated. We had a very early fight to Tembo Plains and a group of women also had an early fight to another camp. The staff refused to open the kitchen for breakfast, so my husband had to speak with the owner’s daughter and it was resolved. We would not stay here again if in Vic Falls.
Next stop was Tembo Plains in the Sapi reserve, which is a beautiful camp that was just built about 2 years ago on the edge of the Zambezi River. The Jouberts bought a private 128,000-hectare reserve that until 6 or seven years ago was a hunting camp and the animals were wiped out. From the head vet we learned that 101 elephants have been translocated to Sapi to try and rewild the conservancy. Any elephants we saw were very skittish and ran away at the sound of our jeep. It will probably take many years before the animals are habituated to humans. If you are looking for good game drives I would say this is not the place to come. We were under the assumption that Mana Pools was close by and painfully found out that it was a three-hour journey to reach the game in the Mana Pools National Park. Our reason for coming to Tembo was Mana Pools and then to find out from the camp manager that it was so far away and most people don’t make the journey was very upsetting. Lindy, his wife, told us most people come after their safaris for relaxation. Great Plains needs to market that property accurately.
Lloyd and Lindy were excellent camp managers who took good care of us, and the chef was good. We would say that Tembo is probably the most beautiful camp that we stayed in any of the Great Plain camps so far. We took a canoe ride on the Zambezi and it was lovely. Tons of birds, with a great many kingfishers, eagles, along with huge pods of hippos. At this point I was able to limp, but could not take much advantage of the walking safaris at Mana Pools. Yes, we did decide to take a boat up the Zambezi and a pretty bumpy jeep ride to get to Mana Pools. It was very hot and an all-day affair, but were rewarded with a beautiful ecosystem, the biggest wild dog pack we had ever seen and other wonderful animals.
Our last stop was back in South Africa to Tintswalo in the Manyeleti game reserve. Julian recommended it last year and we loved it. The only camp in South Africa that we returned to. The staff, guides and accommodations were fantastic. Since the team knew what was going on with me they urged me to be seen by a doctor in Hoedspruit since they felt I did not look well and were amazed I had come this far. Tamysn (sp?), the camp manager, and others were shocked that all my correspondence with any of the medical professionals were through WhatsApp at the Great Plains Camps. No one ever saw me!
The doctor in SA was excellent, diagnosed several issues I was having, gave me an IV and meds through it to make me more comfortable. I needed an Rx from the pharmacy and one of the staff went to fetch it—nothing was too much trouble for them. The meds enabled me to go on the two game drives a day and it was wonderful. We even met the owners and can see why Julian recommended Tintswalo last year. Caring, authentic people who love their guests.
To top off this whole trip my husband and I got the flu the 2nd day we returned last week. The doctor in SA warned me that the scorpion sting was going to dampen my immune system and he was right.
Yes, this trip went sideways and in retrosperct we should have used either Travelex or Medjet to get us home, but the Great Plains doctors/nurse assured me that I could continue the trip, even though none of them ever saw me. In no way is this a refection on Julian; and he was working hand-in-glove with Great Plains and other hotels/lodges to make sure I was taken care of. This appalling situation rests squarely on the shoulders of Great Plains and how they need to change their processes ASAP or we will never stay at another one of their camps. Yesterday, Julian, was able to get the Great Plains US director on the phone with me, and my husband. We gave them an earful of feedback on what needs to change so this does not happen to anyone else.
It’s possible that we may return to another part of Africa at a cooler month in 2025/26 and we would use Julian without hesitation.
Just returned from a spectacular 19-day trip, arranged by Julian, Lisa and Carmella. This is our second trip planned by Julian, we went to Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe in April 2022 and loved it so much that I started working again with his office shortly after we returned. Our trip was seamless. We stayed in 7 different lodges/hotels and had 11 flights. Julian and the team had everything in place, our accommodations were luxe and gorgeous, we had amazing guides, and every transfer from flights to pick-ups was on time and perfect. Even when we encountered a blip (missing our Qatar connection on the flight to Kenya), I was unbelievably able to email Carmella and Lisa from the plane and they advised me on our options. We started in Nairobi, stayed at Hemingways. We visited the Giraffe Center (fabulous), the Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary (also wonderful), stopped at a workshop where they recycle flipflops into art products and more. The poverty as you drive along is eye-opening in all these countries, but you will over and over hear that tourism is the main industry and that your visit is important. Following Nairobi, we visited 3 Kenya parks—each with different geography but all spectacular. We stayed at Ol Donyo Lodge, Segera Retreat, and Mara Plains in Kenya—all stunning, welcoming, with the nicest rooms and outstanding food. I am on a salt-restricted diet and every place made me the most delicious meals—best food I have had in ages, seriously! Our Kenya guides were phenomenal, all belonging to Masai tribes. We had the opportunity to visit a kindergarten, 2 bead cooperatives, gardens, our guide’s village, and the anti-poaching dog-training group at Segera. All really enhanced our trip. We moved to Tanzania and had a highlight day waiting for and watching a wildebeest migration of (our guide estimated) 6000-plus animals. The final stop was Rwanda, we had one terrific night at Kigali Serena before moving on to the most amazing, incredible lodge of a lifetime—Bisate Lodge. With only 6 rooms, the service and accommodation is an unparalleled treat. They guided us in getting ready for our Gorilla Trek. I was really nervous and they all kept reassuring me—you will make it—and I did. The Gorilla Trek is a once-in-a-lifetime, the porters are your best friends in making the journey.
Bottom line: None of this would have been possible without the expertise and perfect itinerary prepared by Julian and Lisa. After our first trip, I realized that 3 nights per location was preferable. Somehow Julian and Lisa listen and put together the ideal itinerary. I have referred friends to Julian and they all feel the same way—THE BEST BEST travel agent. If you are thinking about South or East Africa, Julian and Lisa are your new best friends. I promise you.
To quote one of our travel companions, “I would not have changed one aspect of this trip,” and I wholeheartedly agree. My wife, Janis, was apprehensive about being in the Botswana bush and only reluctantly agreed to join our group of four but before we completed our tour, she was already speaking of a return trip. The planning was superb. We were in the right camps with the right level of service and amenities at the perfect time of year. Our time in Cape Town and Franschhoek was equally satisfying, however our anticipation of what laid ahead in Botswana had us looking past these wonderful settings.
Probably the most surprising aspect of our tour was the proximity within which our guides placed us to some very serious predators. On numerous occasions we could have reached out from our Land Cruiser and touched passing lions and we enjoyed several close-range stare-downs with leopards. Upon returning back to our tent one afternoon we found an elephant drinking from our plunge pool.
Our planner, Julian Harrison, did a masterful job of translating our interests and desired level of comfort into four perfectly-matched camps. He guided us to Botswana and the Okavango Delta and encouraged us to select winter as the best season to visit. He recommended we not try to cram both Eastern Africa (think Great Migration) and Western Africa tours in the time we had allotted. After making these basic choices, the rest was all Julian’s doing and we had no argument with his choices. He and his staff were available and patient with our constant barrage of questions during the 12-month period leading up to our departure. His services added tremendous value to the trip.
Thank you Wendy! Julian and the team built a perfect two weeks (7/30-8/14) for our family in Southern Africa (hopefully the first of many exploring this incredible part of the world). My three daughters (ages 14, 22, 24) and I left with incredible memories. After giving him our “wish list,” Julian came back with an itinerary that hit everything. Four days in Cape Town exploring the city and the cape with an amazing tour guide (Jackie from Wilro Cape Tours) included great food, historical context, impromptu paragliding, the beautiful botanical gardens, and lots of penguins and baboons. Next stop Victoria Falls to The Elephant Camp—such a beautiful place to stay. The lodge included a “roof” top outdoor bed in our tents. I almost wish I didn’t sleep so well that night, but I woke up to a beautiful Zimbabwean sunrise. Two days included tour of the Falls, zip lining over the gorge, a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, and hanging out with and feeding a small elephant herd. For week two, three stops in Botswana—all Desert & Delta lodges with varying ecosystems, delicious food, and the nicest, most welcoming people. The game-drive guides were especially incredible—they are so full of information to share, and so good at what they do. Highlights included (but not limited to!) mating ostriches, lion cubs, cheetahs, hippos, hyenas, honey badgers (iykyk), zebras, birds birds birds, antelopes of all kinds, giraffes, elephants, and ancient rock paintings. My most favorite? Watching elephants mourn. On the third anniversary of my husband’s passing, my daughters and I watched a herd of male elephants walk single-file to a watering hole, each stopping briefly in front of a recently deceased baby elephant to honor and respect…and a single male turning toward us instead of the baby. Thank you again to Julian and team for connecting us with the amazing people and experiences of Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Camps Savute, Moremi, and Okavango! We came back with knowledge, appreciation, and so many memories. What would I do differently? The only thing I would add is a helicopter tour over Victoria Falls, which we heard was fabulous. We added one over the Okavango Delta and it was incredible.
My first safari, this is my fifth or sixth Wendy trip, this time planned by Julian Harrison. August 2023 we set off for Botswana by way of Cape Town, and finishing in Victoria Falls. The great thing was I let Julian do all the work…. After hearing it took a year to plan and reserve a Botswana safari, Julian put together our trip just a few months before our departure. Highlights…wine country with lunch at Arkeste in Franshoeck, all of our lodges in Botswana especially the Saturday night dinner celebration at Gomoti Plains, the walking safari in Sable Alley, and the elephant encounter while on a boat at Duke’s Camp. All in all a perfectly planned trip.
Just back from a fantastic week in Rwanda. Julian and his team were able to find accommodation for very specific dates and places. The trip was very quick — only 5 nights on the ground as part of a work trip, but we saw and experienced so much it felt like we were away for weeks. We stayed in Akagera Park, where we saw all the Big 5 in less than 24 hours. The luxury tented rooms are right on the lake and we listened to the hippos day and night! Our guide was magnificent, the jeep rides and the lake cruise and cocktails along the shoreline were all super fun.
Julian’s team arranged for helicopter rides between venues to speed us along. Road travel in Rwanda can take many hours to get from place to place.
The One and Only in Nyungwe is an exceptional resort. The service is outstanding and the rooms a real refuge. We had an easy hike to see the chimps and enjoyed the canopy walk. Julian arranged for a very special WOW Moment luncheon which we totally enjoyed.
Dalida, our guide, was a gem and we enjoyed our conversations with her.
We did have some confusion about who our in-country contact was and did not fully realize that Julian’s team used another company to arrange our transport and touring (Thousand Hills, now owned by Wilderness Safaris). When we arrived in Nyungwe, our luggage was still en-route, we later learned it was stuck behind a cement spill. At the same time we also learned that while our itinerary said our chimp trekking would be “after breakfast” it was actually a 4:45AM departure and that the hotel did not have us scheduled for the canopy walk. All was quickly and calmly resolved by Dalida (who works for Wilderness) when she arrived with our bags.
I think it would have been helpful to have had a welcome call or text when we arrived in Rwanda, someone local who was keeping track of us and whom we could turn to for answers. (We did have a general phone number to call). When we traveled to Rwanda last time our advisor had local staff and we had their personal contact info.
Another great trip in the books!
Julian Harrison planned a memorable trip to Kenya for our extended family of 11 people, including grandkids ranging in age from 11-17. We wanted to include safari camps and time at the beach.
We planned to arrive in Nairobi a day before we needed to leave for our first camp to give ourselves a little time to recover from the flights. Although we thought we had plenty of time to make our connection in Amsterdam, a long delay caused us to miss our flight to Nairobi. Each of our three families had separate tickets, so rerouting was complicated. Because we were expected in Nairobi for a morning visit to the Giraffe Center, I contacted Julian and Lisa to let them know of our arrival changes. I had to contact them several times, as needed pickup times kept changing. Thanks to them everyone was picked up and ready for departure to our first camp, and they were able to change the Giraffe Center visit to our last day in Kenya instead of the first.
Julian suggested we start at Sweetwaters Serena Camp, so we could see rhinos. It was a perfect start. The camp was fairly large but not busy at all. There was a water hole opposite the tents, so animals were coming and going all day and night. Meals were buffet style, which provided plenty of options for everyone, including kids and vegetarians. The guides were great, and we saw lots of animals on our morning and afternoon game drives. There was also a chimp sanctuary that was interesting.
We flew to Instinct of the Mara for four days. We had booked 2 two-bedroom suites as well as a room for my husband and me. Unfortunately one of the suites was being remodeled and not available yet. Julian let us know before we got there, and the arrangements he made worked out well. We also had the whole camp to ourselves. The food was delicious and pleased everyone. We were lucky to arrive in time for the beginning of the great migration, which was awe-inspiring. Except for one day when we saw a few other vehicles, we were alone among the animals. Because Instinct is some distance from the Masai Mara, the game drives tended to be quite long. One evening we had a sundowner with lamb roasted on a spit by the Masai while we watched the sun set.
Our final stop was Cardomom House on the Indian Ocean. It’s a beautiful, very private spot. We enjoyed relaxing and swimming. I had requested a birthday cake for my granddaughter, and the staff went all out. The chairs were decorated with balloons. They brought cake and ice cream and sang to her, then gave her some small gifts. She said—best birthday ever. The food was delicious with an emphasis on fish.
Without Julian we would never have found these places. The trip was paced well, and Julian and his people were there to help us through the bumps.
We are just back from 10 days in Kenya! We worked with Julian Harrison to plan our trip. They took great care of us throughout the trip. We spent the first day in Nairobi and did a driving tour through the city. The next day we flew to the Maasai and stayed for 3 days at the Instinct of the Mara and 3 days at Leopard Hill. At each we spent our days on game drives, relaxing and enjoying the lodges. This was a family trip, celebrating 2 college and one high school graduations. We so enjoyed having an ‘independent’ trip without being completely on our own! We ran into a couple group tours in Nairobi and felt glad to be more independent. Independent, but not stressed with managing anything ourselves! Julian, Lisa and their team were wonderful, and what a joy to travel in Kenya. The people we met were so welcoming and kind, we saw so many animals, and it was an absolutely perfect trip for our whole family.
Just back from South Africa and Botswana! My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages! We worked with Christian from Julian’s office, who put together an itinerary that included places we had not even considered. Five days in South Africa included the awe-inspiring Grootbos Nature Preserve at the bottom of the continent. We explored ancient caves, went whale watching, hiking and thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable cuisine at Grootbos! We loved our guide Hosea who gave us such in-depth history and cultural insight on the area. It was a small gesture, but my kids really appreciated Hosea taking them into a local market in Cape Town’s Bo-Kapp neighborhood to enjoy a mid-day snack.
After a day touring and hiking on the magnificent Table Mountain, we set off to Botswana for 6 days at 3 different safari camps. Each camp was in a different ecosystem, which was something we never would have considered and were so appreciative of Christian to plan in that manner. I knew I would see the animals but did not expect to learn so much from the guides at each camp. The magnificent birds were also an unexpected surprise. The delicious food and lovely staff will never be forgotten and really made the trip our favorite so far!
Kudos to Christian for setting up this amazing experience!
An African safari has been at the top of my bucket list for a really long time. My daughter and I started researching and planning a trip for this year, but quickly became overwhelmed with all the decisions and choices to make with no real knowledge of the area. As longtime readers of Wendy’s website, we quickly realized where to turn for advice. We reached out to Julian Harrison, listed as one of the Africa specialists, gave him our dates, completed an interest questionnaire, corresponded by email and eventually spoke on the phone to confirm all our information. We gave him our budget range with trip experience priorities, other pertinent information and a few days later a beautiful travel booklet complete with daily itineraries, camp descriptions, transportation details and, well, all kinds of great information and advice arrived in my email inbox. We literally took Julian’s advice about our entire itinerary choices and it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime and more than we could ever have imagined. We started with a few days in Cape Town and despite the terrible weather had a wonderful time. Our driver, Jacques, was a fantastic guide and had some great advice for things to do despite the weather. We are in the healthcare industry and the Heart of Cape Town Museum was a fabulous, unplanned stop for us. The Four Rosmead Boutique Guesthouse was the perfect choice for our stay, so central and convenient to all our outings. The staff went above and beyond, the room was comfortable and breakfast each morning was amazing. Julian suggested we visit two safari camps at two different locations in Botswana, and this gave us an opportunity to explore different ecosystems. Both camps, Lebala and Sable Alley, were uniquely special, perfectly furnished, ideally located and staffed with the most welcoming and friendly people that we have ever met. The food was amazing and we especially loved the uncrowded, unhurried mood at camp as well as on the safari drives. We were able to see every animal on our bucket list, including the leopard family who are often well hidden and easy to miss. So many wonderful pictures and videos that our terrific guides were able to help us capture. Mr. G, Akeem, and Mario gave us a glimpse of animal life as we have never seen before, an up close, intimate view of a sometimes harsh reality. A mokoro excursion is definitely a do-not-miss adventure as well. Julian arranged all transportation between camps and airport pickups, which were exactly as described in our brochure and executed flawlessly. There are not enough words to express how grateful we are that he planned such a perfect trip for us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for our family. Botswana and South Africa are truly special and amazing places. Many thanks to Julian for an unforgettable experience.
Julian absolutely knocked it out of the park! Our trip to South Africa and Botswana was phenomenal. Each time we arrived at a new destination, we thought it couldn’t get any better — and then wow, the next place was even more awe-inspiring.
When I spoke with Julian about what we wanted to do during the 17 days we had allocated to this trip, I confessed that in a previous animal-viewing-oriented vacation to the Galapagos, we had felt “done” after 3 or 4 days. My concern about safaris was that perhaps we’d become bored, exhausted or both. We are “city people” who enjoy luxurious accommodations, fine dining and wine, and we were interested in learning more about South African wines.
Julian responded by working out an itinerary that alternated city stays with short (3-4 night) safaris at lodges with very different offerings. We began in Cape Town, where we had a wonderful guide, Jacqui, who stayed with us for the first nine days of our trip. After thoroughly enjoying four nights at the tiny boutique hotel Kensington Place in Cape Town, we were treated to an amazing, surprise “WOW Moment“: a helicopter ride over the Cape!
We then moved to Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, where the spacious accommodations thrilled us with views of the beautiful landscape and ocean, and an especially memorable sunset on the first night. Though it was rainy for much of our stay, that’s winter in the Cape. Every detail provided by the resort was thoughtful, including a fire made in the fireplace for us each night and hot-water bottles in the bed. The food was healthy and delicious.
We did a third-party boat excursion offered through Grootbos to see the “marine big five.” Though the excursion provider was very conscientious and we did see some of the animals, the weather was not great and we ended up cold and wet to the skin. I probably wouldn’t do the boat tour again, especially in winter. Some of the other activities that are included in the room rate at Grootbos were not suitable for my level of mobility: the beach caves are accessible only by 200 stairs, for example. But the “safari drive” to see the abundant and fascinating local flora was fantastic. I wish I had tried the horseback riding.
Next we spent two nights in Franschhoek, at Leeu Estates. We found this hotel rather stiff and formal (for instance, the front desk staff all stood up every time we entered the lobby, and we found the staff in the tasting room quite snobbish), but the rooms were very well-appointed. After a day trip to the delightful Babylonstoren farm, we agreed that it would be our first choice if we returned to the Cape wine region.
After a flight to Maun, Botswana, followed by a thrilling yet surprisingly comfortable 20-minute flight in an 11-passenger plane, our next stop was Eagle Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta. Eagle Island is another “wow” property, with impressive accommodations and good food. This was intended to be a safari focused on boat excursions in a swampy region created by annual floods. The floods were later and smaller than usual this year, so the camp continued its off-season routine of overland safari drives. Since the water holes were expanding day by day, huge numbers of animals were also arriving.
We saw a pride of lions stalk and kill a buffalo calf on our very first drive. We were mere feet from lion cubs playing on several occasions, and a leopard walked right under our safari vehicle — twice! We saw awe-inspiring herds of elephant, zebra, African buffalo, red lechwe, and many hard-to-spot smaller animals such as the warthog, jackal, African wildcat and serval.
We were able to do one water excursion, in a mokoro canoe. It was incredibly peaceful, and our guide told us a lot about the water plants and how they are used by local people. Our ride ended with a closer encounter with a hippo than I think any of us would have liked, but fortunately the hippo, which rose out of the water and bluff-charged us, was just letting us know we were too close for his taste!
We had requested a short visit to Johannesburg, where we wanted to visit some historic locations in Soweto, as well as the Apartheid Museum. Unfortunately my husband wasn’t feeling well on the one day we had in the city, so we missed this portion of our itinerary. However, it just happened that our intended tour guide, Herby, was the one to pick us up at the airport on the afternoon prior, and he gave us an excellent mini-tour on our way to our hotel, The Residence.
The following day, we were off to the pièce de résistance of the whole trip: three nights at the truly splendid Tintswalo Safari Lodge, in the Manyeleti Nature Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. At this point we had seen and spent time with all of the Big Five animals except for a rhino, and I have to admit that I questioned how much this safari was going to add to our experience.
And then we arrived at Tintswalo, which is sheer luxury. Our ranger and tracker were absolutely fantastic. We saw a white and a black rhino, a notoriously reclusive cheetah, hyenas, giraffes and much more. The sunsets were fantastic, the weather was ideal, and the lodge activities were over the top and full of surprises. The food could not have been better. We absolutely hated to leave!
Honestly, I am amazed by how beautifully Julian arranged our experiences to provide one “wow” after another. Prior to this trip, we had traveled to over 40 countries and all 7 continents. It takes a lot to wow us, but this was a vacation we will never forget.
This was my second safari trip with Julian to Africa. We first went to Victoria Falls, then to 3 different camps in Botswana. Everything exceeded our expectations. The camps selected were superb. Julian got us upgraded in one of the camps, which was incredible.
The food was great, even for this foodie.
The wildlife viewing was terrific. Go with Julian if you are going to Africa.
Beautiful Southern Africa for our 30th Wedding Anniversary
It was deep in the dark days of the pandemic, trapped in our townhome, that I began to dream of traveling again in the future. Our 30th wedding anniversary was coming up in a little over a year, so going down my bucket list I landed on an African safari as the perfect way to celebrate. My husband on board, I reached out to Wendy Perrin in January of 2022, who referred us to Julian Harrison and his trusty sidekick Lisa Cara. From our first call, Julian put me at ease with his expert knowledge on African safaris and I knew I was working with the exact right person. We spoke about our goals for the trip, he made great suggestions, and within a few days I had an itinerary. Double-checking on the accommodations – all very well reviewed – and validating the plan, we were in!!
Julian and Lisa took great care of us during the year we waited to head out, answering all our questions promptly. They booked local flights, provided advice on luggage for the safari planes, made suggestions for restaurants in Cape Town, guided us on what to expect regarding tipping, etc.
We’ve just returned from this spectacular trip. Four days in Cape Town visiting Table Mountain, Boulders Beach, the Cape of Good Hope, the Victoria & Alfred waterfront, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and of course the Winelands, along with a fantastic lunch at Glen Carlou; two nights at Victoria Falls in the lovely Old Drift Lodge; and 6 nights in Botswana: 2 nights in Savute, 2 nights in Camp Moremi, and 2 nights in Shinde. Fabulous. All the accommodations were outstanding, and the transport between camps was flawless. At each stop we were made to feel so special, with an incredible “sundowner” experience at Old Drift, along with cakes and celebrations at each safari camp for our anniversary. It was clear that Julian and team had taken exceptional effort to ensure all the camps were aware of our special event, which was a wonderful surprise that we really appreciated.
For anyone like me not familiar with safari travel – everything at the camps is included: food, drinks, activities. Think of a very small cruise ship on land. To me, this is a very cost-effective way to experience luxury travel. Plus, two weeks later, eating healthy food and staying active, I came home feeling better than ever (despite terrible allergies that started in the bush – take your meds!!) and would absolutely love to do another trip to other areas in Africa in this same manner.
This complicated trip was made so easy! We had the flexibility to choose our own restaurants in Cape Town yet were expertly navigated to the best attractions by our own personal guide, Jacqui Van Rensburg, who was such a joy with whom to work. We were met at each airport and guided through the processes for entry in Zimbabwe and Botswana. All the arrangements for safari plane movements between camps worked perfectly. While I often plan trips myself, I can highly recommend arranging a trip like this through an expert. Julian’s services took all the stress out and we were left with nothing but fantastic fun and great memories. Thank you to Wendy, Julian, and Lisa for making this a dream trip – one of more we hope to arrange with you.
Two-week safari to Botswana plus one day in Johannesburg and four days in Cape Town. March 10-25, 2023
It has always been my dream to go on safari, and when I finally had the opportunity, I wanted to make sure that I booked with the right professional. Julian Harrison spent two separate phone calls with me answering all of my questions and allaying my fears about medical help should I become ill while in Botswana. He defined the differences between a safari in South Africa and Botswana and also described my various lodging options. The trip he put together far exceeded my expectations. Not only were the lodges luxurious and comfortable, but the staff who work there are beyond warm and accommodating. Per Julian‘s suggestion, we went to three different lodges in three different parts of Botswana, and saw many different types of wildlife, flora, and water life as a result. His suggestion to fly into Johannesburg and out of Cape Town was also excellent. We spent the last four days touring and doing some shopping that we could not have done if we had gone to Cape Town first, due to luggage limitations on bush planes. Last but not least, Julian and his team accommodated a last-minute travel change when my friend and travel partner became ill and could not accompany me. Julian and his team were gracious and accommodating about substituting in my son at the last minute and helped my friend with her insurance claims. All in all, a fantastic experience I will never forget.
The trip planning and logistics were great. So terrific that I am redoing it 6 months later, because my daughter caught Covid and could not go. I saw a lot of wildlife and the camps were terrific.
My wife and I just completed our first trip booked with the help of Wendy. We were referred to Julian Harrison, who was able to translate a loose idea of what we wanted to do to a very robust 30-day trip and steer us towards a great set of game camps and adventures. We’ve never had a vacation this long and were a bit concerned over the length, the number of flights, transfers, locations, logistics, etc., but it went off without a hitch. I hope this won’t be boring, but will comment on the various places we visited and the highlights.
Rattray’s at Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa
• Incredible game drives with Melanie at the wheel. Great diversity of animals.
• Very “Old British” feel to the entire site – rooms had great view of the Sand River.
• Granola was so good, we were grateful to have left with two coffee cups full of it that we tried to make last as long as we could – did not do a very good job of that.
One & Only in Cape Town
• Great location to waterfront – loved the Watershed shopping area – all products from African artisans.
• Winery visit highlight was lunch at Delaire Graff – spectacular views of the vinyards and wines and food to kill for. Became an instant lover of the Pinotage variety. Franschhoek was a delightful city to walk and visit galleries.
• The standard sights of Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, the seals at Simon’s Town, and the botanical garden were terrific.
• Best surprise was a quintet at brunch on Christmas Day singing Christmas carols (the oldies that boomers like me grew up with).
• The downside of the city was that it felt necessary to be vigilant for personal safety. Would have liked to have felt more comfortable to explore the city by walking around.
Rovos Rail from Cape Town to Pretoria (actually one stop short of Pretoria)
• Luxury from the minute we stepped into the lounge at the railway station. A real step into the past. Would enjoy taking even longer routes with them and also try the Orient Express. Rail travel is very relaxing.
• Servers were very good at wine pairings with dinners – usually a wine with each of 3 courses, all very good South African varieties.
• The trip really highlighted the challenges faced by the country. Train would come to a complete stop frequently for a number of reasons, including challenges with electricity – either not enough juice to handle two trains close to each other or no electricity because the cables were stolen and had yet to be replaced. Luckily the train had two engines – electric and diesel. That’s why we stopped short of Pretoria, as they are reinstalling the cable.
Hoanib Skeleton Cost in Namibia
• This was our first taste of five Wilderness camps on this trip, all of which were amazing. Really in the middle of the desert on a river bed that is dry most of the year. Wonderful musical greeting by the camp team upon arrival.
• Adaptation of the animals to the desert was fascinating, though they all were a bit skinnier than their cousins at the more lush environments like Zimbabwe and Botswana and South Africa.
• Ben was a terrific guide – had a focus on the smaller creatures like beetles and geckos as well as the usual suspects.
• The drive to the coast to see the seals, despite the bumpy drive (African massage) took us through green areas to dunes to an oasis. It’s hard to imagine a stretch of 4 km of shoreline packed with seals, but that’s the story. After a nice lunch on the beach, a 10-minute flight back was welcome versus reversing the 4-hour drive. It was fascinating to see the terrain we had driven through.
Serra Cafema – Namibia
• Tucked along the Kunene River, a nine iron across to Angola, the area was mountain/desert/dunes. Much more mountainous than Hoanib. Some challenges going up over the dunes, but after several tries, we made it over.
• Not much wildlife in the Hartmann Valley, as it has not rained there for years.
• Visit to the Himba village was quite an experience. A German couple who was at the camp brought along balloons that were magical to the children.
Little Kulala – Namibia
• I was really looking forward to this stop, as the way the rooms were set up relative to the dunes (from looking at Google maps) suggest a great view, and the remoteness and weather suggested a night sky that was to die for. Two problems – we got there at a full moon (bad planning) and were given a room that did not have the view. We could not fix the moon bit, but we were moved (after expressing great disappointment) to one of the rooms with a view. Suggest strongly that if you plan to stay there you make your room wishes very clear. This was the only issue we had with any of the Wilderness camps.
• The dunes at sunrise are a must to see, and if you are more adventurous than we are, to climb.
• Highlight was using the outside bed to sleep under the stars. The coolness was overcome by very warm bedding and breathing the crisp air was great.
Old Drift Lodge – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
• Such a change from the desert. Area is deep with greenery and full of animals. Elephants decided to come by our unit and drink from our plunge pool. I guess they really like clean, chlorinated water. The elephants stole the show at this location as they were very active at the beach, sparring with each other, and generally keeping an eye on us.
• At this time of year the falls are not at full flow, but I would have not known that if I were not told. In fact, it’s said to be better as it can be impossible to see through the mist during those times. The view up the gorge from the Lookout Café is a must, for the beauty and the zip lines and bungee jumpers.
• A river cruise at sunset was a highlight with glorious African skies and the serenading of a pod of hippos.
Vumbura Plains – Okavango Delta Botswana
• The units face the east and the sunrises are unlike anything I’d seen before. And the design of the units are essentially a single large room with a shower surrounded by a translucent picture of the grasses native to the area. The morning sun lights up that screen in a beautiful way. In another section is a sunken seating area with unobstructed views to the grasslands/swamp.
• Our driver was “Big O” and he lived up to the name both physically and in his personality. The land drives were great, but I’d steer you to the water areas. One morning we took a ride in the mokoro boats which are canoe-like and propelled by a driver using a bamboo pole to push off the bottom. Quite a feat of balance. Another water escape was on a motorized boat through an area of permanent water surrounded by various grasses and birds.
Wilderness Mombo – Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve Botswana
• I did not think it could get better than Vumbura, but Mombo was the peak and our last camp.
• Here the rooms faced west and the sunsets were as amazing as the sunrises at Vumbura. The room’s long wall that faced the west was one long set of dark-stained, floor-to-ceiling sliding shutters. Impeccable design.
• Our guide, Ollie, led us on a wild chase with a pack of African wild dogs who were successful in taking down an impala. Unfortunately for them, they did not get too far in their meal before the hyenas ran off with their meal. It’s a tough life.
• More wildlife sightings than any other of the lodges, with a highlight of seeing a leopard by the name of M’lady. She’s a beauty.
• As in all the camps, the food was outstanding. But a special treat here was the pizza oven and the pizza chef. When he recommended the banana and bacon pizza, I though he was out of his mind. Try it, you’ll like it…a lot!
At the risk of making this review longer, I do want to mention the Residence Hotel in Johannesburg. We stayed there on 3 occasions on this trip as we were moving from country to country, and it was a great place to call home between stops. We stayed in 3 different, unique rooms, each with a crystal decanter of sherry. The breakfast area was tucked into a beautiful garden with several fountains. The menu featured a number of game dishes (carpaccio of warthog/ostrich/crocodile/
The best positive comment I could make about this trip is that I’d do it all over again. Same itinerary, same places to stay.
Well, we finally made it home on same day as scheduled, but at end of day instead of morning!
Out of all the planes we had to catch, I think one mess-up might be expected. Wilderness Safaris helped us secure a hotel and be met at the Johannesburg airport to help us find the InterContinental.
For us, not knowing anything about Africa and being our first time, Julian’s itinerary that he developed for Max and I was perfect.
All the camps—Chitabe Camp being my favorite because we saw all the animals there, except rhinos of course—were perfect! I think the other camps just built on that one. But all had different experiences of the same animals which were great. I can’t say enough about how helpful all the staff at all the camps were. I have a walking condition and don’t get around the best and when they saw me coming, they came to offer an arm.
If it had not been for Chips at the Victoria Falls River Lodge, who pushed me around in a wheelchair, I would have not been able to see the entire falls! He was so fast pushing me that Max, who walks very fast, could hardly keep up! I told him I could walk but I think he knew I did not move fast enough for him. I think a most treasured moment was when Chips took us to meet his family (he was proud of that grandbaby) on the way to the airport.
Needless to say, when we go back, I would like to see a few different things and stay a little longer in Cape Town, but I would return to the same camps as I loved them all…it would be hard to not visit them again.
Jacqui Van Rensburg did her best to show us as much as possible in 2 days in Cape Town and was a wonderful guide.
If you know nothing about Africa and need an experienced team I highly recommend Julian and Lisa.
We have been back for two weeks from the most life-changing trip we have ever taken, which was expertly arranged by Julian and his team in Botswana and South Africa. My husband and I were there for the month of September. This was our first, but not last, safari. Julian made sure that the camps he sent us to had their staff Covid-tested when they came back on-site to these particular camps, and social distancing was easy on a safari, eating outside.
We have been partnering with Wendy’s trip experts from back in the days of the Perrin Report when Wendy was with Condé Nast. We have taken many adventurous journeys all over the world with her “fixers,” but Africa was in a league by itself and we have Julian to thank. We were going to go in 2020 and 2021 but Covid was pretty bad in SA and we put it off. We then called Julian in early 2022 and only South Africa was on the itinerary because of the antigen test we had to take on arrival in Botswana. That was lifted in early spring, so we called Julian again and rearranged the trip to cover 3 camps in Botswana and two camps in South Africa, ending the trip with a lovely time in Cape Town just in time for whale watching and the beautiful spring flowers in Cape Town and the wine lands. Julian was very patient working with us and recommended fantastic camps.
First stop in South Africa was Johannesburg. We really liked the African Rock Hotel that Julian recommended for an overnight pit stop going in and out of J’Berg to Botswana and back. Very cute boutique hotel with excellent staff. They even stored our international wheeled luggage since we needed soft-sided duffels for Botswana.
The next day we flew to Maun and jumped on a bush plane for our first adventure in Botswana. The record for us was taking 9 flights in SE Asia and that was eclipsed in Africa. I think we counted 11 including a helicopter ride and our international flights. Everything went off without a hitch! I must also thank Wendy for advising us to go nonstop in the era of the hot mess with the airlines. Flew to Charlotte, then connected in Atlanta, but well worth the money to fly 16 hours direct to Johannesburg.
Next stop was Maun, which was the gateway for the camps In Botswana, and we loved the bush planes! We stayed at three wonderful camps:
First stop was Kings Pool in the Linyanti area of northern Botswana. You could throw a stone across the river and be in Namibia. The accommodations were beautiful, right on the river, with ample food morning, noon and night. You will never starve on a safari! We shared our patio outside with the many elephants and other animals who strolled by each day and night. The guide was excellent and we saw every type of animal, bird, and reptile. We have no idea how our guide tracked a black mamba who was fighting for his/her life with a 9-inch slender mongoose. That was something to behold!
Next stop was a Great Plains camp (Duba Explorers) in the Okavango Delta. Unfortunately it was unseasonably hot for early September (think mid 90s) and I needed a camp with much more ventilation or a small air con over the bed, as I had a terrible migraine from the heat and was dehydrated. One call to Julian and he choppered us out in less than 2 hours to another Great Plains camp—Selinda!! We knew we had to upgrade in cost, but he procured an amazing rate because of his relationship with Great Plains. Everyone at Selinda knew Julian and had nothing but positive things to say. Beautiful camp right on the Selinda Spillway of the Delta and had a tiny aircon unit over the bed and a plunge pool which we used since it was so hot. The entire room, which was quite large, was open to breezes from the spillway. It was amazing how quick he got everything organized and it’s when things go wrong that the WOW Listers shine, as did Julian.
The sightings in Selinda were fantastic. Rubin was our awesome guide and we saw rare painted wolves/wild dogs, and elephants holding up their babies with their trunks as a raft crossing the deep spillway. The alpha female wild dog jumped up on the jeep and looked my husband in the eye and around the inside of the jeep and left. Unbelievable! We saw leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, carmine bee eaters, which are beautiful birds, along with a kori bustard and secretary bird. Again, too many sightings to describe. The ambience, guiding, food and staff were out of this world.
Third stop was Tuludi, which is a Natural Selection camp on the tip of the Delta in the Khwai preserve. It is a newer Natural Selection camp, that I believe opened in 2019, and had an all-female staff except for the guides, which they told me is rare. Ollie, who was the camp manager, was nothing short of amazing and helped us keep our medication cool since they did not have mini fridges—but they are getting them in the next several months, along with Wifi in the rooms for people that also need to work on vacation. One thing I forgot to mention is that most of the time we were the only people in the jeep, at almost all of the camps—sometimes there were two other people who we made friends with, but it was wonderful having the jeep to ourselves. Tuludi is a lovely camp and we saw more amazing sightings with Parks who was our excellent guide. We sat for an hour watching a mother cheetah and her large cub stalking impalas. We did not witness the kill, but when we came back for the late afternoon game drive both mother and cub were munching away on one of the impalas. We saw a beautiful female leopard climb a tree, where she had her kill stashed, and it was mesmerizing seeing her navigate the tree limbs like a jungle gym and eating her lunch. We saw a beautiful pride of lions at night while we had a bush dinner. They were stalking their dinner for the evening. All of this was taking place with about 10 lions, including cubs mere feet from our vehicle. While eating dinner one night at the edge of the platform where tables were set up overlooking the marsh, a bull elephant was about three feet away looking at us while feeding on the soft grasses—how lucky can you get! Another bonus for us was we shared our jeep on a morning drive with the new Ops manager for Natural Selection, who was a guide before he was promoted—he wanted feedback on what we liked (which was everything!) and what could be improved like the minifridge, but we had two guides for the price of one and they found two leopards mating—what a first date that was!
Back to Maun, then J’Berg and a pit stop at African Rock to pick up luggage and fly next morning to Mala Mala in Sabi Sands. Lovely camp with great ambience, an abundance of game, including rhinos, the biggest male leopard we saw, towers of giraffes, saddle bill storks (saw those in many places) and a huge herd of 100 cape buffalo, some who were mating, which was quite a sight. In South Africa the lodges are permanent structures and quite a few have air con, which we were grateful for since it was also hot in SA. Overall, we really liked Mala Mala for the beautiful rooms, game and hospitality. Vusi is a great camp manager and has a lot to tend to since this is a larger camp with three distinctive camps in one. Julian had us stay at Sable camp, which was just right for us. The only thing we felt that could be improved for this 5-star camp is the food.
Tintswalo was recommended to us by Julian because it is in the Manyeleti Game Reserve and not a repeat of staying in Sabi Sands. We absolutely loved this camp. Our fantastic guide Eric and tracker Wilson found not just one sighting of wild dogs but two, and puppies!! It’s rare enough to see one sighting but we were so lucky. We hired a private game vehicle at this camp and again saw leopards, elephants, and the Mbiri pride of lions who we were tracking on our YouTube channel before we left. Saw some beautiful rhinos, cape buffalo, cheetah brothers, giraffes, birds too numerous to mention. Tintswalo gave my husband and I certificates on seeing the “Magnificient Seven” in one camp which is comprised of Lion, leopard, elephant rhino, cape buffalo, cheetah and wild dog! We saw all these sightings in many camps, but never in one camp. We love the “elephant water” fountain that brought in elephants for a drink while we ate al fresco. The lodge had a plunge pool outside of each room and one afternoon we had about 30 baboons and their babies cool off in the pool. They had a really cool hide where we could take photos/videos of the elephants and other wildlife that passed by. The food was out of this world and a really authentic staff where nothing was too much trouble. Fantastic camp!
We then spent five nights in Cape Town, which is beautiful, and had a wonderful guide by the name of Andrew. He was an encyclopedia of information. Table Mountain was fun and the winelands were beautiful. We had lunch at Indochine at the Delaire Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch, which was lovely and relaxing, while touring the other town in the winelands. Absolutely beautiful scenery! The highlight of Cape Town, and why we decided to go in September not only for the dry season, was for the right whales who were up with their calves from Antarctica in the bay. We had an aqua safari and were close up to these beautiful gentle giants—just amazing! We even saw two whales mating, which we captured on video. I think I am sensing a theme for our trip.
Many safari goers who have gone on multiple safaris, including my cousins who lived in Botswana and SA, told us were very lucky to see all the sightings I posted on social media, and we agree we were very lucky! We are still pinching ourselves that this was not a dream. Our friends wanted to see a watch party on a big screen TV of all the photos and videos and it was like a Super Bowl party only with a land and water safari!
Thank you Julian for an over-the-moon trip and we will be going back!
Julian Harrison planned a southern Africa safari for us and our friends David and Francine Macdonald for five weeks in August-September 2022. It was a complicated itinerary through four countries (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe) with nine camps, two cities, innumerable charter flights and several scheduled air flights. He and his logistics staffer, Lisa Cara, did an excellent job of both choosing places for us to go and making all the arrangements work. While we had a few quibbles with how things worked out (if anyone wants to book you on Safari Air in Botswana, firmly say no, given the discomfort of its planes), overall our long itinerary gave us a good combination of what makes southern Africa unique as a safari destination. It included:
• Namibia for its magnificent scenery (though we did have good wildlife sightings)
• City life (and great food) in Cape Town
• The floral kingdom fynbos (pronounced fine boss there) of the Cape peninsula south to
Cape of Good Hope—and African penguins to boot
• One of the best wildlife camps I’ve been to in three safari trips (Mala Mala Sable in South
• Three interesting camps in Bostwana (two desert/dry and a wet one in the Okavanga Delta)
• Two in Zimbabwe—one to see Victoria Falls and one in Mana Pools on the lower Zambezi
In retrospect, the trip was too long. With nine camps and two cities, you spend a lot of time packing, unpacking, getting to and from airports, and so on. These are simply the disadvantages of a long trip. But in other ways, a long trip can be very good. By the end, we slowed down and took it a bit easier. Having the luxury of skipping a game drive here or there made a huge difference. It made “being on safari” less a job (ticking off that animal or those birds) and more a unique vacation. Little Ruckomechi Camp, with only three tents, was a wonderful place to finish the trip and relax. A herd of elephants had moved in and were the camp’s landlords. We spent hours lying in our tents and watching the antics of baby and other elephants who wandered through it all day long.
Since my husband and I had been on safari twice before, this trip gave us an opportunity to focus less on individual wildlife sightings and more on animal behavior. We had guides who were excellent at explaining behavior. They were as thrilled as we were about watching rare and endangered wild dogs hunt at two different camps. Watching spotted hyenas and their cubs multiple times changed my view of them; ditto for jackals too, one of which watched us from six feet behind my husband as we snacked outside our vehicle in Sossusvlei, Namibia. We had some stellar guides—particularly at Serra Cafema on the Namibian border with Angola, Mala Mala in South Africa, Shinde Camp in the Okavanga Delta and Little Ruckomechi in Zimbabwe. We learned so much from them about wildlife behavior, geology, astronomy and difficulties with today’s management of wildlife conservation. We had several unique experiences, including dinner two nights with Botswana’s Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry and the chief operating officer of all of Ker & Downey’s wildlife camps. Another huge highlight was two all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) rides at Serra Cafema totaling six hours over mountains, desert and incredible red sand dunes. Birding in a boat on the Kunene River was another highlight at Serra Cafema. In Victoria Falls, which my husband and I had visited on an earlier trip, while David and Francine did an early-morning walk across the Falls’ face to watch the sunrise over it, my husband and I got an aerial view from a half-hour helicopter flight—the best way to understand the region’s geology and fault lines that led to erosion of Kalahari sand packed between layers of limestone and granite to create the Falls. Amazing and not to be missed—worth every penny of the high cost.
Where Julian’s input really excelled was with the camps’ dealing with my need for assistance for a bad, very painful back, a problem that came out of nowhere at nearly the last minute. We needed either to cancel our long-anticipated trip or seek accommodations to enable me to successfully handle such a long trip in remote areas. Those accommodations ranged from always being seated up front with the guide/driver in safari vehicles, having the camps keep gel coldpacks ready to ease my aching back as needed, and ensuring we were assigned a tent close to the main dining area to minimize how much I had to walk to and fro. I was quite concerned that jouncing in safari vehicles on rough terrain was going to make my trip miserable. It turned out I could do everything that involved sitting, from game drives to hours on an ATV to fishing and boating, with no problem. Too much walking or standing, however, caused major discomfort. But with Julian’s help, I was able to make the trip and enjoyed it immensely. And yes, back surgery is in my near future.
We had only minor complaints on the trip—some of our own making, others not. We could have skipped one of the three camps in Botswana as duplicative. Julian had warned us the trip was very long but we persisted with our itinerary. Because the trip had been planned when Covid restrictions mandated testing before moving between each of the four countries, we’d had to add days we ultimately didn’t need as all restrictions had been lifted by the time we traveled. My husband and I should have been booked in business class on one of the scheduled flights as we had requested and been told there was no business class (there was and there were empty seats in it). And as David mentioned, Safari Air flights used Mahindra GippsAero GA8 Airvans between all three camps in Botswana and Victoria Falls. From a passenger’s perspective, these are miserable aircraft and very uncomfortable. They fly low and slow resulting in turbulent flights. On one of the longer flights across Botswana, both my husband and I barely avoided getting airsick. I’ve never been airsick and I’ve flown all over the world in tiny charter planes without ever experiencing the level of discomfort we did on these planes. Safari Air is not the only charter company to fly between these camps, so insist on a different one if you go to any of Ker & Downey’s camps, which owns Safari Air.
Also as David noted, Julian’s choice of Little Ruckomechi as our final camp was the perfect end to the trip. With only three tents, a superb manager in Eddie, one of our best guides in Nyenge, and wildlife wandering through the camp at all hours, we felt rested and relaxed before the very long two-day trip home.
There are many travel companies that can arrange African safaris. What you get with Julian is a breadth of knowledge of all the countries that allows for a very careful choice of places to visit, coupled with superb handling of the innumerable details such trips entail. You can do an African safari and stay in lodges with lots of other people, have wildlife viewings surrounded by many other vehicles, and zip from place to place without being able to slow down and savor the environment, landscape and wildlife. Not if you use Julian. He excels for those who don’t want the standard but the special. All our camps were tiny, ranging from 6 to 20 people with highly personalized service. In all but Victoria Falls, the four of us had a single guide for our entire stay. Not just the guides, but the managers and staff knew all the visitors by name. At Dinaka Camp in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, the general manager drove me to the meeting with San Bushmen because I could not do the walking safari there. The hallmark of Wendy Perrin’s trip specialists is their ability to listen to what you think you want and then provide you with a trip that includes things that they intuit you may not even know you want. It’s an art—and not everyone has it. Julian does.
Perhaps the most salient point of our trip was the mix and sequencing of the itinerary.
We did not fully understand what a great, albeit lengthy itinerary we had before we boarded our outbound flight. Of course, we knew it spanned 31 days, 4 countries and 9 camps, plus Cape Town. I must strongly note that our travel planner, Julian Harrison, was very open in disclosing at the early planning stages of the itinerary that WE had requested, that we were embarking on a fairly long set of destinations. So it is a credit to him that he nonetheless orchestrated an assembly of camps (with Cape Town thrown into the middle as a break) that truly gave us a complete overview of the various stunning landscapes (e.g. in Namibia, the Zambezi River camps), flora and fauna that characterize Southern Africa.
While all four of us traveling together felt that the overall length of our itinerary was a bit long, we approached the last couple of camps with guarded expectations—we had by then pretty well met any and all sightseeing and viewing expectations, and been fortunate enough to have seen all our “list” of desired wildlife. Plus a few more that even surprised the guides: the African wild dogs are rare and by no means guaranteed. We saw them on 3 or 4 different occasions at different camps, including a feeding frenzy shortly after a take-down of a lechwe antelope. Our guide nearly had a stroke, he was so excited. On another occasion, we witnessed a cheetah roaming, then stalking, then taking down a springbok—that type of viewing is not always guaranteed. Again, our guide displayed un-muted excitement and assured us that we had been very fortunate. He eventually started breathing normally again.
And we found that the last few camps each offered unique differences and settings, all of which were very meaningfully additive to our overall trip experience and satisfaction. While it followed a natural geographical progression, Julian’s selection of Little Ruckomechi (as opposed to the larger Main Ruckomechi camp nearby) was a perfect ending to our set of camps. Its intimacy of only 3 tents afforded us the decompression we needed to relax after a lengthy run of camps. And yet, it also provided no shortage of “new” sightings and activities, not previously experienced. I remember what Julian had said in the early planning and camp selection stages: “I think Little Ruckomechi would be a good fit for you at this point.” Well done Julian.
As far as logistics go, everything was on time and mostly smooth. The only additional commentary I would make is about a couple of the camp-to-camp charter flights. Our transfers for the four of us included trips on a Cessna 210 (cozy, but not uncomfortable), a Beech 200 doing re-positioning (pressurized, fast, very comfy), and numerous trips on Cessna 208’s (comfy). But in Botswana, our flights were operated by Safari Air. Their fleet is largely comprised of Mahindra GippsAero GA8 Airvans. The Airvans are very tight inside. The seats are quite low to the floor, and the seat pitch-length is limited, so knee-nibbling is part of the ride. One of our travel partners is 6’3”, and he only could fit in the co-pilot’s seat, with the seat pushed back. That cramped the rest of us. After a few Airvan rides, we jealously noticed others being picked up in Mack Air’s Cessna 208’s. Unless the cost differential is significant, perhaps consider Mack Air or another charter service?
On another occasion, we were transferring from Victoria Falls to Mana Pools airstrip. Just prior to our departure, we were informed by Wilderness Aviation that our Cessna 208 would be making 5 hops to pick up and drop off others, and that we would be the last stop. What would have been a 1.5-hour direct flight took from 0830 until 1310—Departure from Victoria Falls at 0830. Arrived Manga Airstrip 0920. Dep. Manga 0940. Arr. Linkwasha Airstrip 0950. Dep. Linkwasha 1015. Arr. Bumi Airport 1125. Dep. Bumi. 1141. Arr. Kariba 1203. Refueling. Dep. Kariba. 1245. Arr. Ruckomechi Mana West 1310. That was a bit much. Fortunately, when we arrived at Little Ruckomechi camp, the excellent and veteran camp manager, Eddie, advocated with his superiors at Wilderness Safaris, and returned with the good news that our last charter flight would be direct to Harare, and that Wilderness Safaris would pick up our dinner tab at The Highland House, our Harare hotel. A welcome recovery.
My last comment about our trip has to do with what happened after we got home. I noticed that at randomly idle moments, my mind would experience flashbacks to any one of the many, many sights and adventures we had just experienced in so many various South African settings, and I would smile and almost shake my head in realizing what a delightful life chapter we had just written for ourselves. And isn’t that what travel is all about?
Response from Trusted Travel Expert Julian Harrison
I am sorry that some of Mr. Macdonald’s charter flights were less comfortable than others. We unfortunately do not specifically choose the charter companies, as they are booked by the various properties on our behalf. The reason being the contractual agreements that the properties and the airlines have between themselves to provide access / permission to land at their respective airstrips etc. I am afraid it is quite complicated, but it sounds like the flights did not detract from Mr. Macdonald’s overall experience.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL This was a dream trip for my wife to go to southern Africa since she was a little girl, and Julian and Lisa planned 19 magical days that exceeded both of our expectations. We started with Julian back in September of 2019 and had our hopes dashed twice in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid. Julian never once wavered in his support of our trip and his incredible diligence to rebook our trip…twice.
2022 was the magical year and everything could not have been more perfect. We stayed in 8 different locations, had 14 flights and 20-something transfers, and incredibly we had no logistical issues throughout the entire trip.
We started in Cape Town, where Jacqui Van Rensburg was our guide. She was absolutely fabulous and you should request her if you have the option. The Table Bay Hotel was wonderful and in a perfect location for first time visitors to this beautiful city. From Cape Town we were off to our first of four safari camps, Gomoti Plains in Botswana. The main goal of our trip was animals, animals, and more animals and Gomoti camp got us off on a fantastic start. Our game drives with Oracle (our driver) were fantastic, the camp was located on the lovely Okavango Delta. We checked off 80% of our animal bucket list during our three day stay.
We then flew to Victoria Falls where we stayed at the incredible Victoria Falls Safari Club. Our main goal was seeing the falls and our two-hour walk did not disappoint. We were then off to two camps in Zimbabwe, Little Makalolo (Hwange National Park) and Ruckomechi (Mana Pools National Park). The accommodations were wonderful and the staff at both locations made sure our stay was fantastic.
Our drivers, Charles (Little Makalolo) and Tongo (Ruckomechi) each listened to our desires and did an outstanding job finding incredible animal moments for us to remember.
Due to the potential of having to take a Covid test, we had to schedule an additional one-day pit stop in Harare, Zimbabwe at the Highlands House. Thankfully, we did not need the test, but the Highlands House turned out to be an outstanding break from our schedule. If you need a stopover in Harare this is the place.
We were off next to Johannesburg for one night at the African Rock Hotel. Just like the Highland House, this is a perfect pit stop if you need one in this city. Then it was off to our last camp in Mala Mala Private Reserve. The camp is more upscale, building rooms and not luxury tents, but it was perfect for the end of a long three-week trip. Our driver, Kerry, was absolutely the best. The game sightings were not as plentiful as some of the camps, but the quality of what we saw more than made up for this.
The bottom line, Julian listened to our needs from day one and planned a wonderful trip that will live in our memories forever. I am not sure how it could have been better. The logistics, locations and the sequence and timing of the entire trip were picture perfect. The browser and app view they provided was perfect for us to understand what and when things would take place. The final transfer document, provided just before the trip, was an added bonus to understand each part of chain that moved us from place to place.
Because the logistics went so smoothly, all we had to do was enjoy the camps, the staff, the wonderful individuals we met from all around the world and of course: animals, animals, and more animals.
We cannot more highly recommend Julian and Lisa, if you want to take your first trip or your tenth trip to this part of the world.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Julian Harrison coordinated a wonderful itinerary for our first African safari. When planning the trip, we told Julian that our priority was seeing as many animals as possible and that we hoped to witness the wildebeest migration. Julian helped us narrow down our timeline to mid-August 2022, and he suggested two different camps in the Masai Mara in Kenya where we would have the best odds of seeing the Big Five and possibly a river crossing.
We stayed at the first camp–Instinct of the Mara–for four nights. We were treated like family. We spent a lot of time with our guide (Henry), spotter (San), and spotter-in-training (Jed) on our private game drives, and they took excellent care of us. During our game drives, we saw tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebras; hundreds of giraffes and gazelles; twelve lions; a cheetah; a leopard; a black-necked spitting cobra; a black mamba; and many, many other animals. In my view, the most spectacular safari experience we had was to witness an iconic river crossing of the wildebeest migration…and we only shared the experience with one other safari vehicle! It was simply incredible! Back at the camp, our Forest Suite arranged by Julian was equally magical. We had a family of elephants eating in our backyard on our second night in addition to multiple visits by cape buffalo, and I will never forget the sound of hearing monkeys chasing each other on the roof of our tented suite. The staff left personal notes during turndown service and hot water bottles in the bed. We simply loved our entire experience at Instinct of the Mara.
We spent our last two nights at andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp. At Julian’s direction, we moved from a more remote part of the Mara to a camp with more people and more amenities. It was a good change of pace as we prepared to travel home. This camp is higher end, and our guide really came through when we told him the only animal in the Big Five we had not yet seen was a black rhino. On our first game drive, we were able to view a black rhino and her calf–amazing! Additionally, we saw a male lion with a gorgeous mane, a female cheetah hunting for lunch for her four cubs (which were precious), and another river crossing of the wildebeest migration (although this one was considerably more crowded). We concluded our trip by watching a male black rhino with the sunset on one side of the Mara and rain and a rainbow on the other side of the Mara. It was simply magical and not something I will never forget.
We could not be happier with our choice of Kenya in August during the wildebeest migration, and Julian’s itinerary was flawless. I dont use “perfect” lightly, and this was a perfect first African safari.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL BEST BEST TRIP – Perfect Itinerary, Magical Scenery, Spectacular Animals, Stunning Accommodations – we spent 19 days visiting Africa, during which we stayed in 7 different places and had 15 different flights – and it was all seamless, full of “oh can you believe this” moments.
I started working with Julian in 2019 for a 2020 trip, and, like many others, we had to reschedule twice before finally going this May. (Julian was fabulous each time with the rebooking.) I can say that Julian really listened to what I said because even without me realizing it in advance of the actual trip, this was a PERFECT itinerary for us. The pacing, the selection of hotels and camps, the schedule for our few days in Cape Town – we loved it all! We started with 5 nights in Cape Town (one more than originally planned due to flight changes but we took the first day “off” after 30 plus hours of travel). We had a delightful guide, Malcolm, and spent one day doing local sightseeing, one day heading to the Cape of Good Hope, and one day in wine country and small surrounding towns. Cape Town is fabulous, we stayed at Cape Grace – terrific hotel in a super location. Next off to 3 Wilderness Safari camps in Botswana – Quorokwe, Jao and Duma Tau – spectacular all. Then to Zimbabwe and lucky us, Victoria Falls were full and raging, there are no words! We spent a relaxing night in Johannesburg (The Residence) before heading to Rattrays at Mala Mala. I could go on and on about each place — all our guides were fabulous, we saw every kind of animal and animal movements we ever dreamed about (and it was dreamy). All our accommodations were unique and luxurious. The chefs even pleasantly catered to my special dietary needs which Julian and Lisa had advised them during planning. One of the camp managers said to me “you have many choices about where to spend your time here, and we are so happy you came to us” and they make you feel so special and welcomed.
Bottom line: Julian and Lisa planned the PERFECT trip for us. We are only home 2 weeks and are constantly talking about when we can make a return trip. The connections were seamless. Our guide was always there to meet us. My husband was very concerned about small planes and after the trip, he commented the planes between camps were the easiest way to move between places — better than back to a larger airport and spending the day on connecting flights. You can leave one camp at noon and be in the next camp at 1:30. Twice we were the only passengers on the plane.
DO NOT HESITATE ONE SECOND, CALL JULIAN … this is truly the trip of a lifetime and Julian and his crew are experts at planning the BEST TRIP.
(PS- at the time we traveled, we needed 2 Covid tests, one leaving Zimbabwe and one to fly back to the US from Johannesburg. Both were done at our hotel, the managers printed out the results, it was easy. The rules changed during our trip and Lisa communicated exactly what we needed to do).
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We did an absolutely incredible 3-week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana in Dec-Jan. Julian Harrison listened to what we wanted and curated a wonderful itinerary with beautiful lodges, stunning game drives, very knowledgeable guides, impeccable service and delicious food and drinks. And of course the stars of the trip were all the amazing animals. We learned so much about nature and the wild from all our guides.
We started in South Africa in Makweti lodge in welgevonden game reserve. The lodge is stunning, well appointed and has just 5 suites. Bertis (our guide), Collin, and the rest of the staff couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, always making sure we were having a great time. We also spent a few days in Cape Town and the neighboring wine region – gorgeous with so much history and beauty!
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe were so majestic, even at a fraction of their full flow. We visited 3 different camps in Botswana – each one unique and amazing. Seeing elephants, hippos and all kinds of antelope right next to the lodges was super cool. We felt safe and well taken care of the entire time. Okavanga Delta is stunning and not to be missed, even during the rainy season. Camp Shinde was another one of our favorite camps with top notch service and gem viewing. The Desert and Delta Safari went above and beyond, flying us from one camp to another via helicopter twice because the bush planes couldn’t reach some locations because of the heavy rains. It was an unexpected and very special treat – twice!
Traveling during Covid can be challenging, but every place we visited took all the right precautions and felt very safe. Being mostly outdoors greatly reduced our risk. Julian had arranged for required Covid testing throughout the trip, making it super easy on us. He was very responsive to all my questions during the trip, which were mostly related to changing Covid rules and testing.
We immensely enjoyed every part of our trip, agreeing that this was our best one so far, even though we travel all over the world and have some very memorable trips. A huge thank you to Julian for planning such a fabulous trip. We can’t wait for the next time!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We had a perfect trip in Botswana for 2 weeks in January for my son age 19, husband and me. Julian Harrison planned the trip for us to stay at 3 different lodges owned by Desert & Delta Safaris – Camp Savute, Okavango, and Moremi.
Each camp was different in the experience – Savute was all driving safaris and we saw all possible game that is in the park (elephants, giraffes, many lions, leopard, cheetahs, wild dogs, jackals, buffalo, and many more). Our guide KT was amazing! He made sure we had the exact experiences we were looking for and he always sat with us at the evening campfire and some meals. The staff there was fantastic as well – Yompy, Neo, Osi, were very socialable and also talked with us and ensured the best experience. The watering hole out front is fun to watch animals come to drink. It was rainy season so it rained at least some of every day, but we went out on every game drive and had ponchos ready. Highly recommend.
Camp Okavango was a water based and walking safari camp. It was beautifully designed on elevated walkways. The room was beautiful – we had the family room. We had two walking safaris, 2 boat rides (seeing hippos) and 2 mokoros – saw lechwe and a big group of giraffes, as well as many new types of birds. Our guide King was excellent as was Tsabo our tracker and second mokoro pilot. King also ensured we got a 20 minute helicopter ride with doors off for no extra charge. It was amazing the views.
Third camp – Moremi was mostly safari drives but we did one boat ride. Not that much to see on the boat. We saw lots of game, lots of hippos in the ponds around Moremi and even saw the resident hippo Oscar. We had buffalo sleeping next to our tent. Our guide Lasty was excellent and also made sure we saw all possible wildlife. We had this camp entirely to ourselves for the 4 nights we were there and had the staff all to ourself. We felt like royalty! Clifford and Gorecha were great managers. They made sure we had a fire every night and joined us at the fire along with our guide. Also enjoyed the swimming pool there as the sun was out every day.
Overall, I can’t recommend this trip enough! Between the views of wildlife, learning about animal behavior, plants and birds and the fantastic level of service, it was probably our best vacation ever! Even the doctor flying in to give our Covid tests.
We originally planned to go to Victoria Falls, but that would have required 3 more Covid tests and our flight was cancelled, so Julian arranged for us to spend two extra nights at Savute.
Most people don’t spend 6 nights at one camp, but it was definitely worth it for the very thorough experience and also some time to get into the rhythm of 5:30am wakeups for game drives.
I hope we can go back one day.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Back from Botswana!
Julian and his team, especially Lisa, planned & coordinated our WOW experience that began with one full day in Johannesburg, South Africa followed by eight nights at three separate five-star camps in Botswana at the beginning of November.
We had a few interview calls with Julian to identify what we would like to see and do since this was our first safari and we did not really know what to focus on in planning such a unique trip. Julian made it easy and conversational and we were not disappointed. He exceeded our expectations in terms of the quality of the camps, the flight connections between the camps and vast array of large and small animals that we experienced during each game drive, twice a day.
There was no short cut to the very long flight times from Miami to London to Johannesburg to Botswana & back and the many COVID protocols required along the way that required great attention to detail, however once we were on our safari we felt very safe the entire time and everyone was mindful of COVID health precautions.
The camps were all far below capacity for guests, guests arrived and departed daily and ranged from 4 guests including us to 18 guests and most of the time we were alone with the guide on our game drives.
I would recommend packing as light as you can based on the time of year but do take advantage of the available free laundry service right from your room in order to have added space in your luggage to bring back gifts. Julian selected a camp near an authentic village made up of mud huts, straw thatched roofs, no electricity or running water, where the villagers make hand crafts which was on our list of something to see. We were quite impressed this was an authentic experience rather than a tourist stop.
Early November is the first week of rainy season in Botswana but we had no rain and above normal hot days so no limitations for our game drives to see in excess of twenty five different animals during our visit that we saw from the Toyota Landcruisers, by boat, helicopter and bush planes. If you are travelling during a hot time of year, selecting a camp with room air conditioners is a must as the temperature soared to 107 degrees in mid day and even the dry heat similar to Arizona is uncomfortable.
In summary, if you are looking for something entirely different to experience on your next vacation and can find a way to schedule a safari with Julian, you will walk away with an extraordinary WOW experience with memories and pictures for a lifetime.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL What a wonderful trip! Julian utilizes some amazing people and companies for his Kenya bookings!
We (family of four with two children, ages 11 & 13) have extensive international travel experience pre-covid and wanted to travel mid-covid as well. We had never used a travel specialist before and had some hesitations. We were hesitant to lose our control over our daily plans and freedom to roam. Our main reason for using a travel specialist was because travel can be unpredictable in today’s travel climate. Julian eased our minds with his grounded approach during the very first phone conversation we had with him. Let the planning process begin! In a very short amount of time, Julian had put together a robust and adventurous itinerary for us.
Julian created a travel product that is unmatched (adventure, culture immersion, conservation, a human approach). If you are looking for an unforgettable and meaningful Kenyan experience, Julian is your guy.
Everything was seamless from the airport transfers, hotels/lodges, guides/drivers, domestic flights, Covid testing, meals, freedom to create our day’s plans to our liking, etc. Julian will listen to what his travelers want, their comfort levels, budget limitations, etc and create a magical African experience. Our children’s eyes were wide open from the moment we landed in Nairobi until the moment we left. We made a lifetime of memories in Kenya.
Perhaps the test of any travel specialist is when things go sideways. During our time in Kenya, the government altered their Covid regulations and locked down the counties surrounding Nairobi. Julian stepped in and handled the whole situation. In the end we had to make some changes to our plans but the end goal remained the same (our goal of an amazing trip that was safe). If we would have had to handle all the changes, within a very dynamic situation, on our own it would have ruined a full day of our trip and would have caused massive stress. Julian handled it all and we were able to continue enjoying the Masai Mara knowing that it was being handled with our safety and interests in mind. We, as a family, said to one another on numerous occasions that it was wonderful that we used Julian and had someone taking care of the tough yet important tasks to sort out these issues that were out of our control.
Our trip may be over but we have memory cards full of pictures, endless stories to relive around the table, mental images of endless African beauty, new perspectives that will guide us through our lives, and new contacts in our phones of friends we met in Kenya.
If Africa is on your list of places to experience, call Julian!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We were in Kenya from January 13 until February 2nd. It was our first trip to Kenya and it was one of my favorite trips to date. Kenya was remarkably safe and very Covid aware (better than the US) and we could not have felt more comfortable. Because Julian picked really incredible lodges with a small amount of rooms, we had two of the lodges all to ourselves. Since it was our first trip there, I don’t have any comparison to non Covid times but I do know it was remarkable to be on the Masai Mara and see no other cars all day. It was like our own private Kenya in lots of ways.
We started in Nairobi at Hemingways for 2 nights to get over jet lag. We then flew bush planes to the other lodges and we usually flew alone but 2 of the flights we had a few others. We relied completely on Julian for our lodges, our itinerary and his experience. We had to have a test before we got on the plane home and Julian had a doctor fly to us in the bush and give us our tests while we had breakfast. Because Kenya put a new form in place while we were there, Julian’s point person in Nairobi spent all day tracking down the specifics and got us the needed TT Code a few hours before our flight so it was seamless for us.
Our lodges were incredible. We had amazing food and wine, the best guides, the most exclusive lodges and such a high level of service– we were completely spoiled. We really put ourselves in Julian’s hands and let him do all the work and we could not be happier with our trip. I was really excited but I had no idea how amazing it would be and how much we loved Kenya. Julian organized all our flights, all our transportation and all our requests had been pre-sent so we just had to show up and have this incredible trip.
We flew Emirates to Dubai and then to Nairobi and they could not have been safer or more careful. When we arrived back in Dubai on the way home, they whisked us through another PCR test because we had to stay overnight due to weather in Boston and it was all handled for us. It’s my favorite airline already but to see how they are handling the pandemic and testing with such efficiency is amazing. We never felt nervous for a second — on the flight or the trip.
I would recommend going to Kenya and having Julian plan it for you ASAP because it is truly remarkable to have all the animals, land and incredible Kenyans show off their country right now.
Places stayed: Ol Donyo Lodge, Sasaab, Salas Camp, Mara Nyika, Hemingways.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL As an avid traveler, I knew that planning an African Safari was beyond my own abilities. After reading Wendy’s article about WOW Lister Julian Harrison’s recent trip to Kenya with his son, Dispatch from Kenya: What a Safari Looks Like Now by Billie Cohen, I knew that Julian could plan the right trip for me.
I first made contact with Julian on October 19, 2020. Julian was patient, informative, and knowledgeable. Julian’s patience and planning were immediately tested when everyone in my travel group backed-out of this trip as soon as Julian had it completely planned and ready to go. Instead of complaining about these travelers backing-out, Julian sensed how much I wanted to take this tour to Africa, and he planned a solo trip just for me. As an added bonus, Julian was going to accompany me on this trip. As Wendy would say, WOW!
By November 12, 2020, Julian had modified a multi-person itinerary to a solo itinerary just for me. From December 4-14, in less than four weeks, I would be traveling to Kenya and the Maasai Mara.
I only had a few requests for Julian regarding this trip: 1. I wanted the best opportunity to see as much game and birds as possible (no checklist, just opportunity); 2. I wanted as much of the trip to be inclusive as possible, so that I did not have to incur additional costs during the trip; 3. I wanted private game drives so that my time searching for game would not be determined by others; and 4. I wanted to “go with the flow once in the Mara”–get up early, go to bed at a reasonable time, but see what the day and conditions dictated, rather than having a set time-table and schedule of things to do.
Julian not only delivered on each of these requirements, but he exceeded them. For most of this trip, I felt and believed I was the only person in the Mara. From his selection of camps, Instinct of the Mara and Entim Camp, to knowing what to look for and ask for, Julian’s knowledge was invaluable. Notable, unexpected highlights included:
1. Traditional fire-roasted lamb prepared by Maasai men, accompanied by sundowners high on a hill in the Mara;
2. Persuading Richard and staff at Instinct of the Mara to prepare and serve an impromptu three-course-meal on a sandbar in the middle of the Sand River;
3. Assisting me with adding over 70 new bird species to my bird knowledge and inventory;
4. Innumerable animal encounters; and
5. An unexpected, secluded waterfall and resulting pool in the Mara.
Covid-19 protocols were evident at every step of the trip planning process and the trip itself. Admission to Kenya required a negative PCR test and answers to a Kenyan Government internet health questionnaire, which resulted in a QR code to be submitted upon arrival in Nairobi. The most stressful part of this trip was awaiting the results of my PCR test, which required that the test results be no older than 96 hours upon arrival in Kenya. I received my results at 10:30 PM, the night before my departure flight. (That was too close for comfort for me—outside the “cancel for any reason” window. In hindsight, when I plan another trip of this magnitude and expense, I am going to have a second, “back-up” Covid-19 test conducted through the mail.) Julian pointed out all of the Covid-19 testing requirements early in the planning process, and he continually followed-up with me to ensure that I had what I needed for arrival in Kenya, including satisfactory trip insurance.
During the trip, every person in Kenya with whom I made contact was wearing a mask. Before entering any Camp or establishment, each time I was required to wash my hands, and hand sanitizer was present at all locations. In addition, all camps conducted temperature screenings prior to entering, and all eating establishments practiced social distancing by keeping patrons and guests separated. I felt each Camp did everything it could to ensure the most safety for its guests.
Even though a negative Covid-19 test was not required for my return trip to Georgia, Julian assisted me and was able to schedule a Covid-19 test prior to leaving Kenya so that I could have a high degree of assurance that I was not infected prior to returning home.
The most people I encountered at one time during my Kenyan Safari was at the major international airports—Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Nairobi. Everyone wore masks, and I kept my distance, finding a seat away from groups. I had never seen Atlanta’s international terminal so empty, but Amsterdam and Nairobi were busy but not crowded. The international airports were the only places where my thoughts returned to Covid.
I look forward to another experience just like this one, and I will ask Julian for his assistance and planning when I do.
Asante sana, Julian.
The whole trip was very well planned and catered around our goals, desires, and budget. He included things we didn’t even know we wanted and made great recommendations! Botswana and the Belmond camps were the best vacation I ever took! And those accommodations were a direct recommendation from Julian and his team. We will definitely go back to Africa. The only, very small, criticism was our guide during our time in South Africa. While he was good, he was a bit older than us and didn’t match our energy level and interests, plus he was a bit of a low talker and hard for us to understand. But, overall, everything about the trip was wonderful and we will use the WOW service again.
Julian Harrison and Lisa Cara were very attentive and prompt with our questions and insights on things to see and do and not do because of time constraints. They also provided an extensive list of restaurants and reading material. The restaurant arraignments made by Kensington Place in Cape Town were excellent! In the country area around Rorkes Drift area, I had bunny chow and some other local dishes that were not available anywhere else and they were delicious too! This was a trip of many different facets and it has taken a bit of time to absorb all the people we met, places visited, animals and environments experienced and encountered. The countries visited: Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, each different, interesting and beautiful.
Africa Rock Hotel: nice room; very good food and helpful staff
Tambo Airport: confusing terminal arrangements and please warn people upfront about the “Touts” that hijack your bags, and your wallet basically! (Yes, we got burnt and only later found an app called FLIO that had warnings about them re: Tambo Airport.)
Ilala Lodge: Very comfortable room; fine food and staff; easy walk into towns shops.
– Transfer staff very good, efficient.
– Ra-Ikane breakfast cruise good, early morning best time for this, before too many others on the river.
– Bushtracks Canape train good, sellers on bridge pushy (to be expected). Great view.
– River ride exhilarating, Elephant Cafe and Reserve very good.
– Devils pool…..well, awesome! Capetown.
Kensington Place: Excellent room and staff!
– Our guide Janene was excellent. City tour very good, esp. Castle of Good Hope museum(s).
– Although we never made it to Table Mountain (flooded with school kids out on Holiday both days we tried it) , the Wow Moment Helicopter Ride more than compensated!
– Cape of Good Hope, Simons town and penguins, and Kirstenbosch Gardens all very good.
Country House and Villas:
– We wish we could have stayed in this “apartment” more days, frankly, it was that good, as was food and staff!
– Again, Janene was excellent on our wine tour of surrounding area, and transfers from/to Capetown.
KwaZulu Natal Battlefields.
Rorkes Drift Hotel:
– Fascinating place way out in the country, nice rooms.
– Guide Colin very knowledgable on the area, history, and showed us how the locals live. Its a rough country in many ways. Sobering history.
Peermont Doreale Grande Hotel:
– Okay for most part. AC problem in first room quickly rectified with new room once we had a talk with front desk. Very good restaurant.
– Tambo airport again – this time we were ready for the Touts!
Note: doing this trip again, if possible we would avoid Johannesburg and fly into Capetown now that more flights are coming in there.
MalaMala Main Camp:
– Clearly, this is the highlight of our trip. Marvelous experience!
– Excellent room, food, staff and location.
– Up front and personal with LOTS of wildlife, even in camp!
– Including a bull elephant that came right up to our porch twice at precisely 1:30 PM local time and announced his presence LOUDLY! ( He has since been referred to as “Craigs Elephant”).
– Our guide/driver/tracker, Lucky, was beyond excellent!
Note: we recommend this place to anyone interested in experiencing and learning about the wildlife of South Africa!
As you can see from the itinerary it was quite a diverse and multi-facted trip. Again, Julian Harrison and Lisa Cara provided an excellent and most enjoyable trip.
Eugene Armer, from Julian’s team, planned a terrific Southern Africa trip for us. He accommodated every goal I had going into the process: a variety of safaris, Victoria Falls, time in Johannesburg and Cape Town. He suggested adding Franschhoek which was very nice. Every guide, every transfer, everyone charged with moving us around, was excellent. We packed a lot in and it all went off without a hitch.
Julian set up the most amazing trip for us! He listened to what I wanted and the amount I wanted to pay and set everything up perfectly. He even gave me the best advice as to when to go. March was perfect!
Botswana, especially, was the place of my dreams. The camps (Tau Pan, Splash, and Lagoon) exceeded all my expectations and there were no hiccups along the way. Everything was perfect.
At Tau Pan, Dimbo (guide) and P.K. (tracker) were unbelievable! We even saw a leopard and a very rare wild cat! We also loved the walking tour the last day where P.K. showed us a small hut and how they built fires at home.
At Splash, Dave (guide) and K.B. (scout) were more than amazing! They followed lion tracks forever and we got to see 10 lions in one day – two males and then two lionesses with six cubs. Also lots of wild dogs!
I can’t even begin to describe how much we learned about the country, the animals. The “tents” and the meals (6 a day!) were fabulous. Best trip EVER!
If I’m ever lucky enough to go back to Botswana, I’d call Julian in a heartbeat. Thank you for giving me the trip of a lifetime!
We recently returned from a three week trip to Africa planned by Julian Harrison and we could not have been happier with the entire process. We told Julian up front that we wanted to go on safari, learn about South African wines and understand the history and culture of South Africa. The safari portion of our trip was an incredible experience made perfect by Julian’s recommendation of Wilderness Safaris. This company was first class in every regard and I don’t think we would have found them without Julian. Our time in Cape Town and the local wine regions also were all first class and made better by the guides that Julian set us up with. I would highly suggest Julian and his team to anyone considering traveling to Africa, without question we would use him again.
I just returned from a fabulous trip to South Africa and Botswana arranged by Julian Harrison with support from Lisa Cara. In planning the trip, I told Julian what I was looking for and what my concerns were and he seemed to understand perfectly. Instead of spending days in wine country in South Africa, which seems to be the norm, Julian suggested we visit Grootbos on the Whale Coast of S. Africa which I had never heard about. It was an extraordinary place in a beautiful location with great staff, food, and interesting activities. The room was among the largest and most beautiful I’ve ever stayed in. He also arranged for a 1/2 day tour of the wine country on the way back to Cape Town which was enough for us. I had been looking for a game lodge in South Africa but was concerned about the possibility of very uncomfortable weather in February. Julian suggested Botswana as an alternative, which was great. Julian’s choice of hotels in Johannesburg and Cape Town were perfect and our stay in 3 Belmond game lodges in Botswana was excellent. All of the guides were great and the transfers seamless. All in all, I couldn’t have arranged as good a trip myself.
We just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Botswana, May 19–31, planned for us by Julian Harrison. It was truly one of the great and most fulfilling experiences of our lives! We had several in-depth phone conversations with Julian in the initial planning stages, and he gave us expert advice on all aspects of a trip for which we had many expectations but extremely little knowledge. We received excellent advice for our specific needs (i.e. my husband has a problematic back and photography was a priority – so locations and camp choices were tailored with this in mind, as well as the critical advice of hiring private game drive vehicles). Our budget was also well-respected throughout the process. We are not sure, but we suspect that having Julian as our travel planner had something to do with the absolutely top-notch guides and accommodation locations we received throughout the trip. We were well taken care of from the moment we landed in Cape Town through our final flight out of Botswana by representatives arranged by Julian, He also took care of arranging all of the inter-country flights to and from Johannesburg, Cape Town and 3 different camp locations within Botswana. It was a very complex trip, and yet everything unfolded quite seamlessly and easily throughout. Also, our trip included a WOW experience from Wendy Perrin: an exciting helicopter ride over Cape Town!! We would not hesitate to contact Julian for any future travel to Africa.
Julian Harrison and his staff planned a flawless trip to Botswana (2 safari camps) and Cape Town and the Winelands of South Africa. Our safari camps, in the Okavango Delta, each gave us totally unique experiences. Julian was also extremely patient with us as we also added a private trip to Zimbabwe to visit friends. Though he wasn’t booking accommodations or activities for us there, he did do our airfare and then had to adjust the remainder of our dates. It all worked beautifully. Would definitely work with Julian again.
Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa
Julian and Lisa have planned two trips for me to Africa, one with kids and one without. Each time they came up with unique aspects that made the respective trip very memorable. On this trip, staying in a tented camp and going on safari walks and safari mountain biking were unique memorable experiences.
Julian did a wonderful job of putting together this trip and booked some wonderful experiences. When I contacted him, I didn’t give him much to go on. I wanted to go to southern Africa and wanted a safari, wanted to go in July (I contacted him in April) but didn’t know much beyond that. He asked questions about the comfort level of various lodging and activities and put together an itinerary that sounded wonderful. When I wanted to shorten the time and change the dates from July to August, he adjusted and we discussed which items to cut from the original itinerary.
In the end, I had a 4 week trip planned by Julian that was well paced and provided great experiences and accommodations. I was traveling solo but always had someone to pick me up at each stop and bring me to the next destination. I originally did not consider South Africa for this trip but was glad it was included and it was a nice break from safari camps. The parks and camps selected in Zimbabwe and Botswana provided the experiences I hoped for. I especially enjoyed Hwange Bush Camp in Zimbabwe and Machaba Camp in Botswana.
The communications prior to the trip were timely and through, which prepared me for the actual trip itself. The details were clear and as a result, the travel was very smooth and I had nothing to worry about while I was traveling. I recommend Julian and his team for planning a trip of a lifetime!
Julian did an excellent job of listening to our input and designing a trip that met our expectations. The game viewing at Gomoti Plains was stellar.
The second week at the Oberoi in Mauritius was a wonderful way to wind down from our busy lives. Our only concern was the hotel chosen in Johannesburg when we flew back from Botswana. It was substituted for the African Rock which we were to have been placed in had the booking been made when we booked with Julian a year ago. The room was small and adjacent to the service area and the prearranged private transfer did not appear on time in the am so we took the hotel shuttle to the airport. The hotel was not up to the standard of our initial accommodation at The Residence hotel in Johannesburg when we arrived from Toronto.
I had asked Julian to ask Oberoi for an upgrade in Mauritius based on our previous stays with Oberoi which he did and this was provided and much appreciated.
South Africa in September, 2017
Julian’s knowledge of South Africa lead to the selection of hotels, lodges and tour operators that were ideal for us but the greatest value came when our international flight was delayed (twice!) requiring a fast and nimble approach to rebooking on a 24/7 schedule. We were literally changing bookings via internet as the flight progressed. Julian and his team came through for us (twice!) and salvaged our vacation. Many thanks! We had a memorable trip thanks to them and in spite of Delta Airlines.
Julian Harrison is definitely the one to go to for an incredible trip to southern Africa. Our August 2017 trip to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe was our trip of a lifetime. We saw so many animals that we can’t list them all, but the close-up encounters with the leopards, lions, and elephants were astounding. Our trip went perfectly and this involved several light plane trips to five different camps. We could not have asked for more.
—Howard and Judy Hughes
Extremely pleased with the services of Julian Harrison and his staff.
We have just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
Arrangements could not have been any smoother. Everything was handled so efficiently and professional.
The guidance from Julian and his staff was outstanding. We were especially impressed with the knowledge of the guides that Julian arranged and all of the airport transfers. The drivers were exactly on time…even a few minutes early. The guide in Cape Town was EXCEPTIONAL.
But MOST impressive was the Safari experience. We could not have asked for better arrangements. The Safari Lodge in the private game reserve was just incredible. The people were all amazing. It was a lot of fun.
I am so glad I decided to use Julian’s services. Everything was just about perfect. The safari experience was beyond our expectations.
We traveled in May/June 2017 to Cape Town, South Africa, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and then a safari in Sabi Sands and Manyeti reserves. Fabulous mix of adventure and sightseeing, beauty and culture. Julian and Steve on his team were very flexible, extremely responsive, no question too big or small. Worked with us on the specific trip and budget that was right for us. We have done a lot of traveling and this trip was in our top two!
Julian and his team actively ask us to explain what we wanted to achieve from the vacation and then they crafted the trip to match our desired result. It was fabulous — we saw the Big 5 multiple times. The inclusion of a water camp was a highlight for us because we live in S. FL and love being on the water. I wasn’t thrilled about seeing birds they told me I would be and were they right. They found us camps that achieved the animal sighting and had bits of luxury. I would highly recommend using them if you want a worry free experience in Africa.
We traveled in April and May 2017 – Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe
My wife and I used Julian Harrison to plan our honeymoon to South Africa in November – December 2016. We went away for 2 full weeks and Julian provided thoughtful recommendations that met all our needs (from city exploration to adventure to relaxation).
Our trip started in Cape Town where we stayed at the gorgeous Cape Grace, then we headed to Kruger National Park where we stayed 4 nights in the safari at Arathusa and Tintswalo – beautiful game reserves with excellent service and incredible sights. Then we stayed 1 night in Johannesburg at the African Rock Hotel, a gorgeous boutique hotel. Finally, we finished in Mauritius on the most beautiful beach at the One & Only hotel.
From start to finish every single detail was accounted for, and all our transfers were seamless. We didn’t have to worry about a thing. We’d recommend Julian’s services to anyone traveling to South Africa.
Julian Harrison planned an excellent three week trip to Botswana, Victoria Falls and Rwanda for my husband and me in March 2017. He was extremely responsive during the planning process, with a long phone call to discuss our trip objectives and budget, followed up with an extensive proposed itinerary, which he easily revised as we made decisions about the trip. Because of his depth of knowledge of Botswana and Rwanda, he was able to create an itinerary for us that showed us the diversity of areas in each country.
In Botswana he recommended the Wilderness Safari classic camps which were wonderful – we loved the intimate nature of the camps, the warm and friendly staff, excellent guides, fabulous tents, and meeting fellow travelers from all over the world. Without Julian’s expertise, we would not have known which areas of Botswana to visit – he had us start out in the Kalahari Desert (Kalahari Plains Camp), then two different camps in the Okavango Delta (Chitable Lediba and Little Vumbura), and finally in the Linyanti (Duma Tau). Each tented camp exposed to a different part of Botswana; the game drives were spectacular, and the guides incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife.
In Victoria Falls we chose to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel since we love old-fashioned hotels – it definitely is that and Julian warned us – but we loved our couple of nights there.
Rwanda was a fabulous experience – Julian worked with Primate Safaris Ltd to set up five days there and it was the experience of a lifetime, with the gorilla trekking and seeing the country.
We worked with Julian’s staff on booking the internal flights and they were excellent with all the flight changes that kept on happening over the months. Julian has an excellent sense of the type of accommodations that you want – our first night in Joburg after the long flight from the US he booked us into The Residence which is a luxurious boutique hotel, with a private hot tub and deck to decompress with.
This is our third experience using one of Wendys recommended agents and every trip has been done extremely well. I can highly recommend Julian Harrison – in fact, I’ve already given his name to several people who are planning trips – you won’t be disappointed in the trip he plans for you.
Julian Harrison and his staff arranged a fantastic trip to South Africa for our family of 12 (ages 6 t0 70). We worked together for almost a year planning activities in and around Cape Town as well as visits to two different safari camps in Kruger National Park all in a 10-day school vacation period. The logistics were smoothly handled both here and on the ground in Africa. Julian made terrific suggestions and was responsive when we suggested changes to his proposals. Unfortunately, part of our family was delayed in New York due to bad weather and airline equipment repositioning issues. Julian and his staff pitched in and coordinated the new arrangements on the fly. All in all, we had an even better time than we possibly could have imagined! It was truly a trip of a lifetime. Everywhere we went, our grandchildren were welcomed and attended to with pleasure. The level of accommodations both in Cape Town and on Safari was top class. Virtually everything was included. All the details were nailed down tight which allowed us to sit back, relax and share our African experiences as a family. Julian has literally written the book on African safaris (Fodor) and will help you plan a spectacular experience!
We just returned from a two week trip to Africa planned by Julian Harrison. All I knew going into it is that I was leaning towards Botswana from what I had read, wanted to hit up Vic Falls, and Cape Town. We had limited time (2 weeks off work) and budget.
Julian put together a great itinerary given this and was even flexible to allow us to book our own hotel in Cape Town and our own international flights, as we wanted to use our (free!) points – which I’ve found some other agents not flexible to do. He listened to our wants and turned around a great pace and plan. I was a little suspicious about one camp going into it, and Julian assured me it was a good choice, and of course, that ended up being our favorite in the end!
We did Cape Town, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, and two camps in Botswana all within our budget. His quote was much better than another I’d gotten before turning to Wendys WOW list and I feel the itinerary was much more in line with our wants.
The trip went off without any issues – which would be a logistical nightmare to even consider doing on your own if one even can! And, the camps were all a great fit for us. We had great luck seeing a variety of animals and have amazing pictures we’ve brought home.
If I did have to offer any criticism it would be two minor things:
One, we did not hear from Julian (or anyone from Premier Tours) during (or post trip, yet). That would have been nice to know they were monitoring us. This said we didn’t have any issues – and we took 17 flights in 15 days without issues – so there was also no need to be in touch. Of course, we had their contact info but didn’t use it.
Two, we did stay at Victoria Falls Hotel and had what seemed to be one of the worst rooms they booked us in, facing the parking area on the ground floor. Had they offered or told us there were other rooming options, we’d have paid to stay in a different one but weren’t advised or offered otherwise. So be sure to ask this stuff rather than assume, as we did, that it will fit your wants and needs.
Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Julian in the future and will likely use him for our next trip to Africa which we already want to plan again! Wishing we were on safari right now…
We (two senior couples) travelled to South Africa and Victoria Falls in November 2016. I loved the fact that Julian took the time to understand what we wanted to see, what our budget was and what our travelling style was. He made suggestions about our itinerary that made sense and provided options for us to consider. More importantly, we had an amazing trip with knowledgeable guides, perfect accommodations and amazing safaris. Safari camps come in all shapes, sizes and prices so it was good to have a conversation about expectations. For us, it was good to have the nice mix of safari, wine country and cities as South Africa is a very large and diverse country. One experience would not be enough to define the country.
Julian was phenomenal! I was visiting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and the Seychelles with my husband AND my parents. My parents had not travelled to Africa previously and were a bit nervous, but they loved every minute. Julian set up an amazing itinerary, with just enough privacy, and just enough adventure to make it a great multi-generational trip! We especially loved Mala Mala and Sindabezi Lodge. Highly recommended. My parents are still talking about this trip 18 months later. Meanwhile, I am planning my next safari!
Great trip. We enjoyed every moment. Travel specialist was active in planning and all surprises were pleasant.
Julian Harrison and his team made our African dreams come true in September 2016. In fact, the trip was more than we had hoped for — our first visit to this ancient, majestic and thrilling land. At Julian’s recommendation, we traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana; the advance logistics worked perfectly, eliminating fatigue and stress. Our first lodging, the Welgelen Guest House in Cape Town was a heavenly way to begin. The city tours, including Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, wine and chocolate tastings in the Stellenbosch area were all of the highest quality. My husband and I have slightly differing interests as he is an artist and I’m a nature fanatic but Julian understood this so well! He made sure our trip was pefectly balanced between city experiences and wildlife adventures par excellence. After Cape Town we went to the luxurious Tintswalo Lodge in the Manyeleti Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park. Our guide and tracker were fabulous, funny guys who showed us everything one could hope to see in the African bush and more. Our travels worked flawlessly as we moved on to Johannesburg for the painful and moving history of SA. Again, our city stay at the Peech Hotel was a welcome respite with the additional bonus of a good restaurant. Then on to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe for unforgettable adventures including a sunset cruise and an elephant-backed safari plus the outstanding Safari Lodge with excellent food, a dinner chorus and waterhole viewing. Finally, we went to two tented camps in Botswana where every birder needs to go: the Okavango Delta. Both camps, Kazidora and Machaba, were beautifully sited with amazing staff and delicious food. The game drives were immensely satisfying. Mokoro trips on the Delta waterways brought up feelings of ancient connections to the people and the past. We took Bush Walks and boat rides as basically were as happy as two people could be. For all of this, we have Julian Harrison to thank for giving us the magic of Africa and we hope to return for another trip with him.
I was thinking of what I would say here about Julian and Premier tours. At first I thought of using words like life altering, incredibly structured, first class all the way but no, even though they are all true. My wife claims that this trip was on my bucket list. She was going along for the “ride.” It turned out to be the MOST incredible, amazing trip she ever experienced. We are seasoned international travelers but have never experienced something so phenomenal; something that makes you appreciate life.
Julian provided what he promised without a hitch. The trip that he designed perfectly captured what we wanted to do. Oftentimes we need to request changes from our travel planner but when this trip was designed by Julian we only made two slight changes.
Susie Siskin, September 2016, South Africa (Cape Town, Franschhoek, Mosaic Lodge in Stanford, Kynsna, Tintswalo Safari lodge, Johannesburg), Botswana (Ngoma Safari Lodge), Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls). Set forth below is some of the feedback provided to travel planner.
We had a very nice time on our Africa trip. It met all of our expectations. Thank you for your help and suggestions. All of the arrangements that you made worked out well. Guides and airport transfers were all on time and enjoyable. The vehicles were clean and water was always available. We felt that we got a good first view of various parts of South Africa.
We enjoyed both camps and we thought that they were a good contrast….the wide open spaces of Chobe at Ngoma Safari Lodge vs. the smaller reserve of Myanletti at Tintswalo Safari Lodge. As between the two camps (Tintswalo and Ngoma), we thought the facilities and staff at Tintswalo were excellent (we had a temporary fill in ranger at Tintswalo since our scheduled ranger was called away, but we had a very experienced and excellent tracker and the ranger was good) and the food and ranger at Ngoma were very good. I might mention that at Tintswalo the staff stated that it was appropriate to tip our butler (this was not mentioned on your tip sheet). Our butler was great she provided excellent service, always called us by name and remembered our drink orders after the first day.
Most of the accommodations that you booked for us were great, particularly the Leeu House and The Residences. In fact, our only disappointment in accommodations was at Victoria Falls at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. The Safari Club on the same property is so much nicer and we wish that we had been offered that option and we could have considered if we wanted to pay the upcharge.
Again it was a wonderful trip and we thank you for your help.
My wife and I travel to South Africa usually every three years to visit with family and to experience and explore a beautiful country. On our last trip in August/September 2016, we traveled for part of this time with four family members including two children (10 years old). Because we travel there so frequently, we generally do not require detailed travel advice. However, on some trips, we do need help and we immediately contact Julian Harrison of Premier Tours. On this trip, he recommended Tintswalo Manor House just outside Kruger Park. His recommendation was outstanding especially for the children. The accommodations, food, service, activities were beyond expectation. The game drives especially for the children were phenomenal! We would have never had such a tremendous experience without Julian’s help. The same can be said of previous trips that Premier Tours has helped us with.
It has been almost a year since our African journey using Julian Harrison. I can easily say that we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like none other we have ever experienced. Obviously words cannot express the many sights, sounds, and events that we experienced along the journey, but all were enhanced by your impeccable planning of the trip. The destinations Julian chose for us were perfectly suited to our tastes and the service we received was second to none. In traveling to such a faraway place, every plane was met with a greeter, every camp expected our arrival, and our every request was honored. We cannot thank you enough for your instrumental role in this incredible lifetime event.
Julian worked with us to customize our trip throughout the process. He was incredibly helpful and proactive when hotels announced renovations, flights changed, etc., and we were very happy with the outcomes in every case. Julian assured us that as a same sex couple traveling throughout Southern Africa, that his accommodations, tour providers, etc., would welcome us the same as any other travelers; we were never disappointed. We would love to return to Southern Africa and we will be working with Julian on that future trip!
We traveled during July 2016 and visited South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mauritius.
My family and I just returned from a trip in South Africa that included a few days in Cape Town and then two different safari lodges. We had such a wonderful time! The schedule, pace, and accommodation selection were perfect – there is nothing we would have changed about the trip. Julian Harrioson was able to incorporate our budget and the requests from our family into an itinerary that far exceeded our expectations. Although it was the trip of a lifetime, we are already thinking about when we can go back!
Amazing! We recently returned from an amazing safari put together for us by Julian Harrison and Premier Tours. Due to vacation schedules for our daughters and son-in-law, we wanted the highlights of Southern Africa in a limited amount of time. Julian knew exactly where we should go and he was absolutely correct!
We had perfect accommodations for a quick overnight in Johannesburg upon our arrival in South Africa and then we were off to Victoria Falls. We enjoyed the Safari Club in VF – including a great, wet tour of the Falls and an elephant ride we won’t soon forget.
Our flight from VF to Mombo provided fabulous views of the Delta and we were all in love with the idea of traveling throughout Africa on small planes! And then there is Mombo Camp – the staff members were all warm and friendly and we left after 2 nights wishing we could have stayed much, much longer. I’m sure our daughters are already dreaming of their return visit.
From Mombo we had a very short flight to Tubu Tree where we had another incredible experience. Great accommodations, and a warm, friendly staff.
At both Mombo and Tubu, the wildlife was the real attraction and we certainly saw everything we set out to see – and more. Of course, Julian didn’t arrange the rhino sighting or the mama leopard and her month old cub, but I’m sure if he could have, he would have!
Our children flew home after Tubu Tree and my husband and I enjoyed four lovely days in Cape Town. Guided tour of the City, Cape of Good Hope and wine country were perfect.
We hope to visit Africa again and will definitely call on Julian and Premier Tours to make all of the arrangements.
Julian Harrison from Premier Tours and his staff were excellent and provided us with an experience we will never forget. My wife and I just returned (trip was last week in April and first week in May, 2016). It started in Cape Town (including Peninsula and Wine Region), then Safari in Sabi Sands Private Reserve, and ended at Victoria Falls. From the moment we left the plane in Cape Town until the time we were dropped off at Victoria Falls airport, we were in good hands. Even in the down times that we were not with guides or on a property, we were given proper advice on where to venture (and where not to). Most importantly, during the planning process, they were active listeners to the type of travel experience we like and activities, etc. and came up with an itinerary that was perfect for us. They patiently answered all our questions during the process, and clearly were extremely knowledgeable about Africa. Lisa (who we dealt with on many of the details, once the overall itinerary was shaped) made us feel extremely comfortable that our best interests were being put first – and was extremely valuable in shaping up some of the specific restaurants and activities that we end up choosing. Overall, I would have no qualms whatsoever about recommending Premier Tours for anyone’s trip to Africa and/or Safari.
I traveled with my husband and 3 children (11,13,17) to South Africa and Botswana in March/2016. It was our first trip to Africa. Julian Harrison coordinated all details of the trip. He was phenomenal. All aspects of the trip exceeded our expectations, from game drives to accommodations to tour guides. We always had a point of contact. I received a phone call on a Friday morning that our last destination (Sunday arrival) became flooded due to torrential rains in the area. I emailed and called Julian, within hours he has us re-routed to Mashatu in Botswana, which I can’t recommend highly enough. The changes all went smoothly and he even arranged for malaria meds to be delivered to our hotel in Joburg prior to our morning departure for Matshatu. Amazing in every way and we hope to be back to Africa again very soon!
My wife and I just returned on February 1, 2016 from a month long trip in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Julian was referred by a South African friend who assured us he was the best consultant in the business.
We called and discussed our varied interests, the timeline and our budget. My wife loves animals and was excited about the safaris and I love history and was very interested in the DNA of the country and its people. We also told Julian that we are strictly independent travelers.
His itinerary and arrangements far exceeded our expectations. The B and B’s and safari camps were gorgeous and staffed by some of the most gracious and knowledgeable people we have ever met in our travels. The private tour guides and drivers became friends after many days spent together. The highlights and points of interest in each country hit the mark every time and the food and wine was every bit as good as one would expect traveling in France.
Thank you Julian for this extraordinary experience.
My family of 4 just got back from a charmed trip to South Africa planned by Julian Harrison. We had the most amazing time from Capetown to safari’s in Botswana to Victoria Falls ending in Johannesburg. Our accommodations were amazing, our logistics were handled perfectly. We would never plan a trip to Africa without Julian. He is a master.
We returned Sept. 2015 from a trip that included the Seychelles islands, Cape Town, Western Cape, safaris in South Africa and Botswana and then Victoria Falls. Like his other clients say, it was all amazing.
It seems that everyone knows someone who has been to Africa, and has a favorite safari camp. Julian patiently listened to our suggestions, then outlined the reasoning behind his suggestions. We saw some of the other places, and he was always right. The ones he selected were far superior.
When traveling so far from home some people find comfort in using A&K or other group tours, so that a tour director is aways with them. We were met by courteous and professional agents at every transfer, and our driver guides even took us through the airport check-in process. It was great! Three major benefits: 1) We were not paying for an agent to travel with us; 2) No queues when we checked into our various locations, and 3) Most of Julian’s favorite lodges are boutique and too small to accommodate groups, which becomes part of the charm and the chance to meet different people.
Julian really knows his stuff, and either he or his team visit the locations they recommend annually to make sure they continue to meet their standards. The places they choose know that the Premier team are regular customers, which means special treatment in many different ways. For example, we had a private guide and vehicles just for the two of us in Botswana, for all three days. And by the way, groups cannot do that because they have to treat everyone equally.
Without Julian, Botswana would never have been on our list—yet it was so different and so fabulous that we cannot imagine missing it. Our stay in Hermanus at the Grootbos Nature Preserve was a great intro before the traditional safaris, and Stellenbosch was big fun with the price of wine so reasonable right now.
Our bottom line—Julian and his team really know their stuff, and make every facet a delight. Choose them and you will have no regrets.
We just returned, in early September 2015, from an amazing trip, organized by Julian Harrison, that included South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Julian and his team did an outstanding job for us. Julian listened carefully to our interests and desires, then used his extensive contacts and knowledge to create a trip we will always remember. Our tours (ranging from city and cultural sites to river excursions to safaris) and our lodgings (ranging from marvelous boutique hotels to the incredible Rattray’s on MalaMala) were exceptional.
On a scale of 1 to 10, our trip to Africa was an 11, thanks to Julian’s planning, expertise and experience. We give him and Premier Tours our highest recommendation.
We are reasonably well travelled, but our safari to Zambia in August of 2015 has proven to be the most thrilling vacation trip we have ever taken. In every aspect—scenic beauty, wildlife viewing, lodging, guides, cuisine—this journey was brilliant. The trip centered around Zambia’s pristine national parks. It featured visits to four superior camps running from north to south, culminating in a wonderful remote camp beside the Zambezi River.
In all camps, wildlife was abundant; as we observed our spirits soared. We realized that vacation trips of this quality are no accident and do not create themselves. Instead, they are the result of the hard and invaluable expertise of Julian. In his hands, every last detail of the trip was planned and executed flawlessly. Additionally, Julian is ALWAYS available to answer any questions or discuss any issue one may have.
I would strongly urge anyone interested in this part of the world to consult with Julian; it will be the single most crucial decision you will make to insure an unforgettable safari.
Thanks to Julian, our trip to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe was a dream come true.
After getting quotes from two other reputable travel companies, Julian was able to comprise a detailed itinerary within three days of contact. Meeting our budget was critical. Not only did Julian beat other travel quotes, he was able to place us in accommodations that far surpassed previous safari camps and hotels chosen by the other groups.
Celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary with our family in Africa was THE trip of a lifetime! We owe it all to Julian and his professional staff who were extremely helpful answering questions prior to the trip. Top notch guides were provided throughout the two week period with transfers that were carried through without a hitch.
After thoroughly reading all the reviews of various companies, my husband and I placed total trust in Premier Travel and it did not disappoint us!
We plan on returning in a few years and will entrust Julian once again to take us to this beautiful, life changing destination!
We had a wonderful Southern African safari this past July. Julian listened to our bucket list items for a safari adventure and crafted an unforgettable itinerary for us. We would work with Julian again in a heartbeat!
My husband, two daughters (ages 27 and 24) and I traveled to South Africa and Botswana in late August 2014. This was the trip that my husband had been dreaming of since he was a four-year-old viewer of the old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. He began working with Julian over a year in advance to make sure that the trip met every expectation.
Julian did more than that. This trip exceeded every expectation. It was unforgettable. We flew into Cape Town, where Julian had arranged a local guide and vehicle. After three days, where we stayed at the stunning Cape Grace Hotel, eating at superb restaurants and visiting everything from the Botanical Garden to the penguin colony to the wine country, we flew to Maun, Botswana and then on to Mombo Camp. We spent three unforgettable days at Mombo, then off to Vumbura Plains, and then finally flew back to South Africa for three days at Singita Boulders. Julian secured us private vehicles, guides and trackers in each location and even, through unflagging charm and persistence, got us the best two suites in Singita (#11 and #12—both of which look out over a private watering hole where warthogs, nyala, impala, etc. come to drink). This itinerary could not have been better, and it was Julian who urged us to visit the camps in this order. He also arranged private aircraft charters and seamless transportation from place to place. Julian was responsive to every email, thoughtful in replying to every question and quick to follow up. We recommend him without reservation!
My wife and I recently returned from a vacation planned entirely by Julian Harrison and Premier Tours. It was our first trip to Africa. We traveled to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Bottom line: Best holiday we have ever been on and in large part due to the expertise and planning of Premier Tours. Julian custom planned our trip based on our interests and needs. He has a vast degree of knowledge and has personally visited the camps and lodges and has intimate knowledge of where to stay and when to go and the best way to accomplish everything. Dealing with a high-end tour company like Premier gave us the personal touch we needed to plan such a special adventure. Julian has extensive contacts in Africa and was able to plan special details such as an elephant-back safari. He also was able to specially arrange a visit to see white rhinos in a private sanctuary. We would recommend Premier Tours and Julian Harrison without hesitation, and we would not even consider anyone else in planning our next African adventure.
My wife and I, along with one other couple, just returned on September 25, 2014 from a trip of a lifetime to Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa put together by Julian Harrison with Premier Tours. The trip could not have been more perfect. The safari camps were all great, and the wildlife viewing and photography were terrific. The quality of the guides and the food at all three camps we went to were all top-notch for being located out in the wild. The city hotels we stayed at following our safari camps were also excellent choices, particularly the one in the wine country. We were especially impressed with how timely everyone was when meeting us on our various stops in Africa—whether it was meeting us at the airports upon arrivals, walking us through the various airport departure requirements in different countries, meeting us and returning us to the various safari camps, all the small-plane departures, or the city tours that we took. Everything worked like clockwork in a part of the world where we would not have necessarily expected it to. Premier Tours did an outstanding job and we would recommend them very highly. We have always appreciated Wendy Perrin’s recommendations for travel agents and have used her list previously with excellent vacation experiences.
We recently returned from Botswana and S.Africa and can say that Julian Harrison planned a flawless trip. We have been to East Africa and there is no comparison in the two trips regarding camps, timing, communication and execution. People have asked us about our trip in recent days and we continue to say we credit our travel agent for helping us toast the day each night at dinner with, “To another perfect day.” Thanks Julian, this trip was so memorable.