Tag Archives: South Africa

Machu Picchu, Peru

Great Inspiration for Graduation Trips

The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us

Graduation trips are among the most popular family trips we see here at WendyPerrin.com, and we agree that an academic achievement deserves to be marked with a fun, memorable—and yes, sometimes even educational—experience. To provide inspiration for your own travels with your favorite grad this year, we’ve looked back at the graduation trips arranged by our WOW List destination experts that have most delighted your fellow travelers.

Portugal: “The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect.”

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola. Alentejo Region. Portugal

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola im Alentejo Region, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our first trip using a recommended Wendy Perrin trip planner. We travelled to Portugal March 8th—March 15th, 2024. It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college. Our trip was planned by Goncalo and Joanna. WOW! What an amazing trip they planned for us. The accommodations that they chose for us were fantastic! Very unique and customer oriented. The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect. Our driver, Sandru, was amazing and he made sure everything was taken care of when we reached our destinations. (He also knew our itinerary and was always able to answer questions.) Sandru went above and beyond to make our trip very special.

We had a wonderful cooking class and gastronomic tour with Lara in Lisbon and even attended a Benefica Football game. In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes. In the West Region, a full day tour which included Obidos, Nazre, and Alcobaca. The details were taken care of for us, from tours to restaurant reservations, it was the best trip I have ever been on. I can’t wait to plan our next trip with a Wendy Perrin recommended trip planner.” —Lori Bentley

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Paris: “Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre…”

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum at night, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

“Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre. Let’s start by how incredibly smooth our airport arrival was! Upon exiting the aircraft, we were whisked away by Mohammad, who led us through customs, helped us with our luggage, and delivered us to our driver. I bet we saved two hours not having to wait in the line at customs.

Jennifer, our trip planner, did a great job planning our tours and making our dining reservations! We were very impressed with each tour guide: our private half-day tour of the Louvre could not have been better! We loved our croissant-making class and our chef was fabulous. We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Dior museum—so unexpected and maybe one of our most favorite things. We had the museum to ourselves and our guide was fantastic! Jennifer secured a fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up and coming Parisian designers, and this was a real treat! We loved meeting the shop owners, and we felt like locals shopping for the afternoon.

Each and every restaurant reservation that Jennifer procured provided the best table in the restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. One of the restaurants surprised us with a sparkler in my daughter’s dessert, which was so fun.” —Kim Brown

Read more reviews of Paris trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Romania: “Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled…”

Legendary Bran (Dracula) historical castle of Transylvania, Brasov region, Romania, Eastern Europe

Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

“I traveled to Romania on a last-minute graduation trip with my daughter, Amelia, in August 2023. We have done numerous trips with Wendy’s WOW List agents before and knew that finding an agent through Wendy was the only way to go. Even the destination of our trip was inspired by articles written by Wendy.

Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled. We chose Romania, and Wendy matched us up with Raluca and Ioana. Important to us was connecting with the local people and understanding the country.

Raluca and Ioana set us up with a local guide, Tavi, whose personality matched well with us, which was a good thing since we drove around Romania for 10 days with him. We started in Bucharest, which was great for my daughter to learn what can happen to a country if you vote in a narcissist authoritarian as a leader and to understand what life was like under the latter parts of communist ruling. We had a university history professor give us a tour of an apartment frozen in time from the 1980s under communist rule. We enjoyed wonderful restaurants, an amazing art exhibit, and historical sites in the city.

In Transylvania we enjoyed visiting the Cris Bethlen Castle. It was particularly fun for us since one of our favorite horror movies, The Nun, was shot there. A local man who lives in town jumped in and gave us a detailed tour, including side stories on the actors during the filming. We went on an amazing mountain bike ride (about 20 miles) primarily in the hills and forests with some fun single track as well. The mountain bike guide had helped to build the trails, which will eventually connect a large portion of Transylvania for mountain bike tours.

We saw wonderful fortressed churches and cities throughout our trip, including the beautiful Sighisoara. Always enjoying them without crowds and with a random local who had the keys to let us in the church or describe some interesting tidbit of history through our guide as the interpreter.

We met a local weaver whose family had been doing traditional weaving for generations and who rescued a loom headed for destruction. We enjoyed a visit with a local herbalist whose herb garden was expansive and whose knowledge of remedies was sought out throughout the area. Here we enjoyed a dinner in her home, again understanding her story and her life and sharing ours. We enjoyed seeing the UNESCO site Viscri, supported by King Charles, and enjoyed the views from the fortressed church over the rolling hills.

We moved on to Brasov. Here we had a private tour of Bran Castle and had the opportunity to climb into the highest turret to view the mountain pass that the lookouts would use in centuries past. When we expressed interest in a hike, Tavi took us up a mountainside where he had helped a friend build a cabin. We met one of his friends, a local shepherd, and discussed bears threatening his flock.

Bottom line our visit was filled with unique experiences where we connected with the people of Romania and attempted to understand their stories. Romania is a beautiful, relatively undiscovered country with rich medieval history and more recent history of the rise and fall of communism. It is not as restored as other places in Western Europe, but its beauty, its history, and its people are wonderful to experience. The smaller crowds allow for a much more enjoyable visit than other European countries.”—Theresa Boone

Read more reviews of Romania trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


South Africa & Botswana: “My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages!”

Lynn Casper

Thomas Casper celebrated his college graduation with a safari. Here, he’s atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Traveler Clare Casper

“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!”—Lynn Casper

Read more reviews of South Africa and Botswana trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Switzerland: “We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible…”

Andy Shafran

Andy Shafran and family spelling out OHIO on top of Mt. Jungfrau.

“Switzerland was a beautiful country and our active hiking, kayaking, paragliding trip was exactly what we were looking for. We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible. Nina and her staff helped us build an itinerary that maximized the experiences and minimized the hassle and travel time. We spent two days in Zurich/Rhine Falls, three days in Grindelwald, and three days in Lucerne. There is so much to do that we felt we could have stayed an extra week just in these three locations.

Our major interest was hiking, and we had a guided tour up Mt. Grindelwald first, which included a gondola ride up and a Trottibike ride down (highly, highly recommended). Then we took the train to the Jungfrau and even though it was pricey for that part of the trip, well worth it for the views and incredible Alpine experience. Thumbs up: Rhine Falls, Trümmelbach Falls, Aare Gorge hike, Lake Brienz kayak trip, and our full-day peak-to-peak hike on Mt. Rigi where we ate lunch at Berghaus Unterstetten on the side of the mountain with incredible views and good food.

All three hotels we stayed in were unique, terrific locations, and have fun quirks, such as the private funicular car that takes you up from Lake Lucerne to the Art Deco Hotel Montana….” —Andy Shafran

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Japan: “I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation…”

Kyoto, Japan gardens at Heian Shrine in the spring season. - Image

Cherry blossoms bloom around Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel.

Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park.

Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

Read more reviews of Japan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 


Austria: “I can only describe the experience as life-affirming…”

Cityscape views of one of Europe's most beautiful town, Vienna.

Vienna’s city streets, Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a 14-day family trip in Austria planned by Gwen. I can only describe the experience as life-affirming. The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school in the fall, so we had a heavy musical focus, but there was truly something for everyone in the family. We toured palaces and cathedrals in Vienna, experienced local food, watched the Lipizzaner stallions perform and had a private tour of the stables.

We moved on to the Wachau Valley for wine tasting and breathtaking Danube scenery, then visited the abbeys of Melk and Stift-Admont. In Salzburg, we soaked up the music festival, saw the fortress and countless Sound of Music film locations, attended a Mozart opera, a Vienna Philharmonic concert, and a world-class string quartet. We learned to make apple strudel and Salzburg Nockerl, and visited the charming lake district outside Salzburg. We rounded out our trip with several days in Innsbruck and a final train ride to Munich, where we celebrated my son’s birthday at a beer hall and caught our flight home.

Gwen was helpful and responsive and understood my family’s diverse needs. She steered us away from tourist traps and embraced our interest in some off-the-beaten-path locations. She suggested lovely boutique hotel experiences and guides with extraordinary depth of knowledge of their cities.” —Katherine Stadler

Read more reviews of Austria trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 


Italy: “Our eight-day food tour was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”

Bologna, Italy Food store food market showcase full of food in Bologna city in Italy

Food market in Bologna, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces.

In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 


Western Canada: “Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb…”

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake and wild alpine flowers, Whistler, British Columbia Canada

Whistler, British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it.

Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us.” —John Masko

Read more reviews of British Columbia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 


Peru: “She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered…”

Gateway of the Sun, One Day Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

Sun Gate, Machu Picchu. Photo: Southwind Adventures

“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru.

It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 


Uzbekistan: “My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia…”

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Plov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.—Ron Klausner

Read more reviews of Uzbekistan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 



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tourist woman on safari in South Africa sitting in jeep with elephant in distance

Here’s Why I Felt Covid-Safe on Safari

As the floodgates of travel reopen and we all learn to negotiate staying safe while away from home—and as European sidewalks and museums are once again crowded with visitors—I want to tell you about the low-risk travel formula I’ve hit upon: an African safari. I’ve spent time in southern Africa twice in the past year (in Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2021, and in Namibia and South Africa in 2022), and on both trips I felt safe and returned home Covid-free. Here’s why:


Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front. South Africa
Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front.
Our enclosed vehicle at Little Kulala in Namibia.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, South Africa.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.
The dining room at Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The dining room at Earth Lodge.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.

Just about everything happens outdoors.

On a safari, the bulk of your day is spent on game drives—and at most camps, that means being in a vehicle with no sides (and often no top), and plenty of fresh breeze immediately diluting any exhaled virus particles. Vehicle set-up does vary by camp and by destination; this is something worth discussing with an in-the-know travel planner before your trip. The camps I visited in Namibia’s desert, for example, use enclosed vehicles to keep the sand out. I could open the windows and pop up the roof when I wanted fresh air, and I felt comfortable riding inside with my guides after confirming that they’d been vaccinated (more on that below).

Long before Covid, most safari camps and lodges were already designed for outdoor dining. A year ago, every single meal I ate on safari was served al fresco. On my recent trip, camp staff opted to set up indoors on a couple of chilly mornings and rainy evenings. In the few instances where I didn’t feel comfortable enough sitting near a window, they happily moved my family outside—and brought us blankets to stay warm, and even luminaries for ambiance.


Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.  South African safari
Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.
inside a charter flight with pilot and tourist woman South African safari
Charter flights make for close quarters; every one of our pilots was vaccinated.
tourist woman and guide on safari in South Africa
Namibian guide Joas arranged for treatment at a private hospital when his parents got Covid; he’s vaccinated.

Most people in the travel industry are vaccinated.

At the time of my most recent trip, just 30% of South Africa’s population and 15% of Namibia’s population was fully vaccinated. But I asked every person I was in close contact with if they were vaccinated, and the answer was always yes. Some of those in Namibia felt that their job was at risk if they didn’t get vaccinated; at the camps I visited in South Africa, a local clinic had vaccinated the entire staff. Even when a country’s overall vaccination rate is relatively low, uptake among people who work in travel is often much higher.


The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge safari
The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
The bedroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge South Africa
The bedroom
The indoor/outdoor bathroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in South Africa
The indoor/outdoor bathroom

You’re not interacting with lots of people, even when camps are full.

I visited a range of camps and lodges this year, from remote spots with just eight tents to one with 25 stand-alone villas. While each one was busier than the places I visited last year, nowhere ever felt crowded. I could chat with fellow travelers over the breakfast buffet or at the airstrip waiting for a charter flight, but I never found myself in close quarters with strangers. What’s more, there’s a bit less mixing at safari camps these days: Before Covid, the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve where I stayed, on the edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, grouped the same guests together for both game drives and meals. Today, those who don’t pay for a private vehicle will likely share one with others, but each group dines separately.

A savvy fixer can speed you through the only place you’ll find crowds: the airports.

Johannesburg Airport was a ghost town a year ago, but things have picked up significantly since then. Luckily, each time I arrived at an airport on my most recent trip, Trusted Travel Expert Cherri Briggs had someone there to meet me. Sure, I’m capable of navigating check-in counters and customs procedures on my own—but having a minder accompany me meant that I got to skip to the front of lines and use security checks reserved for crew and other VIPs. So even though the airports were busy, the time I had to spend in them shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers was minimal.


Photographing Soweto with our photojournalist/guide.
An impromptu drum lesson in Soweto.
Witnessing the devastation of recent flooding on Soweto’s streets.
Visiting a preschool in Soweto. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver
A spontaneous embrace from a food vendor at a Soweto market. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver

I saved my riskiest interactions for the end of the trip.

While the safari was the main purpose for my trip this year, I wanted my ten-year-old son to see a bit of urban Africa as well. We were flying through Johannesburg, so Cherri helped me plan a day-and-a-half in the city. Since city activities were the part of the trip when our exposure to Covid was likely to be highest, we built this into the end of my trip rather than the beginning. On our last day in Africa, a photojournalist-turned-tour-guide took my family to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Satyagraha House (where Gandhi once lived), and the Kliptown neighborhood of Soweto. Cultural exchanges can be tricky, and in Soweto I planned to follow my hosts’ lead in terms of Covid protocols, without disrupting the flow by asking about vaccination status; in practice, that meant going indoors unmasked to visit a preschool, to hear a group of local musicians perform, and to buy some knit hats from a trio of enterprising grannies. Everywhere I went, the welcome seemed warm and genuine, and I’m glad I didn’t have a mask hiding my smile for those brief interactions. (I tested five days after returning home, per CDC guidance, and was negative.)

So that’s why I felt safe on safari—but here’s why I’d go back in a heartbeat:

Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve South Africa
Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Lions drinking after a kill South African safari
Lions drinking after a kill.
Playful lions south africa safari
Playful lions.
cheetah seen on safari in South Africa
The enormous lungs beneath a cheetah’s prominent chest aid its sprinting abilities.
an elephant seen on safari in South Africa
A thorny breakfast for an elephant.

The wildlife experience is unchanged since Covid.

Few corners of the globe remain unaffected by Covid; the African veld seems to be one such spot (excepting, perhaps, the hand sanitizer that appears beside your sundowners on evening game drives). This was my fifth time on safari, and I saw more animals at Sabi Sabi than I’d seen on any other trip: playful packs of lion cubs running laps around their mothers; elephants munching on shrubbery, seemingly unconcerned by the plant’s inch-long thorns; a barrel-chested cheetah and her offspring that came close enough we could hear them purring; a leopard and the impala kill it had dragged impressively high into a tree; two sturdy rhinos, unaware that their horns would soon be removed to discourage poaching. The wildlife that brings so many to Southern Africa is still there in abundance.


Transparency disclosure: So that I could experience South Africa, WOW Lister Cherri Briggs arranged for a reduced rate at Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Everything I did on my trip is accessible to every traveler who contacts Cherri via Wendy’s WOW questionnaire. Thanks to Wendy’s WOW system, you’ll get marked as a VIP traveler.


Aerial view of Cape Town from a helicopter tour

WOW Moment: A New View on Cape Town

Aerial view of Cape Town from a helicopter tour
Photo: NAC Helicopters
Cape Town Aerial view from helicopter. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella
Africa safari zebras. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella
Africa safari zebras. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella
Africa safari lions in tree. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella
Africa Safari leopard. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella
Africa safari antelope in water. Photo: Tony Forcella
Photo: Tony Forcella


“We’re kind of a little obsessive about our trip planning,” says Susan Forcella, with a laugh. It’s easy to understand why: She and her husband, Tony, are very frequent travelers. They have been all over the world, taking an average of three big trips per year. “I used to enjoy doing the research and planning myself, but in recent years it’s become so complicated,” she says. “There’s so much information out there. I wouldn’t trust myself, or unknown sources on the Internet, to have the most up-to-date as well as the most experienced information. So we just go right to The WOW List. I think we’ve used at least ten of Wendy’s travel specialists by now, and it’s just made the trip planning much simpler.”

The Forcellas’ latest trip was a city-and-safari adventure in South Africa and Botswana, arranged by Julian Harrison, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for African safaris. Because the Forcellas are frequent WOW List travelers, they had earned a WOW Moment from Wendy to enjoy on this trip. A WOW Moment is a surprise insider experience, custom-designed for you and complimentary.  (Learn how to get one here).  And the WOW Moment that Wendy and Julian dreamed up went above and beyond. Quite literally. We spoke with Susan about it on the phone once she was back home.

Q: You say you’re usually very involved in the trip planning. But the WOW Moment was a surprise. How did you feel about being surprised?

A: Tony and I, the more we plan what we’re doing, the happier we are. We realized the surprise was the whole fun of it, but we had some anxiety about it because my husband’s primary focus and passion and interest when we travel is photography. He said, “Uh-oh, what if in the early part of the day I want to stick around longer to take pictures? What if I’d rather be taking pictures than rushing back for the WOW Moment?” But the day of the WOW Moment went very smoothly. Our guide deposited us at the V&A Waterfront right on time for what turned out to be this phenomenal helicopter ride.

Q: How surprised were you?

A:  We’d been to the Waterfront on our first day and seen the booth where they had things like that.  So we weren’t shocked.  To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous because I’d been on helicopter rides before—in the Canadian Rockies and Alaska. Those rides were extremely exciting and we loved them, but that was 12 years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten older and become more fearful. So I was a little scared, but also excited.

Q: How did the WOW Moment turn out?

A: The heli company could not have been better at making us feel welcome and comfortable. The pilot was fantastic, the owner of the company was fantastic. And the ride was so smooth—so different from what it was like 12 years ago. We just lifted up effortlessly. One of the most exciting parts was when the pilot said, ‘I’m going to show you a full-circle rainbow.’  And we said, ‘What?  What’s that?’   He said, ‘You only ever see half a rainbow, but when you’re in the air it’s this whole circular thing because there’s no place for it to get blocked.’  I’d never thought of that. And, sure enough, we saw this full-circle rainbow. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was also exciting to see by helicopter where we’d gone with our guide—out of Cape Town, toward the Cape of Good Hope. Seeing it from the air gave us a whole new perspective. And it’s such a dramatic place on earth to see. It was very exciting, and very comfortable, and just a wonderful experience.

Q: What were some other highlights of your trip?

A: Our guide who picked us up at the airport and was with us the whole time and even took us back through the security line was delightful. At each camp in Botswana we had a superb guide too. It seemed to me (because you talk to your fellow campers) we got the guide who’d been there the longest and was most experienced, and that was through Julian. We had told him what we were looking for, and what our concerns were, and then he chose these three camps with three different ecosystems, and we were thoroughly satisfied with his choices. [Reporter’s note: You can read the Forcellas’ review of their trip on Julian’s reviews page.]

Q: What other value did Julian bring to your experience?

A: He advised us very well on what season to go. Since Tony is a photographer, we wanted to go at the time for the best pictures. Julian suggested the cusp of the rainy season, so we were at the edge when the seasons change. We had spectacular weather and beautiful scenery. My husband didn’t want a brown barren landscape; he wanted greenery and grass. So we got that, and we got to see tons of animals, and we also paid a better price. Julian really honed in on that. What he told us turned out to be true: he said you will get quality, not quantity. You’re not going to see thousands of animals in a herd, but you are going to see all these varieties. And he was right. He did a great job of listening to our needs and concerns, and his guidance really panned out beautifully. It was such an amazing trip.


Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

Uma Thurman on the cover of Town&Country, October 2015

You Too Can Save Africa’s Wildlife From Extinction

The best safaris are about a lot more than picturesque tented camps and iconic wildlife; they have a conservation-minded sense of purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of research on safaris and Africa’s endangered wildlife lately—you would be too if you were interviewing Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent, onstage at the Skift Global Forum next month—and I just want to share a riveting update when it comes to safaris with a mission: Uma Thurman’s Journey to Protect Africa’s Wildlife from Vicious Poachers, in the October 2015 issue of Town&Country.

“Rhinos have lived on this earth for millions of years, but wildlife experts estimate they may be gone in just 10—poached to extinction,” reports Town&Country executive travel editor Klara Glowczewska, who traveled in Africa with Thurman to cover the story. Approximately 4.5 rhinos are slaughtered every day, killed for their horn, which sells for as much as $35,000 a pound, making it more valuable than gold. Rhino horn is coveted by the newly rich in Vietnam, where it is viewed as medicinal and an aphrodisiac, and where it is ground into powder and used as a cocaine-like party drug.

Last year South Africa’s Kruger National Park lost 10% of its rhinos to poachers.  In Botswana rhinos are better protected. So the government of Botswana and the safari operator Wilderness Safaris, both role models for sustainable tourism in Africa, are working together to employ a revolutionary solution: They are translocating rhinos from South Africa to Botswana. It’s no easy task, considering that your typical 4,000-pound rhino doesn’t understand why it needs to move to Botswana. So Thurman and Glowczewska went on an eight-day South Africa-Botswana mission to rescue rhinos—and their story makes for a must-read adventure.

Darting rhinos in South Africa

Veterinarians dart rhinos from a helicopter during capture. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

Not only can you read about the trip, you can actually take it. Cherri Briggs of Explore Inc., one of my Trusted Travel Experts for African safaris, orchestrated Thurman’s trip and has created a similar adrenaline-fueled eight-day itinerary so that those of you with a deep interest in wildlife protection can become part of the most dramatic conservation story of the 21st century.

Capturing rhinos for translocation

Getting a rhino up and walking after sedation is a team effort. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

Briggs has arranged conservation-minded, even life-changing, safaris for the past 20 years. As for Wilderness Safaris, check out its integrated annual reports to see how they measure and report on the 4 Cs (commerce, conservation, community, and culture) that are embedded in their business model. A lot of travel companies talk a good game about sustainability; few volunteer to share publicly an annual report that details their sustainability goals and measures their progress toward achieving them.

So you’re in the best of hands with this safari of a lifetime. The price tag is monumental but designed to raise funds for the cause: $18,655 per person, plus a tax-deductible donation requirement of $25,000 that goes to Rhino Conservation Botswana.  Participants will help save critically endangered wildlife, have a purposeful and meaningful vacation (the best kind), and return home knowing they’ve made a difference. To book the trip, reach out to Cherri Briggs.

Rhinos in the wild

Relaxed white rhinos after release in Botswana. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

One&Only Cape Town Table Mountain

How to Make a South Africa Trip Extraordinary? Go In Winter

Cape Town shuts down in winter—South African winter, that is. At least, that’s what Capetonians will tell you. The popular tourist months here are in South Africa’s summer (December–February). But the weather remains mild through the winter season of May through August—enough to enjoy a lot of what this city by the sea has to offer. Even better, prices drop during the off-season, so you can find better deals and fewer crowds at popular hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

I’m just back from a winter week in Cape Town and the winelands, and here are the five experiences that most made my trip extraordinary. Any of them can easily be tacked onto a trip either before or after a safari. If your goal is the best trip possible, reach out to one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for South Africa—either Julian Harrison, of Premier Tours, or Dan Saperstein, of Hippo Creek Safaris. (Check out our readers’ reviews of Dan and reviews of Julian, and you’ll understand why we recommend them.)

1. Dine with Cape Town’s culinary stars
In Cape Town, there’s too much food and not enough time. But if you start early, you should be able to manage stuff in a few great meals. For a low-cost breakfast, join the young cool crowd at Jason Bakery for coffee and a house-made croissant or the croissant-meets-donut doughssant, which comes in a different flavor every day. For dinner, take your pick from two notable restaurants at the One&Only Cape Town: the only outpost of Nobu in Africa, and Reuben’s, the second restaurant from Reuben Riffel, one of South Africa’s most famous chefs (he started out in the country’s other food mecca, Franschhoek). At both, you’ll be able to dine for much less than it would cost you in other cosmopolitan cities. At Nobu, a six-course tasting menu with dessert is only $44. At Reuben’s, you can sign up for one of his Wine&Dine events showcasing special menus and local winemakers for about $30.

2. Take pictures with a penguin

boulders beach penguin colony south africa

Boulders Beach penguin colony is a tourist destination, but at the end of May, there were only four people there—including me. Photo: Billie Cohen

Boulders Beach penguin colony is in every guidebook for Cape Town, but it is still so worth visiting. The beach itself is beautiful enough to be worth a visit on its own—blue-green water separated into calm pools by the eponymous boulders. But on top of that you have all those adorable penguins! After paying the very small price of 60 ZAR (about $4.65), you’ll walk down a network of boardwalks leading to the shore, where a colony of about 2,000 endangered African penguins makes their home. Even from the raised platform you’ll be close enough to take great photos, but to get really close, walk down the path to the right of the ticket booth before you actually enter the reserve. Many penguins make their nests against the fence here. Be careful, though: You can get very, very close to these animals through the fence, but you don’t want to touch or try to feed them. Their beaks are razor sharp and they have been known to bite when threatened.

3. Learn to cook with a local

malay cooking class Cape Town

Our cooking teacher Fadelia was a character. She’s been inviting travelers into her home for years, both as a cook and as a homestay host for students. Photo: Billie Cohen

We learned to make samosas and chili dumplings, Malay chicken curry, roti, and honey-and-spice koeksisters. Photo: Billie Cohen

We learned to make samosas and chili dumplings, Malay chicken curry, roti, and honey-and-spice koeksisters. Photo: Billie Cohen

The Muslim neighborhood of Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s most interesting (and that’s saying a lot in a city of interesting neighborhoods); the Malay here are descended from the slaves imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, and other parts of Africa by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Lined with brightly painted houses, the enclave is incredibly colorful—and so was our cooking teacher Fadelia, who’s been inviting travelers into her home for years, both as a cook and as a homestay host for students. She will regale you with funny stories about life in Cape Town (and her love life) as you learn the all-important South African skills of folding samosas, deep-frying chili dumplings, and finding room in your belly for one more honey-and-spice koeksister.

Cape Town Tourism can set this up for you—as can Julian Harrison, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Africa, if you book the rest of your trip through him.

4. Explore an entire neighborhood that’s been turned into a museum

cape town street art

Over the years, artist Juma Mkwela has invited dozens of street artists from all over the world to paint murals in the Woodstock neighborhood. Photo: Billie Cohen

cape town street art

Juma leads walking tours through Woodstock, an up-and-coming artists’ neighborhood. He’s expanded the project to Khayelitsha, which you can also tour with him. Photo: Billie Cohen

Street art is one of my favorite ways to get to know a city. In Cape Town, you can take a walking tour of a neighborhood entirely devoted to providing a canvas for this type of work—led by Juma Mkwela, the local artist who started the project.

Mkwela’s muralists come from all over the city and the world, and at this point he’s commissioned more than 50 paintings. During the tour, Juma will show you dozens, sharing stories about the artists and their inspirations—it’s not only a visual education, but a political one as well, as many of the murals reflect the city’s turbulent and complicated past. Meeting Juma is worth the price of admission alone—he’s such an interesting guy. He has recently expanded the mural project into his new neighborhood, Khayelitsha (of which he also leads tours) and launched a youth arts program. The tour cost R200 (about $15.50) and can be booked by emailing Juma Juma.mkwela@gmail.com.

5. Nab a reservation at one of the country’s most popular (and packed) restaurants

in the kitchen of the tasting room franschhoek south africa

Everything served to you during your eight-course meal at the Tasting Room in Franschhoek will be a surprise. Even if you get a kitchen tour, they won’t tell you what they’re making. Photo: Billie Cohen

meal at the tasting room franschhoek south africa

This whimsical dish was called Broccoli, Broccoli, and Broccoli, and it sliced, diced, fried, pureed, and drizzled the vegetable a million ways. It was delicious. Photo: Billie Cohen

The Tasting Room in Franschhoek is an incredibly difficult reservation to score. The small restaurant based at the small boutique hotel Le Quartier Francais is run by award-winning chef Margot Janse, whose team creates a nightly dinner menu that is full of surprises. In fact, no one in the dining room knows what they will be eating—the three-and-a-half hour, eight-course menu is a complete secret, you don’t even get to look at a printed version until after you’ve eaten. The result is extraordinary. There’s a feeling of anticipation that permeates the small room, and you can catch diners openly rubbernecking other tables in an attempt to find some clue as to their own whimsical next course, but Janse has thought of that—no one within your viewing distance will get the same dishes in the same order, and they likely won’t get some of the same dishes at all. Because of the experience and the pedigree, The Tasting Room is frequently fully booked (and an incredible deal at about $100 per person, including wine pairings).

But in South Africa’s winter, seats are easier to come by—and from May through August, Le Quartier Francais offers a special Dine-a-Stay package that includes a night at the hotel, breakfast, and—added in at no extra cost—Tasting Room dinners for two. Be sure to ask to visit the kitchen during your meal so you can meet the magicians at work; few people realize it’s allowed.

Where to Stay:

In Cape Town

One&Only Cape Town afternoon tea

Daily afternoon tea at the One&Only Cape Town is a feast: caramel éclairs, cinnamon macarons, tiramisu, scones with vanilla bean cream and strawberry jam, and so much more. Even better, it’s served with floor-to-ceiling view of Table Mountain. Photo: Billie Cohen

I stayed at the One&Only Cape Town, the luxury brand known for its island and beach resorts. The Cape Town property creates that secluded island feel by curving around a small canal and pointing most of its windows (including the floor-to-ceiling ones in the lobby bar) to Table Mountain, the centerpiece of the city. You’re also within walking distance of the V&A Waterfront area, a pedestrian-friendly enclave of shops, restaurants, and views. The Waterfront area is a bit touristy, but the trade-off is that you can stroll out of your hotel at night and wander around; you won’t need a cab, and it’s very safe.

The One&Only Cape Town is “popular with families, couples, and VIP clients,” notes Dan Saperstein, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for South Africa, adding this money-saving tip: “A lot of rooms face the harbor or Table Mountain, but we are of the opinion that you don’t need to pay for a good view in your room—you’ll see it all day and you’re only in your room at night anyway.”

Another way to save money: Timing. In peak season (December and January), rooms start at about $875 per night, but in low season (April through September) that price drops significantly to about $450. I’m sure you can come up with some great things to do with that extra money.

In Franschhoek

The boutique hotel Le Quartier Francais looks like a secret garden and provides perks to all guests: free Wi-Fi, free minibar, and good-night notes on your bathroom mirror. Photo: Billie Cohen

The boutique hotel Le Quartier Francais looks like a secret garden outside and provides perks to all guests inside: free Wi-Fi, free minibar, and good-night notes on your bathroom mirror. Photo: Billie Cohen

I stayed at Le Quartier Francais, a small blue-and-white boutique hotel that feels like it belongs in Provence instead of South Africa’s wine country. Although, to be fair, all of Franschhoek looks and feels like Provence. The shop-lined village is walkable and adorable, and the nearby wine farms (which LQF will shuttle you to and from) are impressive for their idyllic atmospheres as much as for their vintages. Depending on which room you choose (they’re all designed differently), rates decrease about $40¬–$100 per night in the winter. Check the hotel website for other winter deals, including packages for the town’s annual Bastille Day Festival.

*Disclosure: Both One&Only Cape Town and Le Quartier Francais provided me with free stays. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for coverage by either property, nor was anything promised on ours. 

Wendy and Tim at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

South Africa: A Good Place to Go for a First Date

When I was the host and emcee for South African Tourism’s Ubuntu Awards Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—an event that celebrates the best of South Africa—it brought back fond memories for me: South Africa is where my husband and I had our first date in 1999.

Tim and I had met a few months earlier—in Germany, where he was living and working as photography director of the newspaper Stars and Stripes. I was based in New York City and had gone to Germany to speak at the paper’s editorial conference. After months of emailing each other from different continents, we wanted to see each other again. But it wasn’t easy: Tim traveled constantly for work, as did I.  In winter of 1999, when he was freezing in the Balkans photographing the Bosnian War and I was headed to sunny Cape Town to speak at a conference, we decided to meet up in South Africa.

Our first date turned into a week-long trip. We spent a glorious day driving around the Cape of Good Hope (#TBT photo above), another in Franschhoek enjoying the wine country, and another in the seaside resort of Hermanus. We chugged across the country in Rovos Rail’s vintage cars and ended up on safari in the Sabi Sand reserve—at one of the first Singita lodges, in a private bungalow with a plunge pool. It was some date.

One wedding and two children later, Tim and I keep trying to get back to South Africa. Someday it will happen. Meanwhile, I can live vicariously via the Ubuntu gala.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Wendy Perrin South African Tourism's Ubuntu Awards

What Ubuntu Means and Why It Made My Night

I had a blast Monday night serving as master of ceremonies of South African Tourism’s Ubuntu Awards gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I got to chat with the South African Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Mninwa Mahlangu; introduce the hottest name in comedy right now, Trevor Noah (he’s the South African comedian who’s the new host of “The Daily Show”); learn what Ubuntu really means (“I am what I am because of who we all are”); and surprise everyone with the story of how South Africa is where I had my first date with Tim. My main takeaway from that trip (besides a husband) is what a startling range of world-class landscapes, sights, and activities exist within such close proximity. And that means bang for your buck—especially with the U.S. dollar so strong against the rand right now. If you want to go, here’s what you should know. Happy travels!

South Africa's Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom and comedian Trevor Noah.

South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom and comedian Trevor Noah. Photo: Jason DeCrow/Invision for South African Tourism/AP Images

Private Villa, Transcoso, Brazil

Five Expensive Destinations That Will Be Cheaper in 2015

The dollar is once again king: Since the Great Recession, the Unites States’ economy has recovered better than any other major country’s: At the start of 2015, our currency was at an eleven-year high compared to those of other major countries, while the euro was at a nine-year low. Local currencies are down at least 10% against the January 2014 dollar in many popular travel destinations, including Mexico, Argentina, the euro zone, Sweden, Norway, and much of Africa. Parts of the world that not long ago were unaffordable for many are now within closer reach. Here are five places where the strong dollar will carry you surprisingly far in 2015:


Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan

Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan. Courtesy Paco

Since 2012, the yen has decreased in value by a whopping 43%. Hotels have raised their rates a bit, says Duff Trimble, our Trusted Travel Expert for Japan, but not nearly enough to keep up. This makes the country a bargain compared to what it cost to travel there a few years ago. You’ll find the best deals outside the peak periods for cherry blossoms (early April) and fall foliage (late November). Game for a last-minute getaway? Why not try skiing in Japan this winter.

To get the best possible trip, Ask Wendy.


Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia

Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia. Courtesy Cherri Briggs

South Africa & Namibia
A weakening rand and strong U.S. dollar mean that these two African nations are a steal for American travelers right now (the Namibian dollar is tied to the South African rand). Two years ago, $1 bought you about 8 rand; today, the rate is above 11.50. Over the course of a five-night safari, that difference could save a couple more than $3,500 at Royal Malewane, a luxury lodge situated on a private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park.

Read Insider’s Guides from some of our Trusted Travel Experts for Africa: Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein’s Insider’s Guide to South Africa Safaris, and Cherri Briggs’s Insider’s Guide to Namibia

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request forms to contact Nina and Dan, or Cherri.


Evening View, London, England

The view from Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Westminster and Westminster Bridge, towards the East as dusk is falling. Courtesy Visit Britain

Yes, the dollar buys more British pounds than it has in over a year. But that’s not the only reason that there’s value to be found in this perennially expensive city, says our Trusted Travel Expert for the United Kingdom, Jonathan Epstein. Several new five-star hotels have opened recently, and the competition has driven prices down: At the Milestone Hotel overlooking Kensington Palace, for instance, your fourth night is free (in a suite, the third night comes at no charge); at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, Epstein’s clients get 50% off a second room during certain times of year.

Read Jonathan’s Insider advice for London Heathrow overnight layovers.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Jonathan.


Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia

Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia. Courtesy Greg Tepper

With “diminished crowds and dramatically lower prices,” reports our Trusted Travel Expert for Russia, Greg Tepper, “now is the best time to visit Russia in many, many years.” Despite the current political climate, urban Russians are generally pro-Western, and personal safety is no more a concern than in Rome or Paris. If you want the best value, advises Tepper, start booking now: Hotels are at a huge discount, but many have already warned Tepper that they may soon start quoting rates in dollars or euros. Dance lovers would be wise to plan a trip during the Mariinsky International Ballet Festival in mid-March, when acclaimed dancers from around the world perform together in St. Petersburg. Tepper’s three-night programs to Moscow and St. Petersburg are the perfect introductions to these legendary cities; for WendyPerrin.com readers, the packages (including luxury hotel accommodations with breakfast, airport transfers, and one day’s private guided touring) start at $1,675 per person in Moscow and $1,200 per person in St. Petersburg—about 25% off what the same would have cost last year.

Read Greg’s Insider’s Guides to Moscow and to St. Petersburg.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Greg.


Even in the quiet year shoehorned between hosting duties for the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazil is a hot destination—but also a more affordable one for Americans, thanks to the most favorable exchange rate in almost a decade. From the megalopolis of Rio de Janeiro to the jungles of the Amazon, prices are about 20% lower than even last year, and the Brazilian real isn’t predicted to strengthen until 2016.

Read our Trusted Travel Expert Paul Irvine’s Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and to Trancoso, Brazil.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Paul.


Where are you headed this year?