“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.
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