Q&A with Luxury Safaris travel consultant Bianca Smith

Bianca joined Luxury Safaris in 2013 and has become an invaluable member of the team since then – fulfilling a range of different roles, from executive assistant to our founder Pieter Geldenhuys and office administrator to travel consultant and tour guide. We chatted to her to find out a bit more about her role, and what she loves most about the tourism industry in South Africa.

What does your average day entail?

Every day is different! I alternate between admin and consulting at the office as Pieter’s Executive Assistant, and my guiding duties. An office day is 10am – 6pm (to avoid traffic) with after hours duties on rotation. A touring day will see me leave for the hotel at 8am to pick up clients, and for most of our trips around Cape Town I’ll be back around 5pm. Shark Cage Diving trips, however, can sometime start at 3.30am in the morning! I spend my day mostly chatting to our clients and educating them about Cape Town and South Africa. If on tour, it’s verbal, if consulting beforehand, then it’s mostly via email.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

This is an easy one to answer! I love it when my clients are really interested and engage with me! Sometimes it’s hard to build an initial rapport with clients, but when it works, you can feel the appreciation from them and it almost becomes more like showing friends around. We believe in being hosts not tour guides, and so far I’m lucky that mostly awesome guests have come my way.

In the office, I consult on the Luxury Safaris bookings, and I love finding a way to satisfy a client’s requirements and closing the deal! For example I just agreed terms with a family from Lebanon for an 18-day trip encompassing Cape Town, the Garden Route and Johannesburg. This one is interesting because they are doing two safari parks on the Garden Route.

What do you think differentiates Luxury Safaris from the other luxury boutique operators?

We want to simplify the planning process by working with a small range of products, focused on the “must see” areas in Southern Africa. Our most popular combo is, predictably, Cape Town, Kruger and Victoria Falls. There are a million other price and quality options out there, but we have chosen to work with a few key partners that comprehensively service our needs. We consult with our clients, who often don’t understand the logistical challenges involved in ticking off all the items on the dream holiday checklist. I pride myself on doing a lot of “recce” work to make sure that our properties are consistent with our values and our luxury offering. So in short: quality plus simplicity.

What is your favourite luxury lodge in South Africa?

We’re a big fan of the More Group and the Lion Sands properties – their lodges are amazing! But it’s quite a mission to get there from Cape Town if your time and money is limited. I think Sanbona and particularly Dwyka Tented Camp on the Garden Route offer an amazing experience as well. In terms of wildlife, it’s not Kruger, but it’s pretty good. The accommodation is at a very similar level of luxury, and at a fraction of the price.

What is your favourite South African food and where would you take your clients to enjoy this dish? 

Bobotie is a South African institution – Delheim does a great ostrich Bobotie in the winelands, and in Cape Town: Mama Africa. This vibey restaurant in the backpackers district of Long Street has great live music, and an awesome African themed menu. To be honest though, any time I can find a good samoosa, that takes the prize. My favourite pregnancy food! The best samoosas are found at local shops or street vendors – I like to tuck in with clients during a Cape Town city tour.

What is your favourite wine estate?

Delheim in Stellenbosch. I like the people, the estate is historic and gorgeous with a beautiful garden, and the lunch there is hearty and local. I love it. The owner, Spatz Sperling, was one of the pioneers of the Stellenbosch wine route. Along with its neighbours Muratie and Knorhoek, this is a little corner of paradise that one must visit on a trip to the winelands!

Which part of the Cape Point tour do you enjoy the most?

There are a number of great sights on the route, but a highlight for me is always the Cape Point Nature Reserve. I particularly like the diversity of animals in there, we regularly see baboons and ostriches, but if you’re lucky you can see all manner of antelope and even zebras sometimes.

What’s your favourite fine-dining restaurant?

Indochine at Del Aire Graff wine estate, on Helshoogte pass. It’s a 5-star luxury hotel with its own restaurant, with great views and an amazing Asian Fusion theme. The Graff restaurant as part of the main building is also wonderful, but I like the food at Indochine better!

As a host to luxury travellers in South Africa, do you have a good client story to share with us?

Well… there are a few, but I must admit that I do get odd client questions sometimes! You’d be surprised how regularly people ask me to show them the line in the ocean at Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic meet! One chap actually showed me pictures of the line of foam! Another client once pointed to a distant cloud covered hilltop and asked if that was Table Mountain and its tablecloth. We were standing on the top of Table Mountain after taking the Cable Car.  Sometimes you just need to bite your lip…

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