Friday, 21 July 2017

Nelson Mandela Day



Every year on 18 July, the day Nelson Mandela was born, individuals and businesses around the world, mark Nelson Mandela International Day by making a difference in their communities. Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for everyone to take action and inspire change. For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity. In his honor, every year on this day, people around the world dedicate "67 minutes" of their time. As a company, we got involved in various ways, this week.

We partnered with an amazing project,
based on the Garden Route, The Precious Tree Project https://www.facebook.com/pg/precioustreeproject/about/?ref=page_internal

The Precious Tree Project concentrates on creating patches of Forest, by planting indigenous and endemic Forest Trees in The Garden Route area of South Africa. The Garden Route, although lush with vegetation has only 30% of its indigenous forest left. 

During the recent “Knysna Fires”, the forest took a massive hit. The devastation is evident and the forest suffered. Many homes were completely burnt down and some residents lost everything in the fire. http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/knysna-suffers-the-fury-of-fire-20170611-2

Despite the devastation, there is a positive attitude in the air. Help is coming from all over South Africa (and the world) and people on the Garden Route are stronger together, than ever before. Rebuilding and picking up the pieces of this historical region and tourist hotspot. This forest is very special to us and forms the heart of our tour, plus two of our guides and Hendrik, the owner, were born on the Garden Route! Needless to say, we are doing as much as we can, to help the progress of this reforestation process. 



Our guests on tour, had a few opportunities to get involved and do their part for Mandela day. Some guests assisted with the reforestation project, getting their hands dirty and planting some new saplings in the damaged part of the forest. There was also an opportunity to volunteer at a local distribution center, receiving and sorting the much needed donated supplies, coming from all parts of the country, for the fire victims.

We are running a tree donation campaign for this project. You can donate a tree at R180. This funds the tree and the crucial aftercare, giving these young saplings the best chance of growing into a mighty forest, once again.

Earthstompers has donated 1 tree for every guest we took on tour, during Mandela Week. Since we launched this campaign, a week ago, we have donated 20 trees :D Yay!




Our Cape Town-based part of the team, headed to Khayelitsha township, close to Cape Town, to assist with the refurbishment of a classroom, at Kuyasa Educare Centre. The roof got taken off by the wind, during the “Cape Storm”, which was the same storm as the “Knysna Fires” – all of these disasters, caused by abnormally strong gale force winds, we experienced in South Africa during that week.



At Kuyasa, we worked on the damaged classroom, making it as new and neat as we could manage. Cleaning up, peeling old plastic from the walls, painting the ceiling boards and starting to get the roof back up. This project is run by our friends in volunteering, African Impact. They do amazing work, all over Africa, in a very sustainable and responsible way. African Impact runs a two week project based in Cape Town, where volunteers can do one week volunteer work at the Cape Town project and then go on a Garden Route tour with us, during their second week in South Africa. What an awesome opportunity, right?! The feedback for this 2 week package has been fantastic and this product is definitely increasing in demand.

We have had such an exciting and impactful week, being part of these various projects and getting involved, hands-on. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve been getting from past guests and people following us on social media. People donating trees and guests on tour, volunteering their time to help us build a better South Africa.


Thank you to our late President Nelson Mandela, for being the inspiration behind such a big movement. On this day we are reminded. On this day, we all stand together with one mission; to create a better future. Every day should be Nelson Mandela Day.

Cindy

Monday, 10 July 2017

Incredible Safari Experiences in the malaria-free, Eastern Cape







We can brag with the amazing offers we have, for clients to add some dedicated safari time at the end of their Garden Route tour with Earthstompers.


All the lodges we use, boasts excellent terrain for game viewing of the big 5 and other animals, as well as awesome lodges and service, ranging from 3 star to 5 star.


We have partnered with various Game Lodges and Private Game Reserves in the malaria free Eastern Cape. The ladies in the office recently got treated to a weekend of site inspections at some of these luscious lodges.


Amakhala Private Game Reserve was our home for 2 nights. We were impressed by the intimate feeling of the  lodges and the warm welcome we received. We felt right at home in our Family room at Woodbury Lodge, which is located on a bit of an incline, overlooking the – what seems to be - endless grasslands and valleys.

Up bright and early for morning game drive, followed by breakfast. We took some time to explore the area around Amakhala and viewing their other lodges/camps, which we didn’t have time to stay at. We are always looking for interesting shops or farmstalls, for our guests to have breaks along the road.


















Quatermain’s 1920’s Tented Camp is the perfect accommodation type for people who don’t want walls, separating them from the nature that is all around them.

This camp is owner run by Riaan Brand & his wife Julie. There are only 3 tents, with a maximum occupancy of 2 people per tent so it is super intimate and cosy. The camp is located in an area of the reserve where there are no predators, which means that the camp doesn’t need any fencing! This is great news for guests, as they have freedom to walk around in the reserve unaccompanied.

Here, you really feel like you stepped into the 1900’s; you drink coffee from a tin mug, sit around the fire sharing tales with new friends, and feel one with nature. So much so, that you feel that in a parallel universe, you could live like this forever!


Next stop, Kariega Private Game Reserve.

Lounge at Main Lodge









Buffet style breakfast, daily







We had a beautiful 3 bedroom cottage at Main Lodge. Main Lodge is the largest lodge at Kariega, with 24 available cottages. Cottages are available in different sizes, some even have a small splash pool.


The main lodge, where dinners are served, is fantastic. Leather couches and fires to relax at, a big swimming pool with tanning chairs and unbelievable buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner.


The reserve is split up in 2 sections, separated by a public road. You get to visit both sides of the reserve on your two daily game drives. All lodges also offer a “boma night” which means that guests have a traditional style braai (all food prepared on the fire) if they stay for more than 1 night.

Most importantly, we had incredible animal encounters. Among plenty of great game viewing, a magic moment, was the Black Rhinocerous bull, that we were so lucky to find in the valleys of Amakhala! He still has his (very big) horn, proudly displayed. It's heartbreaking, that it is now a novelty to see a Rhino with his horn still in tact! :( 
My favourite sighting of the trip must be the herd of elephants we stumbled upon at Kariega. The family were moving through the thicket, browsing as they went. They were very vocal and energetic and they didn’t mind our presence at all! The little ones were continuously play-fighting and were hilarious to watch. The massive, young bull actually used our vehicle as a scratch post!!


Such an inspiring trip to have done! We feel rejuvenated and newly motivated to promote this beautiful country we call home.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Earthstompers Represents - 2017



We’ve had a very busy year so far, both on the road and in the office. All the more reason to keep exploring new business avenues to make sure we stay busy. 
We’ve grown exponentially in our Customized tours sector and our scheduled Garden Route & Addo tours have been very consistent.

We have grown so much that we’ve needed to hire yet another staff member to assist with tour planning. Welcome Togeda! She is no stranger to us, having worked in the industry for many years already. She started on 1 December and we literally threw her in the deep end. She has completely taken control of the situation and is now managing multiple things including our weekly tours, organizing guides and vehicles and managing our sister company; Cape Food & Wine. Looking back now, we have no idea how we did it without her!

We are attending all the big travel and tourism shows this year, always working towards attaining new agents and getting fresh ideas for our tours. We are especially looking into alternative and niche ideas for our customized tours

World Travel Market 19-21 April
WTM was once again an awesome experience. This year we shared a stand with South African Youth Travel. We only had a few scheduled meetings, but had a lot of interest and conversation from people passing by. 


I attended a few workshops that were really interesting. They guys from Instaeats did a workshop on how to optimize your Instagram account and following which I found very interesting and could apply to day-to-day marketing for Earthstompers. 



I also attended the African Responsible Tourism Awards where five of our SAYTC members were nominated for awards. Four of them took prizes home of which one, Coffee Shack Backpackers, was voted one of the Overall Winners for Best Accommodation for Social inclusion. We’re super proud!

All in all we felt that the show was a success and we enjoyed attending. All the office staff had a turn to attend the show. We even had William at our stand on the Thursday. The whole team representing J 




We also attended most of the afternoon and evening events including a lovely opening party at the Grand Café and Beach, hosted by WTM. These are great fun and more importantly, a very casual way of networking and getting to know people in the industry.


 Indaba 16-18 May

We are attending Indaba next week, as a local Hosted Buyer. Thanks to SATSA and South African Tourism, we have been sponsored to attend Indaba 2017. There are some exciting new developments to expand the variety of products presented, like the "Hidden Gems" campaign.

A total of 90 small businesses or "Hidden Gems" from around South Africa have been selected to attend Indaba 2017. This initiative is funded by the National Department of Tourism through its Tourism Incentive Programme and is being executed by South African Tourism in partnership with the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA). 
It is aimed at broadening the variety of tourism products on the market while upskilling and empowering black-owned small enterprises operating in this sphere.- See more at: http://www.indaba-southafrica.co.za/news/INDABA-2017-ninety-hidden-gems-chosen-to-dazzle.aspx#sthash.BXEcueSF.dpuf

Youth Travel Conference 12-14 September
I have just registered for the Youth Travel Conference in September. This year it will be hosted by the Eastern Cape and will take place in Port Elizabeth. It sounds like our Eastern Cape friends are putting together an amazing conference for us. Looking forward!


Another VERY important and SUPER exciting announcement…Check out the awesome new branding on our buses #mybusiscoolerthanyours





Other than that, we are loving our new offices overlooking the driving range in Somerset West. It’s a big change from the tiny desk in Hendrik & Chrissy’s lounge that I used to work from when I started (only 18 months ago!).





A lot of traveling for me this month, so exciting! I'll keep you posted!

Safe Traveling
Cindy


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Earthstompers Year End

On Sunday we had our annual staff Christmas/New Years party. It was so exciting to have the ENTIRE team there, as this is the first time ever that this happened.  Our team has grown over the past year and now includes 4 guides, 4 office staff, a marketing position and a part time bookkeeper and babysitter for prince William J


Hendrik & Chrissy organized an amazing excursion which we all thoroughly enjoyed. It’s no secret, we are all omnivore foodies and also Love us some good wine. 

The location could not have been chosen better.  We were booked
for a cooking demonstration at The Chef Tiaan Studio at the stunning Spier Estate between Stellenbosch and Somerset West.

The weather was supreme, the excitement levels high and the smells coming from Chef Tiaan’s kitchen, to die for! Chef Tiaan has a very relaxed manner around the kitchen, making you feel at home and like you’re an old friend visiting at his house. The space is creative and stylish, yet simple and comfortable. There is no doubt that he has serious skills on all fronts!


He started us off with bread, cold meats and cheese while he demonstrated how you create baby spinach snacks with puff pastry blankets. He made the whole process seem fun and like zero effort, while holding conversation and answering questions.


While we were munching away on the spinach pastries and enjoying our bubbly, he was already prepping the dessert; Chocolate Fondant topped with strawberry sorbet and sprinkled with crushed almond brittle – all home made in front of our eyes. The sorbet is left to chill in the mixer while we move on to the veggies for the main course.
Who knew carrots aren’t always orange! Purple, orange and white (rainbow) carrots were lightly boiled before roasting in the oven with some broccoli, covered in honey and herbs. Mmmmmm. Potatoes were salt roasted – fascinating and very fun to do!


The big event, the meat!! We roasted some fresh pepper and coriander corns and crushed them. Covering the whole fillet with liberal amounts of olive oil, you dip the meat in the crushed pepper and coriander and let it sizzle and seal in a hot pan for a few minutes before popping it in the oven for exactly 18 minutes says Chef Tiaan ;) This was served with a delicious, creamy mushroom sauce.


*Tips from Tiaan: To test how your meat is faring in the oven, stick a knife in and leave it for a few seconds. Take it out and hold the blade against your lower lip to feel the temperature. If it is still cold, your meat is undercooked. If it is too hot, you’ve overcooked it.  Remember that the meat’s temperature rises with 10 degrees when you remove it from the oven and it carries on cooking! The blade should be warm only, then it is ready.


Last but not least was the preparation of the salad. Easy, chunky, no fuss and frills but absolutely gorgeous and delicious!


The highlight of the day was eating this delicious meal. Every single piece of this day was perfect. The food, the presentation thereof, the wine and of course the company!


Thanks to Tiaan for sharing how everyday people like us, can cook like that!































Saturday, 10 December 2016

Kruger National Park safari extension option, coming soon!



In the past year and a half we have worked hard on expanding on our safari extension packages. Our guests have the option combine their Garden Route & Addo tour with some more in depth safari time on a private game reserve of their choice. We have partnered with a few of our favorite reserves in the malaria free Eastern Cape and are now branching out to offer safari extensions in the biggest National Park in South Africa, Kruger National Park.

 I just got back from Kruger earlier this week, after doing a 3 day educational safari to see how we  can link it up with our packages. Everything was arranged for us. I got picked up from the airport (OR Tambo, Johannesburg) and transferred to a lodge close by for the night. The next day (day 1) is the transfer to Kruger. This takes about 5-6 hours. You arrive in time for your first game drive that afternoon, followed by an awesome dinner. The days start bright and early with a snack and coffee before the sunrise game drive after which you have breakfast. Every day includes the morning- and afternoon game drives, breakfast and dinner.

 Kruger National Park is not only the biggest, but also the oldest National Park in South Africa, with a surface area of 19,485 km²! It is so big, it feels like a country in itself! As you drive through the park, the scenery and vegetation is constantly changing. Some areas have rivers and lush trees, some parts are wide and open with Acacia trees dotting the horizon and other parts have big rock hills and winding roads, giving you a birds’ eye view of the veld below. We had plenty of game encounters over the 3 days, including; hyenas, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo, kudu, impala, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, tortoise, elephant, giraffe and bush babies.

        
Besides the awesome game, which is the whole reason to visit Kruger, we also had fantastic, local food! We got spoiled with a bush braai on the first evening. Tables were set up in the middle of the veld, surrounded by candles and fires, with our food being prepared very traditionally on the open fire. When we started getting ready to leave, we spotted the hyenas lying about 50m away … A very exciting dinner, indeed!



We were there over summer so it was extremely hot (35-40 degrees celcius!) Each person or pair had their own hut (room) which was very comfortable, each fitted with its own air conditioning, en suite bathroom and a small kitchen space outside.  All rooms come in twin room setup, no double beds.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and am very excited to be offering this to our guests in the near future!