Thursday, 21 September 2017

Youth Tourism Conference 2017 - Port Elizabeth

Once a year, members of SAYTC (South African Youth Travel Confederation), get together for an Annual General Meeting (AGM). A conference is normally combined with this event, to give members time to explore the destination where the meeting is hosted, and to do networking with other members. The destination changes every year, often giving members an opportunity to explore a new region and giving members that are based in that region some exposure.

Activities, trips, tours, culinary experiences, culture, interesting talks and great entertainment goes hand in hand with these conferences. Hosting South Africa's youth tourism leaders is a great opportunity for the host city to pull out all the stops, to showcase why they are a great travel destination. 

As you can imagine, a multi-day event like this is a lot of fun!

Many members in the industry started out over a decade ago, while others have just opened up. Long-lasting friendships and business relationships have been made, and new ones are being made every year. 

This membership-driven organization represents operators and addresses the concerns and interests of all operators throughout South Africa. Members are represented in the following sectors:
  • Backpacking South Africa
  • Education South Africa 
  • Tours & Transport South Africa
  • Volunteering South Africa
  • Tourism services

This year we were hosted by our Eastern Cape members, in the city of Port Elizabeth. The 3 day event started on Tuesday, 12 September (also Chrissy's birthday) and ended on Thursday, 14 September (Hendrik's birthday) 😀 This was also our biggest conference to date, with more than 200 people attending!

Day 1:

William joined us for his first SAYTC conference so we had a busy morning, running up and down ramps at the airport, after our little Stomper. 

Opening day included an "Amazing Race" where teams did various excursions in and around the city, including beer tasting, local food, Addo Elephant National Park, boat cruises and much more. Members arrived throughout the day, from all over South Africa. By the evening we were all together having craft beers, while food trucks made sure we didn't go hungry. 

Day 2:

Time for the official AGM, hosted at the Summerstrand Hotel. We got serious, with a formal setting, a panel of speakers and open discussions about important matters arising in our industry. Just as the day started to feel too long, we had some delightful entertainment by Joshua from Xhosa Talks:

When business was done for the day, the guys from Lungile Lodge Backpackers took us to Richmond Hill, an up-and-coming area in Port Elizabeth, to soak up the afternoon sun with a drink and some great laughs and conversation.

The evening was fun-filled as we were celebrating our industry friends, Baz Bus's 21st birthday! We were hosted at The Dockside for this get together. An awesome venue, with lots of space for dancing, great music, free shooters and fantastic selection of food trucks for dinner.

Day 3: 

After a late night, we were up bright and early for the last day of conferencing. This day was mainly set aside for 'speed dating'. Tables are set up and all members have an opportunity to display their product or to browse around through the room, visiting different stands and learning about the products. Wineflies took this opportunity to put up a stand where people could sample some wine, paired with chocolate. Naturally this became the gathering point and the most visited stall 😁🍷

The grand finalè, was a dress up party: Unique Film Characters. For a bunch of mostly extroverts, this was a great theme. It gave members a chance to express themselves in the most creative ways. We had Elvis, Marylin Munroe, The Joker, Top Gun...and many more! Wineflies hosted the event, and Francois opened it with a bang when he popped the bubbly with a sword!

We experienced Port Elizabeth in all its glory with a windstill, warm evening at the Rooftop Garden Bar. The highlight of the night was when we all competed in a rap-off! We had to choose a name for our team, write a rap song and then perform it as a group, on stage. Even though it's no secret that none of us can quit our day jobs to become a rapper, it was great to see the spirit in the room!

Day 4:

Although the conference ended, the party did not... On the Friday, the celebrations started a little ways down the road in Jeffreys Bay. Island Vibe Backpackers is also celebrating their 21 years, this year, so most of us made the trip to go congratulate them in person. Initially, this was NOT part of the plan, but when Togeda and I woke up on Friday morning, we felt like we will miss out too much!
Again, we were treated to great food, amazing local artists performing in the bar area and catching up with our friends. The energy did not fade, and again there was dancing until the wee hours of the morning. 

Finally, after a huge breakfast, it was time to bid farewell. The time with our partners in the industry, was thoroughly enjoyed and the whole event was very well organized. Thank you to our Eastern Cape chair, Aidan, and his team for organizing this awesome conference and to Loren & Ntsiko for making our last night with the family so special. Thanks also to Hendrik & Chrissy for flying almost our whole office team over, to attend the conference!

We look forward to next year!

Cindy Schalkwyk

Monday, 28 August 2017

Water shortage in the Western Cape of South Africa

The Western Cape of South Africa is facing a severe water shortage.

Over the last few years, our dam levels have gradually dropped, and this year, the Western Cape was classified as a “disaster area”.

The City of Cape Town and the National Department of Water and Sanitation measures dam levels to check how much water is available for the region and whether water restrictions are necessary for residents and businesses.

Institution of Level 5 water restrictions have been implemented in Cape Town. Residents have been given a target for daily usage of 87 litres. Watch this quick video to see how much 87 litres really is

The Reality as of October 2017:

What's the state of Western Cape dams?

The province is supplied with water by 44 main dams. These dams collectively hold a maximum storage capacity of 1870.4 million cubic meters.

To date, many of the dams in our province have reported levels drastically lower than levels recorded at the same time during previous years. The average storage across the province on 4 October is 37.3%

Earthstompers as a business strives to do our part for water conservation, and encourages our guests to use a minimum amount of water when visiting.

What Earthstompers does to save water:

Transport – We wash our vehicles between tours only, and we use a car wash that has a grey-water system (collected rain water). Even though some dust might gather on the outside of the car, we will keep windows and inside of the vehicle clean on tour.

Accommodation – We encourage our accommodation partners to use water-responsible practices.

The tour – Our guides brief all clients about the water shortage & how they can decrease their usage, while in on tour and in South Africa.

What can you do as a traveler in South Africa, to save water?

Wash not, waste not

Most travelers know that hotels give patrons the option of not having their towels laundered daily. This is such an easy and convenient way to help save water; simply hang your towel up instead of leaving it in the bath or shower and you contribute to massive water and electricity savings.

Turn off the taps 

Many people brush their teeth while leaving the water running – it’s just a quick brush after all. What they don’t realize is that keeping the tap open can waste up to six liters per minute. The same goes for shaving; filling the basin leads to a significant reduction in water wastage.

Shorter showers

An eight minute shower uses about 120 litres of water. Sticking to shorter showers still gets the job done, but with less water wastage. Showers generally use less water than baths, and so the Western Cape government has requested that people always shower instead of using baths, and when showering, to keep it to two minutes or less.

Think before you flush the toilet

Only flush the toilet when necessary. We have a saying; If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down :)

Throw tissues in the dustbin, not the toilet

By practicing these tips, tourists can dramatically reduce water consumption, without being inconvenienced.


City of Cape Town:

Western Cape Government:

Ground Up:

News 24:

Love Cape Town:

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

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.

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.


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.