Idea Lab – Africa

At the heart of our office is an Idea Lab: a space in which we are constantly innovating, dreaming, and designing new ways to enhance your travels. It may be our network of contacts that allow us to bring all these ideas to life, but it is you – our clients – who keep us challenged and having fun. Whether your trip is straightforward, over-the-top, or anywhere in the middle, we are always in our lab and ready.

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Safari-Plus

Yes, safaris are in and of themselves wonderful. Yet there are ways we can enhance your experience by making it more personal and more insightful.

  • Private safari villa with your own ranger, tracker, game-viewing vehicle, butler, and chef for a completely flexible safari.
  • Camp out in Namibia with an expert wildlife conservationist to learn about the famous – and rare – desert lion. You will stay in a camp built just for you that will be dismantled upon your departure.
  • Face time with mountain gorillas – only 700 remaining in the world – in Rwanda.
  • Immersive multi-day elephant experience at a camp for rescued orphaned elephants in Kenya. These elephants are gradually being reintroduced into the wild and becoming integrated with wild elephants.
  • Spend time with the wild chimpanzees along Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, made famous by Jane Goodall and her discoveries that changed the way we understand primates and their “human” qualities.
  • View game from a hot air balloon in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
  • Safari on horseback in Botswana, Kenya, or Tanzania.
  • Up-close-and-personal safari on foot – yes, on foot – in Zambia.
  • Spend a highly-enlightening day with an anti-poaching canine unit on a training mission including scouts, guides, trackers, and dogs.
  • Private boat on the Chobe River at sunset with cocktails and canapés while watching massive herds of elephants drink, bathe, and play in the river.
  • Spend time with wild meerkats, who, if you are patient, will come within inches of you.
  • Join a rhino research and protection team on a tag-and-release mission.
  • With one of the leading experts in the field, visit the unique plant kingdom – there are only seven in the world – that can be found only in the Western Cape of South Africa.
  • Bird watching with an expert ornithologist. For serious birdwatchers.
  • Witness huge – and highly endangered – leatherback and loggerhead turtles lay up to 100 eggs in the sandy coast of the Indian Ocean off South Africa (November through February). Green turtles (chelonian mydas, but only their mothers call them that) do the same off the coast of Kenya (January through May).
  • And then there are the lemurs of Madagascar.

And if this isn’t enough, there’s lots of Safari-Plus in Adventure + Adrenaline.


Food and Wine

  • Lunch with the owners of one of South Africa’s finest wine estates in their private home.
  • Lunch with the scion of the family who first brought tea (whose production is now Kenya’s most important source of foreign income) to Kenya on their tea plantation in highlands outside Nairobi.
  • The chef’s table in Johannesburg’s top restaurant. Also available at a top restaurant in Cape Town, whose chef is one of South Africa’s most recognized.
  • Bush cooking lessons while on safari featuring ingredients from the savanna.
  • Private hands-on home cooking workshop focusing on Cape Malay food with an author and chef often credited with the revival of this most Capetonian of cuisines.
  • Workshop on food and wine pairing with a former faculty member of Cape Wine Academy.
  • Curated seasonal tasting menu in a private home in the Winelands with one of South Africa’s top chefs.
  • Cook with one of the stars and judges of South Africa’s “MasterChef,” who will also be your dinner companion.
  • Immersion into the spice culture of Zanzibar, including local markets, spice plantations, and rural farms.
  • Day trip from Cape Town to meet South Africa’s top foraging chef and dine at his five-table restaurant.
  • Market visit and cooking lesson in Kenya, focusing on the original “fusion” cuisine – Swahili, encompassing African, Indian, Asian, Arab, British, and Portuguese influences.
  • Tour the Cape Winelands on bicycle or horseback.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bring The Kids

  • Snorkel with seahorses (and plenty of other exotic fish) near a small island off the coast of Mozambique.
  • Kalahari Bushmen will teach you how to make your own fire and other survival skills of the desert.
  • Visit rescued orphan elephants at an elephant reserve and get to know each elephant’s personality as you watch them go about their lives.
  • Drumming session with a traditional African drummer in Kenya.
  • Visit a lemur rescue center in Madagascar; if you stand still, the lemurs may even climb on you.
  • Sea-kayaking among African penguins.
  • Insider visit to endangered animal rescue center in South Africa, including the possibility of petting cheetah cubs.
  • Conduct a soccer workshop in a township outside of Cape Town for local kids in an after-school project.
  • Learn to surf at Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town.
  • Monster mountain scooter riding in an indigenous forest in the Drakensburg (South Africa).
  • Chocolate making lessons in one of South Africa’s most famous chocolatiers. Bring it home for your friends and teachers.

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are family-friendly. Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Adventure + Adrenaline

In Africa, what isn’t?

  • Private helicopter ride over the dramatic landscape of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, which is teeming with wild animals.
  • Sandboarding on the dunes of the world’s oldest desert in Namibia.
  • Private shark dive with a well-known documentary filmmaker for National Geographic and Discovery. He is a leading expert on the Great White Shark and Southern Right Whales. In season, you will also view these whales and their calves.
  • Join one of the world’s top marine biologists for a dive or snorkel through the untainted waters and beautifully intact reefs of Sodwana Bay, consistently rated one of the Top Ten dive sites in the world and home to 1,200 species of fish.
  • Full moon (monthly) bike ride around Cape Town with locals.
  • Scuba diving with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world – over 40 feet at times – at Mafia Island in Tanzania.
  • ATV on the immense salt pans of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.
  • Windsurfing in Langebaan (South Africa), routinely rated among the world’s Top Ten destinations.
  • Kitesurfing at Malindi or Watamu in Kenya.
  • Watching enormous Southern Right Whales from a low-flying, small, privately chartered aircraft as they arrive on their annual trek from the Antarctic to calve and rear their young in South Africa’s warm Indian Ocean waters.
  • Sleep out in an open treehouse in Greater Kruger.
  • Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls.
  • Horseback safari in the Kalahari Desert or the Okavango Delta.
  • Private boat on Lake Victoria in Kenya or along the Chobe River in Botswana.
  • ATV through a safari reserve packed with wildlife including wild buffalo and hippos, while being “hunted” by your family and friends, shooting paintballs at you from a helicopter above.
  • Horseback riding along idyllic Noordhoek Beach outside of Cape Town.
  • ATV to a special location set up just for you, in Namibia’s Moon Valley – one of the oldest places on the earth’s crust – for cocktails and dinner.
  • Diving in the “Cathedral” in Mauritius, where it is common for dolphins to join you.
  • Elephant riding at Victoria Falls.
  • Spend time at the top training facility for runners in Kenya, in the highlands of western Kenya, where most of the Kenyan world-record holders train. Meet the next generation of Olympians.
  • Climb Kilimanjaro. If you dare.

And if this isn’t enough, there’s lots of Adventure + Adrenaline in Safari-Plus.


Local and Tribal Encounters

  • Visit extremely isolated tribal communities in Southern Madagascar.
  • Check out very local town markets in Tanzania.
  • Visit with the nomadic Himba people in Namibia.
  • Encounter with San Bushmen in Botswana, including trance dancing.
  • Visits to remote villages in Swaziland.
  • Entrée to the Maasai Olympics, a conservation program designed as a celebration of the passage to manhood, in which the traditional rites of killing a lion are replaced by competitions of spear throwing, sprinting, and the Maasai high jump, all part of traditional Maasai culture.
  • Visit to semi-nomadic Samburu people in northern Kenya.
  • Deepen your understanding of the origins of the oldest tribe of all: the human tribe. Meet the director of a research program at a major American institution for an insider’s look at fossils found in Kenya that date back three million years, and some of the oldest tools ever found.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Upliftment and Empowerment Projects

Heritage Tours supports a number of locally conceived and managed not-for- profit empowerment projects to uplift people one by one.

Your trip with us already supports these projects. Our connection to them allows you the opportunity, should you wish, to visit some of the projects and meet some of the visionaries who run them and the often equally remarkable people who benefit from their programs. Visit Responsibility Matters.

  • Meet locals involved in micro-projects and NGO’s in South African townships, including: after-school programs teaching dance, music, and art, a project converting abandoned lots and organic gardens, teaching entrepreneurship, a program creating safe spaces for girls and women, programs for HIV-affected kids, children’s shelters, special-needs programs, LGBT programs, senior citizen programs, anti-drug efforts, and programs to raise environmental awareness.
  • Your kids can conduct a soccer workshop in an after-school soccer project in one of the townships. There’s nothing like bonding over a soccer ball.
  • Visit a women’s group comprised of members of different tribal groups in Kenya, whose goals are educating women about environmental conservation and sustainable practices.
  • Cooking lesson in a not-for-profit school set up for locals in one of the townships near Cape Town. This school has placed well over 1,000 graduates in local restaurants and hotel kitchens.
  • Volunteer in a variety of local projects.
  • Spend time with a former ANC freedom fighter and a former political prisoner of Robben Island to hear his personal experiences and gain insight into today’s South Africa.
  • Dinner with an impassioned South African gentleman who left a successful business career to provide guidance and strategy to a number of NGOs in South Africa.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


The Arts

  • Private gallery tour and studio visits in Cape Town with a world-renowned artist whose work is in the collection of Museum of Modern Art in New York and most major art museums.
  • Coffee (Kenyan, of course) in Nairobi with the directors of the Trust for African Rock Art, who have spent their lives documenting Rock Art sites all over Africa, including some very remote locations.
  • Drinks and private gallery tour with the owner of South Africa’s oldest gallery.
  • Visit the atelier of South Africa’s most famous living artist.
  • Tour focusing on Graffiti Art, an art form that is becoming newly recognized in Johannesburg.
  • Photograph an abandoned mining ghost town in Namibia with a renowned photographer.
  • Fly into one of most important collection of prehistoric art (area inhabited for over 100,000 years) at the remote UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tsodilo Hills in Botswana.
  • Spend a morning at a residency program for young artists outside of Johannesburg.
  • Private shopping guide to introduce you to the hopping fashion and design scene in Cape Town.
  • “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” exploration of Gabarone (Botswana) following in the footsteps of Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved Mma Precious Ramotswe and “investigating” her insights into contemporary Africa.
  • Expert-led tour of a museum in Johannesburg with the world’s largest collection of African art.

We have plenty more up the sleeves of our painters’ smocks. Ask us.


Jewish Heritage

The Jewish community in Sub-Saharan Africa dates back to the 1600’s and spreads to all corners of the continent. The most prominent community is in South Africa where members of the community have included Nobel-laureate in Literature Nadine Gordimer, anti-apartheid politician Helen Suzman, anti-apartheid military leader Joe Slovo, Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and of course, Albie Sachs.

For more about our own connections to Jewish heritage, please visit Jewish Heritage: It’s All Personal

  • Dinner with Albie Sachs, a former anti-apartheid fighter, Constitutional Court Judge, the co-author of the Bill of Rights and a member of the Jewish community in South Africa.
  • Meet leaders of the Lemba community in Southern Africa. The Lemba are a tribal group with DNA links to the Jewish community and whose traditions include modified kashrut, Shabbat, and ritual circumcision. You can also meet a professor who has conducted research on the Lemba.
  • Entrée to the historic Portuguese synagogue, built in 1926, of Maputo, in Mozambique.
  • Meet the curator of the Irma Stern Museum. Stern was South Africa’s preeminent painter of the first half of the 20th century; her works have sold for well over 3 million dollars.
  • Erev Shabbat with the Jewish community of Nairobi, Kenya.
  • A look at the quirky Jewish heritage of Livingstone, Zambia.
  • Visit Cape Town’s Great Synagogue (1905), the original shul (1863), the Jewish Museum, and Holocaust Memorial, dedicated by Nelson Mandela in 2000.
  • Entrée to St. Martin’s Jewish Cemetery in Mauritius, where 127 Jews of the 1,670 detained on the island by the British during World War II are buried.
  • Africa’s only kosher wine estate. Trust us; it’s much better than your bubbie’s Manischewitz.
  • Kosher safari arrangements. You can leave your tuna fish at home.

Oy. We have so much more up our sleeves.


Golf

Golf in Africa? Really?

  • Well, there are plenty of opportunities. Kenya boasts several impressive courses including Windsor Country Club, which lies amongst coffee fields and the Karen Country Club, named after Karen Blixen (“Out of Africa”) and built across her former estate at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Royal Nairobi golf club dates back to 1906.
  • Off the mainland, watch out for the water hazards and aim for the island of Mauritius with about 20 courses designed to intertwine sport and leisure. Most notable is Le Touessrok, on Mauritius, which is on its own island and offers a unique African island beauty.
  • And then there is South Africa, which offers some of the finest golf courses and resorts in the world. There is no other place on earth where you can be on the fairway about to play your second shot while watching a giraffe cross in front of you.
  • South Africa has also produced some of the world’s finest golfers, which bears testimony to its golfing culture and facilities. Its best courses are in the areas around Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, and around Johannesburg. Other excellent courses follow the coast of the Indian Ocean along the Garden Route and up to the Wild Coast.
  • Play at South Africa’s finest courses with your very own PGA professional golfer and coach.
  • We can arrange an exclusive visit to Ernie Els trophy room at his estate in the Winelands. Return home with some signed goodies and a few bottles of his private bin.
  • Take a helicopter ride with the resident pro to the top of famous Hanglip Peak. Tee off at the “Extreme 19th.” The tee box is 1,150 feet above the green, which is in the shape of Africa. Be the first to score a hole in one and walk away with 1 million rand (about $100,000), making this your most profitable vacation ever.
  • A round at members-only Leopard Creek, considered one of the top two courses in South Africa. It is usually only available to its members. Play amongst the wildlife while watching elephants bathe in the river alongside you.

We have plenty more in our golf bags. Ask us.


Celebrations

  • Pop the question over a champagne lunch on a sandbar in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
  • Seal the deal with one of South Africa’s leading jewellers, one of the few licensed to cut and polish for DeBeers.
  • Toast getting through your wedding on a romantic wooden dhow as the sun sets off the coast of Zanzibar.
  • Celebrate your first anniversary with a romantic breakfast on Livingstone Island, at the very edge of Victoria Falls.
  • Celebrate your child’s or grandchild’s graduation at a luxury villa on a private safari with your own expert ranger, tracker, vehicle, chef, and butlers.
  • Elegant anniversary dinner in the manor house of a 350-year-old wine estate.
  • Invite your 49 closest friends for your 50th birthday celebration on the dunes of the world’s oldest desert (in Namibia) with African marimbas, traditional fire spinners, a local choir, traditional Herero ladies, and camels. Feast on fresh Namibian oysters and imported French champagne.
  • Give your wife a 60th birthday present: face time with mountain gorillas – only 700 remaining in the world – in Rwanda. It’s not such a terrible present for yourself, either.
  • Any excuse for a celebration with your foodie friends is good enough for us when it includes dinner cooked by South Africa’s leading chef, just for you, in a private home in the Winelands.

Many – in fact, most – suggestions in other categories are great for celebrating a special occasion. Plus, we have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


Bragging Rights: Signature Experiences

In Africa, isn’t it all over the top?

  • Tea with Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
  • Helicopter over and peer down into the spectacular and active volcano of Ol Doinyo Lengai, “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language.
  • A drink with Zelda Le Grange, the author of “Good Morning Mr. Mandela” and his long-time personal assistant and confidante.
  • A highly exclusive visit to the South Africa’s presidential estate, Groote Schuur, the site of secret negotiations between Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid and the venue for official state events.
  • Dinner with F.W. de Klerk, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the radical apartheid-era leader who realized that a new, democratic South Africa was in the country’s best interest.
  • Private dinner and tasting with the scion of one of South Africa’s most eminent wine families in their private 350 year old Cape Dutch home.
  • Dinner cooked just for you by South Africa’s top chef in a private home.
  • Visit the atelier of South Africa’s most famous living artist.
  • Face time with mountain gorillas – only 700 remaining in the world – in Rwanda.
  • Private shark dive with a well-known documentary filmmaker for National Geographic and Discovery Channel. He is a leading expert on the Great White Shark and Southern Right Whales. In season, you will also view these whales and their calves.
  • Meet an individual whose (very well-known) name is virtually synonymous with discovering our ancient remains in East Africa.
  • Climb Dune 7 at Sossusvlei, in Namibia. At 1,256 feet, it is one of the Top Ten dunes in the world. We won’t tell anyone if you don’t make it all the way.

We have plenty more up our sleeves. Ask us.


And, in case you were wondering, some of our favorites

We are always asked. We passed the question around to our staff in New York, our team in Africa, and some of our top guides and specialists. Here are the answers.

  • Watching enormous southern right whales from the air as they arrive on the annual trek from the Antarctic to calve and rear their young in South Africa’s warm Indian Ocean waters.
  • Private boat on the Chobe River, in Botswana, at sunset with cocktails and canapés while watching massive herds of elephant drink, bathe, and play in the river.
  • Private dinner with the curator of one of the finest galleries in Africa and some of South Africa’s most prominent artists.
  • Lunch with Albie Sachs, a former anti-apartheid fighter, Constitutional Court judge and the co-author of the Bill of Rights.
  • Spend time with a former ANC freedom fighter and a former political prisoner of Robben Island to learn of his personal experiences and for his insight into today’s South Africa.
  • Exclusive opportunity to meet the owner of one of South Africa’s best known diamond manufacturers, one of a handful licensed to cut and polish for DeBeers. In his headquarters, not open to the public, he will show you transformation of the rough diamond into a shaped and polished stone.
  • Immersion into the spice culture of Zanzibar, including local markets, spice plantations, and rural farms.
  • Private shopping guide to introduce you to the hopping fashion and design scene in Cape Town.
  • ATV to a special location set up just for you, in Namibia’s Moon Valley – one of the oldest places on the earth’s crust, for cocktails and dinner.
  • Game viewing from a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara.
  • Spend a highly enlightening day with an anti-poaching canine unit on a training mission including scouts, guides, trackers, and dogs.
  • Full moon monthly bike ride around Cape Town with locals.