Liesel van Zyl - Product Manager
I grew up in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal - an area known as the 'dolphin coast' - and studied in Pietermaritzburg, a typical student town close to the Midlands region and the beautiful Drakensberg range. During my studies I lived and worked in Namibia on a game farm bordering Etosha.
I've lived in several other places but it's been Cape Town's people, diversity, mountains & coffee shops that ultimately won my heart!
I very quickly discovered at an early age that no amount of time set aside for travelling would ever be enough for me, so I decided to jump careers and work in travel and I've travelled constantly since! Aside from my upbringing by two avid lovers of travel, my passion for travel is fuelled by a deep desire to see the diversity of creation in different people and places; from little fishing villages up the West Coast of South Africa to the contrast of the beauty and slums of places like Brazil, Paris and Cape Town.
My favourite way of exploring an area has been to climb the highest (read reasonable, reachable) peak, dive the local seas (if there are any) and join the locals in exploring some of their favourite places and then well, just relaxing and absorbing the surroundings - something I'm becoming more and more fond of.
I love spending time with good friends, enjoying time out (read awed by God's creation) in nature (walking, hiking, picnics!), exploring new places, discovering little hidden gems locally and reading biographies and travelogues.
My favourite travel moments
Kayaking down the Amazon! Pony trekking in the Lesotho moutains, and being invited to participate in a 4 hour local village church service - what a special experience! Meeting Maria Bethania at a concert that I didn't know I was going to with someone I didn't know and no-one who spoke English! Snorkelling right off the beach at Ephelia in Mahe, Seychelles and swimming with manta rays!
Diving with whale shark, manta rays & turtles in Mozambique and white-water rafting down the Zambezi. Visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Berlin - I just happened to be there when they were housing a part of the exhibition outside of New York for the first time in history! Seeing and hearing the call of the fish eagle - I remember every single time - and of course, witnessing the wildebeest migration at Ndutu Plains in the Serengeti.
Some African travel advice
in South Africa, don't be afraid to explore; the locals are friendly and the roads are great - just be wise about it like you would in your own country or anywhere else in the world. Ask the locals about their favourite spots from quirky coffee shops to beautiful mountain trails - there are so many gems all around you that generally aren't 'on the map' - just try to travel in a group, rent a crowd if you have to! Sample the wines and local restaurants - they're excellent! Further afield, trust who you book & travel with & get informed before you go, Africa is safest & most memorably experienced on a tailored journey, by experts who know what your individual interests and expectations are. And finally, come back! There is always more to see.
Where I'd love to go next
In Africa: Gorongosa, Mozambique - a fabulous gems. South Luangwa and Kafue, Zambia - for my family roots and the amazing walking and canoeing safaris. Also on my list are the northernmost parts of Namibia including the Caprivi strip, Kaokaland and the Kunene river border with Angola. I'd also love to see the beautiful Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, the magnificent Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Laikipia and Meru areas in central Kenya, and Southern and Western Tanzania.
And abroad: Thailand, Borneo and Bali, the countryside of Italy and France... and Patagonia!
TRAVEL BLOG POSTS
Read about Liesel's trip around East Africa's top reserves: On Safari in Kenya and Tanzania.