#LetsMeetSA — Oct 7, 2014 12:30 AM

#LetsMeetSA – Interview with Sandy Salle of Hills of Africa

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“Pack light, dream big, and have fun.”

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#LetsMeetSA – Sandy Salle of Hills of Africa

Describe yourself in 3 words.  Loving, generous, and adventurous.

Tell us what you do and what do you love the most about your job? I am the founder and president of Hills of Africa Travel, a boutique travel firm, specializing in planning customized, luxury journeys to southern, eastern, and central Africa. Each and everyday, I have the privilege of making travelers’ dreams come true by providing them with the trip of a lifetime and impeccable customer service. I love living vicariously through my clients who I plan trips to Africa for! It is truly one of the best feelings in the world when a client comes home and says their trip to Africa has changed their life.

I also delight in knowing that the properties I am sending my clients to support eco-tourism initiatives and utilize sustainable business practices that give back to the environment and communities of Africa.

What type of traveler are you? I used to be a backpack traveler but now I enjoy first-class travel experiences! I love the comforts and spoils you get when traveling. To me, travel is something I like to indulge in and feel pampered throughout my journeys. It’s my opportunity to unwind and feel well taken care of.

What was the best holiday you ever had? I’ve traveled all around the world and I have experienced some absolutely amazing places and have met some extraordinary individuals along the way. But I have to say that my all time favorite holiday was a trip to the Mana Pools area of Zimbabwe that I took several years ago. It was a family vacation to celebrate my dad’s birthday and it was absolutely magical. We spent our days canoeing, fishing, sitting in the river with Castle lager with my brothers, sitting on the deck watching the elephants with my sister, and laughing the whole time.

During our trip to Mana Pools we embarked on one of my favorite safari experiences: The Mana Pools Canoe Trail. The Mana Pools Canoe Trail passes along arguably the most wildlife-rich river in Africa, the Zambezi. As we ventured along the Zambezi River, we passed through the Mana Pools National Park, which is commonly referred to as Zimbabwe’s Wildlife Riviera because of its abundant wildlife. Because the Mana Pools Canoe Trail is a 4-day adventure, the camp we stayed at was mobile—moving along the river as we did. The Mana Pools Canoe Trail is not considered a “roughing it” experience, as all of the meals are cooked for you, a guide and staff are present at all times, and your tents are setup for you. After four days of fantastic game viewing and adventure, we stayed at Ruckomechi Camp where we were pampered for days! Such an incredible holiday. I still dream about it!

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Gorilla trekking safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

What was the worst travel experience? Oooh, brings up some bad memories! My worst travel experience had to be a trip I took to Cancun a few years ago. I had eaten something that made me really sick. Let’s just say half my vacation was ruined and it was not fun having to sit in the Cancun airport, waiting to board a very long flight!

What do you love about your home country? I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and I miss it everyday! Although I love living on Lake Norman in North Carolina, I still miss the open spaces, the smells of the rain, the people, and the animals. And, of course, I miss my family—many of them still live in Zimbabwe. But I am so fortunate to be able to visit my homeland twice a year and experience all the wonderful things that make me proud to call Zimbabwe my homeland.

Every time I visit, I always delight in some of the traditional Zimbabwean foods I enjoyed growing up. Eating biltong (African style jerky) and rusks (sort of like biscotti) – the foods of Zimbabwe always bring back warm memories of home for me.

All expenses paid holidays. Where would you go?  Who would you take with? All expenses paid, huh? Definitely a trip to Tanzania where I would spend two weeks, observing the spectacular Great Migration! For those who don’t know, the Great Migration is an annual movement of millions of wildebeest and zebra, and hundreds upon thousands of other animals and predators. It is truly an astonishing natural phenomenon to witness in person.

I have my 20th wedding anniversary approaching in 2015, so that would be the perfect trip to celebrate! I’d want to spend one week with just my husband and me and then the second week with my best friends (and my husband, of course!).

We would stay at the finest properties in Tanzania’s Serengeti, including Serengeti Safari Camp, Lamai Serengeti, Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp (such an incredible and extremely exclusive experience!), and Singita Faru Faru Lodge. Now THAT is luxury!

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Sandy with her daughter, Abby, in Zimbabwe at Somalisa Camp. Here, you can sit in the plunge pool and elephants will come right up to you!

Tell us about the restaurant you love going back to. Why? There is a restaurant in Harare called Coimbra; it is a Portuguese restaurant and has the best ever Piri Piri giblets. I have these as the starter with crusty bread and then for my main meal the Piri Piri chicken with garlic sauce and chips. Every time I am in Harare, I make it a must-eat-at place.

What would be your top airport advice? I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years and one of my biggest tips after seeing it all is to give yourself plenty of time! I generally like to arrive 3 hours before departure, even if it is a domestic flight—but I also get panicked about missing my flight. I definitely recommend arriving at least TWO hours before your departure. And always check online before leaving for your flight to make sure it is on time.

I much prefer to arrive early, that way I can sit down in a restaurant, order a lovely meal and a beer, read a book and spend some time reflecting on how amazing my next adventure is going to be!

Top 3 things you always travel with and why? I always travel with socks, a pashmina, and a camera. My feet always get cold on airplanes. And since I like being comfy during long flights, I take my shoes off and put my socks on to make sure my toes stay warm and I feel cozy.

I also always bring a pashmina with me wherever I go. You can wear it as a scarf or a shawl, depending on how cold you get, and it’s perfect to bring to restaurants and dress an outfit up a notch.

And, of course, bringing a camera is a must! I love to capture beautiful scenery, as well as memorable shots of my family and our adventures. I like putting my photographs from my family adventures into printed coffee table books so I can look through them whenever I want and take a little trip down memory lane.

What is your dream travel destination? Why? I have always dreamed of visiting the South Pacific—specifically Fiji and the Solomon Islands. My dad left home when he was 18 to travel around the world and spent a year working on a boat dock in Fiji and the Solomon Islands and got to travel all around the region. I have heard from him that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. My dad’s brother also worked in the Solomon Islands for a long time, so I would love to go and see what he experienced.

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Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. There is almost always a rainbow to be seen here!

What will be your advice for young travelers? Pack light, dream big, and have fun. I got married young, but had kids late in life. I’m grateful for that as I spent so much time traveling around the world; it gave me a sense of how beautiful the world is and appreciative of what I have now.

I used to backpack and I loved it. But at this time in my life I now appreciate a gorgeous bed with fluffy pillows and personalized service. Start young, enjoy it, and see as much as you can, then when you are more mature, you can revisit and do it in luxury.

What is the lesson you’ve learned from your travels? Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and explore new things! You never know what you might discover about yourself.

 

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Images Courtesy of Hills of Africa

  • Sandy Salle

    Thank you so much for featuring my interview! It was a pleasure 🙂 Looking forward to helping Travel Opulent Box readers live the magic of Africa!