Lisa & Art Hoffman (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
A great decision
My husband, two grown daughters, our two nephews, our nephew's wife and I traveled from Port Elizabeth to Umlani Bushcamp in the Timbavati Game Reserve in March 2012. It was the trip of a lifetime - except that I hope to do it again! Under the guidance of Wayne Donaldson, who actually grew up in the bush, our experience was exceptional! His local connections, sense of history, respect and knowledge of the bush and bush culture made our trip even more special. Wayne took care of every detail - from recommending and arranging our stay at Umlani, (which we all loved - and where he booked us the very best huts!), and taking care of ground transportation to and from the bushcamp, to making sure our beverage of choice was chilled and ready! No detail was too large or too small.
Wayne was always helpful, yet never intrusive. He asked about our preferences and then made sure to tailor our experiences around them. He accompanied us on the twice daily bush drives and took hundreds of wonderful photos, which he shared unconditionally with us and he documented our trip with incredible pictures. His extensive knowledge of the people, culture, geography, animals and animal behavior gave a depth to our trip that otherwise would have been missing. The decision to make Wayne our safari guide and trip adviser was a great one, and one we hope to make again in the not too distant future! You should do it too - you won't regret it.
Yifan & Colin Clarke (Chicago USA)
My husband Colin and I chose South Africa for our honeymoon because it was so different from what everyone else was doing. I had always dreamed of going on a safari, and Colin was excited to sample some of the wonderful wines in that region. We had never gone to that area of the world before, and really didn't know where to even begin to plan the most important trip of our life. We're usually not the type to outsource travel planning, but with the stress of planning our wedding, we thought it'd be best to enlist some experts to make our honeymoon the best it can be. We found Wayne through Wine Desk, and he really made all of our dreams come true. We split up our 2 weeks in South Africa between safari and wine tasting, and Wayne prepared the perfect itinerary for us.
We went to Timbavati, home of the white lions, for our safari. Even though we booked the trip at the last minute, Wayne managed to find us such luxurious quarters at the Tanda Tula and Umlani Lodges. Best of all, he didn't break our budget with these usually pricey accommodations. Our safari experience was out of this world. We literally saw everything we wanted to see, and much, much more. Thanks to the experience and expertise of Wayne's dad, Pat, who grew up in the African bush and had been a safari guide his entire life, we witnessed the most amazing natural sights: a 6-week-old white lion cub, 9 lionesses taking down a kudu and then tearing it into pieces, countless rare leopards, and an adolescent elephant tearing through the bush, throwing a temper. tantrum. It is really an art to find the elusive animals in the bush, and Pat really nailed all the sightings, often long before any of the other safari groups so we were able to enjoy the sightings privately for a while. It was a pleasant surprise that Wayne is a great photographer, and our directed our Jeep around the sightings so that we would have the best angle and light to take amazing photographs. Needless to say, we got some awesome pictures that are the envy of all of our friends and relatives. At night, Wayne and Pat joined us around a bonfire in the boma and we would hear about all of their legendary safari stories throughout the years, while enjoying wines that Wayne specially brought for us.
Wayne's safari knowledge was bottomless, but that isn't his only talent. For the second part of our honeymoon, Wayne drove us to some stellar wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the most renowned wine regions in South Africa. His wine expertise is extraordinary, and because of his connections, we got some great deals on tastings and wine purchases. Looking back on it, our honeymoon was almost a year ago, it was some of the most magical and memorable experiences we've ever had. Wayne made sure that we didn't have to worry about a single detail throughout the trip, and it was the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation. What a great start to our married life!
Kevin Hardy (Sydnay & Singapore)
I have to say the most awesome holiday ever, and that's with little exxaggeration. Thanks to Wayne I saw wildlife up close and personal, things I would only ever expect to see in a zoo. Couldn't think of a better way to see the sights in the Kruger and its surrounds.
Cal Donly & Ellen Philip (New York, USA)
A great decision
In 1980 we wound up by pot luck in a small private camp in the Timbavati, alongside the Kruger National Park. Our stay at the camp was nothing short of magical. It marked the beginning of a love affair with the bush that has brought us to Africa for a “fix” almost every year since then.
Our host and guide on that very first trip was a young game ranger by the name of Pat Donaldson. Pat’s understanding of the creatures around us, and the respect he had for them, both big and small, opened up for us a brand-new world. And what fun it was exploring that new world with him, not only that first time but on the many other occasions over the years that we’ve had the good fortune to be with him in the bush. He was not only a mine of information but took pleasure in sharing what he knew. He was friendly, enthusiastic and unflappable. He was also on the alert, always. At times he’d pause in the middle of a funny story and say something such as: “Sounds like we’ve got ellies over at Piggy Dam.” Nobody else had heard a thing. You got to trust Pat, and could relax, because you knew you were safe with him. Whatever the circumstances, his antenna was always tuned in.
Pat’s son Wayne is a chip off the old block. We first met him as a schoolboy, in camp for the holidays, spending time with his Dad. From an early age he lived and breathed the bush. Like his father, with whom he now teams up professionally in special circumstances, he understands its rhythms and nuances. He’s also branched out into fields of interest that have broadened the range of resources he can bring to a visitor. Above all he’s developed an understanding of what it means to be a good host – the art of making people feel at ease and comfortable. He’s friendly, calm and flexible. And he listens well.
Every now and then a friend or acquaintance will ask for advice in planning a visit to South Africa. We’ve no hesitation in letting them know that their best first step is to get in touch with Wayne. This was the case with two young people who were planning their honeymoon. Wayne set up a visit they’re still talking about.
Vanessa Russell (Melbourne Australia)
I found Wayne Donaldson on the Internet when I’d booked on a cruise departing from Cape Town and was looking for someone to organise the land content for me, from Timbavati through to Cape Town, via Port Elizabeth. It was rather a jigsaw puzzle, with the added complication that my mobility is restricted, thus requiring extra facilities and a private tour accommodating my scooter. He rose to the challenge, vetting hotels with disabled facilities, committing himself to take me round, (without knowing what he was in for) and coping well with me, my speech (also affected) and my scooter. It was quite an adventure, managing the ferry to Robben Island and cable car up Table Mountain, but he looked after me well so it was the memorable trip I’d hoped for.
He’s since organised my bush camp in Timbavati visits, and displayed his “crisis management” skills when the floods came in January this year, delaying my access to the camp. Not easy finding accommodation suitable for me in a couple of hours, but he did it, and liaised with the camp to get me (plus wheelchair) through where the road was broken. I wasn’t worried as I have every faith in him.
I would love to go on one of his safaris, being acquainted with his knowledge of the bush, but have challenged him enough I think.
Colin & Jackie Binmore (Qatar Airways Doha)
My wife Jackie and I were interested in a South African holiday. I emailed a few tour operators and found that Wayne, of Ocean & Vine Tours, gave the
most obliging and helpful response. Wayne helped design the most fantastic safari and holiday to South Africa.
As a guide he is very friendly, knowledgable and accommodating. Our trip went well and we where able see to some amazing animals and could not believe
how close we got. It was as if Wayne had known us for a long time as he put together a perfect holiday that satisfied all our expectations. Wayne also has a great passion for wine and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Cape enjoying some fine wines & cuisine's through his recommendations.
We are definately coming back, and cant wait to see what Wayne can put together for us next time.