The first time I met Claire Roadley was via email – an unsolicited email that invited me to join her in South Africa on a press trip. Was this a scam? I wondered and answered the email tentatively – yes, I was available but only if I could meet you first! Not only did I meet her but after a week of being shown the Icons of South Africa, I can now call her my good friend. I was thrilled that she would participate in Guest Bits and, needless to say, a whole lot of her Best Bits are South African!
Where do you feel you really “savored the authentic” in your travels?
I love KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It’s very authentic and untouristy if you know where to go – for instance you can wander down into the Zulu village from Isandlwana Lodge which is on the Battlefields, with a local villager/guide, and meet the local rural children, visit an ikhaya (Zulu home) pop in at the local church and school and even visit the local sangoma (traditional healer). The money you pay to do the tour helps out the villagers too so you are giving back a little by sharing in their lives for a little while. It’s all genuine – nothing is staged for visitors.
Where do you feel you experienced the most luxurious travel bit – depending on your own definition of luxury?
It would have to be travelling on The Blue Train. I am very lucky to have done this iconic luxury train a few times on its various routes over the years and I have to say it never disappoints. The staff are amazing and it is incredible the food they prepare in that tiny moving kitchen. Being able to take a bubble bath whilst sipping bubbly in your very own bathroom on a moving train whilst the beautiful South African scenery glides past has got to be the epitome of Luxury – its complete decadence!
What keeps you going back to your favorite haunt/city/Best Bit?
You can take the girl out of Africa –but never Africa out of the girl. For me that feeling of being out in the fresh air on an open landrover is the best feeling in the world. My “happy place”. Even if you are not seeing masses of wildlife just being out in the bush is what calls me back time after time. Some of my best bits wildlife experiences? I have a soft spot for Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal as I used to work there – but I loved exploring the vast and remote Selous in Tanzania last year (Serena Mivumo River Lodge is to die for!) and have just enjoyed the most incredible safari at MalaMala where we saw lions take out an impala within minutes of our first game drive – followed by two leopards with a kill shortly thereafter. Just mind blowing! You can wait a lifetime and never see a kill so two in one evening was outstanding! That is undoubtedly why MalaMala is the top private game reserve in SA…and a big tick on my bucket list.
If you had to pick one anywhere in the world, what would be your following Best Bits:
Best Bed – The Blue Train because if you sleep with your blinds open you can watch the sunrise as the scenery passes your window. Plus the gentle rocking motion puts me to sleep.
Best Bite – the lobster feast at Jahazi Grill at the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa in Kenya will forever stick in my memory. Fresh, succulent and served in a restaurant that is designed to feel like a traditional arab dhow with white beach sand underfoot and views over Shanzu beach.
Best Brew – I love an Amarula don pedro (imagine a thick baileys milkshake). Perhaps on the lawn of the Dock House on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront – watching the sun set behind Table Mountain?
Best Binge: I love nipping into all the quirky shops in Franschhoek and visiting their market stalls where they sell beaded and carved curios. Nothing quite like the high of haggling a good deal! I’m also a sucker for duty free shopping at Johannesburg Airport in their Out of Africa curio shop!
Where have you left your heart?
Definitely in South Africa! I just spent a few very special days with my Dad at Motswari Private Game Reserve. We don’t get to see each other much sadly so quality time in that magnificent setting was very special. Broke my heart to pack the bags and head home to the UK.
Bio: Claire Roadley is a born and bred South African, who fell in love with being on safari at a very young age and somehow managed to make a career out of talking about it. Now living just south of London for nearly 15 years, Claire works in travel PR whilst juggling family life as mom to 3 young boys. Sharing her love for Africa is her passion – not just her job. www.ethosmarketing.co.uk