Spot the Big Five or catch a glimpse of daily life in a rural Kenyan village with Virgin Limited Edition retreats and luxury hotels safe in the knowledge that care for the community goes hand-in-hand with every excursion.
Words: Francesca Lee-Rogers
Perched high on a rocky kopje, Safari Lodge and Rock Lodge at Ulusaba overlook miles and miles of Lowveld bush, with the views stretching to the Drakensberg mountain range in the distance. Located in the Sabi Sands Reserve, Ulusaba, dubbed ‘the Necker Island of the bush’ gives you the unrivalled opportunity to experience South Africa’s renowned wildlife such as its national animal – the springbok – as well as, of course, the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo.
Local expert guides will shepherd you through this magical landscape on safari walks and game drives so you can witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. In fact, most of the resort’s staff are Shangaan, hailing from the communities that border the game reserve, so they can offer you an insight into their tribal traditions and the land they have called home for generations, which few have access to.
This African destination is part of Virgin Limited Edition, a curated collection of Sir Richard Branson’s most exclusive and stunning locations. While going the extra mile is something that is part of the company’s philosophy – as it is for Carrier – supporting local communities is also at the centre of everything it does.
With this in mind, Ulusaba’s charity arm, Pride ‘n Purpose, takes on extra special meaning. You can experience the local culture while giving a little something back to others, such as teaching children anything from new songs to the school numbers and alphabet, or building shelters in the local village. Bespoke itineraries can be curated based on your own skills and interests so you can personally get involved in helping to improve the quality of life for many of the communities and children.
Partner this trip with a visit to Mont Rochelle in the friendly town of Franschhoek. Located an hour’s drive from Cape Town, this stunning 26-bedroom hotel is surrounded by a picturesque vineyard and mountainous landscape. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content: seasonal South African ingredients make up a five-course menu for the Winemaker’s Dinner paired with the world’s best vintages. The resort’s local winemaker, Dustin Osborne, is on hand to talk you through it and highlight some of Mont Rochelle’s best bottles.
While Carrier ensures you can explore this jaw-dropping setting with al fresco picnics among the vines, wine excursions and a private tour of its 150-year-old wine cellar, you can rest assured that your visit is having a positive impact. Mont Rochelle proudly supports FRANCO, which aims to coordinate social programmes and charitable organisations within the Franschhoek Valley, including support groups for the elderly and disabled. And while you relax in the spa with a herbal hammam or grape stem facial, 15 per cent of the spa’s revenue goes to the Kusasa Project, which promotes academic and life skills training for underprivileged children in the Western Cape.
Head north to the Kenyan retreat of Mahali Mzuri for one of the most authentic insights into the world-renowned Maasai population. Step outside one of 12 lavish tents in the luxury camp for an enriching and fuller flavour of rural Kenyan life with a visit to one of the local villages in the Mara. All the tour fees will go to the local village community and a variety of projects. Mahali Mzuri works in partnership with the local community across all its activities and offerings to protect the wider Maasai Mara Ecosystem. There is a collaborative effort across tourism, agriculture, development, conservation and charcoal production to guarantee a fair income for all homes and families in the area.
In addition, the camp’s location within the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy guarantees unrivalled access to the wildlife in the area, from an abundance of cats to tremendous sightings of up to one million wildebeest in the Great Migration.
Wherever your heart takes you on your journey through Africa, local guides, communities and families are there to share their stories and listen to yours in a truly unforgettable experience.
For the past four years, Carrier has proudly supported Uthando. Meaning ‘love’ in the local Xhosa language, the non-profit organisation works tirelessly to raise money and awareness for countless development projects in South Africa with the help of the tourism industry. As well as organising local experiences for visitors, Carrier also donates R200 from every Africa booking received, to help improve the lives of local South African communities.