A wild African experience

When Mohan Textiles, a large textile company based in Kolkata, decided to reward their top 30 dealers on a 10-day trip, they chose South Africa as their preferred destination because of the diversity of terrain and the variety of experiences they could experience.

Budget was not a major concern for this group, with participants willing to experience adventures and ‘out-of-the-box’ activities, and Mohan management is optimistic about the impact on the business with a 20 per cent increase in sales forecasted.

Anil Miharia, a director of Mohan Textiles was very upbeat about the effect on their channel partners who, he said, were enthused and motivated by this trip to improve performance. Meanwhile Sidhika Agarwal, assistant manager MICE of Just Holidays, who accompanied the group, raved about the adventurous attitude of the participants. She said they were game for all types of activities which enhanced the quality of the entire programme. She said Mohan Textiles were very far-sighted in their planning of the programme and said it was a good experience as the tour manager to help the group through a once-in-a-lifetime experience that included everything from hot air balloon safaris to riding ostriches!

On day one, the group boarded the Qatar Airways flight from Kolkata to Doha in the wee hours of the morning and, after transiting Doha, they landed in Johannesburg in the afternoon. They were driven for three hours to the Soho Hotel Sun City, where they checked in and later after dinner, rested for the night.

Day Two began early, checking out after breakfast and were driven in a coach for three hours from Sun City to the Mabula Game Lodge. After dinner and a relaxed time at the game reserve, soaking in the ambience of quiet surroundings and clear skies, the group went to bed early. On day three, after a 4.00 am wake-up call, members of the group were off to the Bilharrongs Balloon Safari for hot air ballooning. After some hot chocolate and biscuits, they participated in a thrilling 45-minute ride and landed in the bush where champagne and a country-style breakfast awaited them in a farmhouse. Certificates of participation for the hot air balloon ride was given to all individuals. Those who did not participate in the balloon ride went to a zip line facility and to a crocodile farm. In the evening a cultural dance performance was enjoyed before dinner.

Day four began early with the safari guides knocking on the doors of every room to wake up the guests at 5.00 am as the in-house phones suddenly ceased to function. An exciting day began with the group transported to the Mabula Game Reserve where a family of cheetahs greeted their arrival. Antelope moved freely among the mud huts and an Indian meal was served for lunch by Kingfisher Holidays. Open–top jeeps transported the group through the park where they were able to see a variety of animals in their natural habitat. Back at the lodge, a swimming pool and spa was very inviting and several guests availed themselves of the refreshing facility.

On day five, the group checked out and was driven to Johannesburg where they checked into the Peermont Metcourt Hotel and after lunch went on a city sightseeing tour. The day concluded with dinner at an Indian restaurant. Some guests forayed into the casinos for some dalliance with Lady Luck. On day ix, the group checked out after breakfast to board a flight to George where, upon arrival, they were driven by coach for an hour to Knysna and they checked in to Knysna Log Inn, a hotel made entirely of wood. Here they proceeded to Oudtshoorn for the whole day to the ostrich farm where they were allowed to ride the ostriches briefly which, for some, proved to be a precarious ride. The curio shop was frequented for the various mementos related to ostrich eggs and other memorabilia to take home.

The group visited Cango Caves, Ostrich Ranch and Cango Wildlife Ranch where they had an Indian lunch. It was a ‘goose-bump moment’ when the group sang the Indian national anthem at the valley of echo. They saw white tigers, lions and were able to frolic with three-month old lion cubs. There was a cultural dance before dinner, where the guests were encouraged to participate, which they did with unbridled enthusiasm to the drumbeats of African percussion. On day seven the group checked out after breakfast and proceeded to Cape Town but with a diversion at Hermanus, which is well-known for whale-watching. Some athletic guests tried the 12-zip line adventure and ended with a quad bike experience.

In Cape Town the guests checked in at the Hotel President. On day eight, it was time to explore Cape Town. The morning was spent at Table Mountain and enjoying the breathtaking panoramic view from above. After an Indian lunch, the group was transported to the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands, famous for producing some fine wines. After a wine-tasting and a gastronomic experience at an Indian restaurant, the group went back to the hotel.

On day nine, the delegates left for a full day excursion to Cape Point, near the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean. The Flying Dutchman funicular ride was a special experience. Thereafter they were off on a 30-minute cruise to the Seal Island where the languorous animals were in their full glory. This was followed by a visit to the penguin colony on Boulders Beach. Dinner was at an Indian restaurant. Day ten was free and easy to explore a factory outlet mall for some value shopping and a visit to the historic Victoria and Albert waterfront with its cafes, restaurants, bars, entertainment and of course, shopping. On day eleven, it was time to end this rejuvenating experience to catch the return flight on Qatar Airways from Cape Town and return to Kolkata via Doha.