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Travel Trade tales from the African bush...

Katrina Gomez, Virgin Limited Edition's USA Sales Manager recently hosted an action-packed travel trade familiarisation at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve. Katrina gives us the lowdown on the group's South African adventure...

I was excited to host our first Virtuoso familiarisation trip to Ulusaba in March 2009. A great group of Virtuoso partners signed on and the journey and magic began onboard Virgin Atlantic (upper class I might add!). The main highlight of the flight to London is not only the flat bed, but the sleep suit also known as pyjamas! Although a bit tired from the long flight we all arrived in Johannesburg in good spirits and excitement. After a restful night at Westcliffe the group was ready to face the wonderful adventure that awaited us.

We arrived safely at Ulusaba's private airstrip, greeted by our handsome GM and ranger. We hosted lunch at the tree house lounge where the group walked the rope bridges while spotting impala's, an elephant and woodpecker.

Our first morning game drive was immediately magical! We spotted rhinos which were a foot away from our jeep and were surrounded by 17 elephants... it was awe-inspiring! We wanted more in the days to come! Poor Stuart and Karl! But they delivered... give me a " S," give me a "K" with our constant cheering to spot the rest of the big five. We finally tracked four lioness' playing with each other in the field, admired the elegance of the giraffes and tracked a leopard and lion in the night under the beautiful stars! We braved the buffalos so we could take great pictures while trying to keep warm in the rain - our poncho outfits were very classy! But the highlight was the sighting of the wild dogs which have been missing in action from the Sabi Sand for eight years.

The evenings were hosted in different areas of both Rock and Safari Lodges... I can still hear the wonderful voices of the choir performing in front of the bonfire, while enjoying a gastronomical feast. When the group was not on a game drive, each person had a favourite spot where they enjoyed the views from the lodges or the rooms.

We also visited Dumphries, a community that Pride 'n Purpose support to improve the lives of those in the community. The familiarisation group donated many gifts for the children and had the chance to interact with the kids who were so receptive to our hugs and company. The smile and time with the kids is so priceless that it will forever linger in our hearts.

Our last night was spent at Rock lodge with a wonderful spread of traditional African dishes. I loved the pokey, kudos and we all couldn't get enough of Pinotage and other South African wines! On the morning of our departure we were serenaded by our local choir which brought tears to our eyes...

Since our trip, I would like to thank all the participants for all your positive feedback about Ulusaba, our staff and service. The trip had so many wonderful moments. But what will be cherished most are the wonderful new friendships... this for me was magical!

Katrina Gomez
Sales Manager
Virgin Limited Edition USA