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A Family business putting its personal touch on tours and safaris around the continent

Jennifer Paterson Bev Lesley andre

Trans Africa Safaris is one of Africa’s oldest tour companies. It was founded by two war veterans in 1918 following their return from the battlegrounds of the first world war.
What started out as a humble chauffeur service to drive the British gentry around Cape Town quickly evolved into an ever-expanding tour company providing travel arrangements throughout Southern & East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.

The 97 years of experience Trans Africa Safaris picked up along the way means that it has its own history to tell, as well as the history of its continent. The late Brian Paterson bought the business in the 1980’s and Trans Africa has remained a family business ever since. Brian’s three daughters, Jennifer Beverley and Lesley, have been with the business for many years. Andre Botha, the company’s Sales and Marketing Director, is married to Lesley
“My father-in-law worked for Trans Africa in the fifties and he then went on to buy the business in the early eighties, says Andre. “I joined Trans Africa Safaris in 1994. Prior to that I worked for a leading wine and spirits company in Stellenbosch.”

Personal Touch
This personal aspect of the company transfers into its business ethics. Providing a personalized and tailor-made holiday is Trans Africa’s number one priority.
“For us it is really all about the client experience,” explains Andre. “A lot of people say that they provide very personalized and customised authentic trips, but I think for us that is core.”
From the moment Trans Africa receives a tour request, the team sees about trying to collect as much information about the client and their needs as they can. This could be anything from finding out the reasons behind the holiday, such as a honeymoon, or tailoring the holiday to the clients’ specific interests.
“Whether they’re interested in wildlife, food or cultural experience, we always go the extra mile to make sure that we deliver exactly what they are looking for,” he says. ”Often we have files that are three inches thick for two people traveling. Personalized service and catering to the individual requires that we invest a lot of time in each trip to ensure a holiday of the highest order.

Touring a continent that has so much to offer means that there is a lot of variation in the wants and needs of each client. The history of the company and the knowledge it has accumulated helps the tours team produce the perfect tour every time.
“We don’t say that we have everything at our fingertips immediately, but we are very prepared, willing and able to spend a lot of time and effort on making sure that we put together a programme that is exactly what the client is looking for”, explains Andre. “We have had clients in the past that were rail enthusiasts. They wanted to visit all the different rail yards and experience different types of steam trains and experience all the local locomotives. We really will customize a programme to anything specific.


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Creature Comforts
Making Africa a home away from home is another one of Trans Africa’s main ambitions. It provides luxury travel for all its clients to ensure they never miss their creature comforts.
“Today deluxe safaris lodges offer exceptionally spacious and luxurious accommodations, fine cuisine, a wonderful assortment of wines and expert guides,” says Andre. “Top-of-the-line offers include chalets with private plunge pools, spas & gyms, custom-designed jeeps and curio shops where one can indulge in some serious retail therapy.”
The company caters mostly to the higher end of the marker, but also offers mid-range priced trips—whether for families, honeymooners, individuals or small groups.
The company’s deluxe services have not gone unnoticed: it receives most of its business from travel agents that have been impressed by the company’s great reputation. In particular, the company has had a long-standing and prosperous relationship with Virtuoso, a US-based network of travel professionals.
“Virtuoso chose us as a preferred operator for South Africa in 1987”, he explains. “At that point in time, Virtuoso’s member agents and suppliers numbered only a few hundred. The organization has grown enormously since then and there are now more than 9,000 travel advisors in Virtuoso with annual sales in excess of US$14 Billion. A lot of our business comes from Virtuoso and we are certainly very proud of our long-standing relationship with them. They really do have great clients.”

Trans Africa Safaris is the preferred destination specialist for Signature Travel Network in South Africa and business from this group is starting to show impressive potential over the past few years.

Recently, the company has also entered agreements with American’ Express’ Crafted Journeys and Travel Leaders’ In-Country programmes to provide bespoke services in the region for their clients.

Developing Africa
In tourism, the destination is your product, and Trans Africa supports many local charities to help improve and support this product. The company takes money from its profits and channels it into Save the Rhino, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, uThando, African Scholars Fund and the Southern African Wildlife College.
“We really try and work with organizations that are close to us from a business perspective, and those that are in our sphere of influence where we can make a difference,” explains Andre. “We try to choose organisations where we believe we can make a meaningful contribution and assist in uplifting the community.

One of these organizations is uThando, which uses tourism as a tool to support the various projects it is involved in.
“uThando is a non-profit organization based in Cape Town,” he says. “it is a wonderful group that helps many underprivileged and marginalised communities, providing support to the elderly and education to school children and special-needs children, as well as sporting, cultural and HIV/Aids programmes. For every client that travels with us, we make a donation to uThando in support of its various projects.”

Through the African Scholar Fund, Trans Africa supports two underprivileged children with their schooling needs, providing them with a platform of opportunity.
These funds go towards school supplies, books, uniforms, tuition fees and all other education costs. Andre and his team hope that their help with change the children’s lives.
“You get sent all of their school reports so that you can see how the pupils are doing,” Andre says. “there was one boy who I remember from about two years ago who did particularly well. He said that his ambition was to study medicine and since he left school he has told me that he is now studying at university. It is heart-warming to see.”

The community is not the only place that Trans Africa hopes to make a difference. It also aims to maintain and improve the environment of the countries in which it works. Eco-tourism is vital on a continent where beautiful scenery and incredible wildlife are the main assets.
“Our big wish is that we can conserve and properly manage our wildlife.” he explains. “If we lose any of these, our product will suffer. I hope that our generation can counter the threats and safeguard our natural assets for future generations.”

Sustainable tourism is vital to Africa’s development. Tourism has the potential to be the biggest industry on this continent, and, in countries where unemployment rates are high, this is a major boon. Without its fauna and flora to attract visitors, the African continent would be at a loss.

Fostering the notion of low-impact tourism and preservation of the natural products, Trans Africa plans to grow, yet to remain a boutique operator. Its emphasis will remain on creating trips that are enjoyable, educational and authentic, and on offering the finest services and accommodation available.

“We wouldn’t want to become so big that we lose the hands-on, personalized involvement that has become our hallmark.” Andre concludes. “Moving forward, we want to expand, but only if we can look after and maintain those ideals that are so important to us. We have to always ensure that we are providing a holiday that is authentic and uniquely memorable.”

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