Feedback from Our Clients
“Darren and team put together an absolute gem of a honeymoon to Kenya for us! After re-planning during COVID times, he steered us in the right direction for the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation on our Safari trip. The hospitality at these properties were unmatched from the accommodations, food, and overall service – we were treated like absolute royalty every step of the way. They handled all of our transportation and logistics to make the entire trip stress free. Since we decided to move forward with traveling a bit sooner than the majority of the world, we were able to experience everything with extreme privacy and extra care from the staff at each property. It truly was a trip of a lifetime we will never forget!”
“This trip was the definition of worth the wait! It was everything we wanted and more for our honeymoon. We had the best accommodations and service at Tswalu & Tengile in South Africa, truly outstanding! Safari was the coolest and most unique experience, too many highlights to name! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, viewing the big 5 plus many more, the best scenery for coffee breaks, sundowners and exceptional dinners. Bengurra Island was the perfect place to spend our last days in Africa, super remote, relaxing and simply gorgeous. Trip of a lifetime filled with plenty of unforgettable memories. We can’t stop raving about it – thank you so much Darren & Travel Sommelier team!!”
The EARLE family
I can’t imagine a more bonding family experience than seeing an African sunset together, searching for and discovering a pride of lions, witnessing the southern cross under the African stars and waking up to a family of giraffes outside your tent.
Going on safari was a truly magical experience. Each morning and evening game drive held the excitement of discovering and witnessing the most beautiful animals on earth. Around every corner was a different experience, that we shared together as a family. It truly can’t be explained how much a mother elephant protects her baby until you’ve witnessed it first hand.
Travel Sommelier planned the trip of a lifetime. It was a truly unique experience. We asked Darren and Caitlin about traveling during the pandemic and Darren said that we would be “rewarded for being intrepid”. From the moment we got onto an empty plane, we knew that we were about to experience a trip like no other. At each hotel, we were given a red carpet experience. From a private, surprise breakfast in the bush, to a private gondola ride that took us to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. It felt like home to see notes along the way from the Travel Sommelier team, along with bottles of South African local wine. The team set up tour guides to take us around to each location to experience the history and culture from a local. We loved that they all knew Darren!
It was amazing to learn about the history and culture of Africa. The kids truly learned by being immersed in the locations where these historic events took place. When we got home and got back to school, my 10 year old daughter yelled from the other room, “Mom, this artist on our zoom is painting Nelson Mandela. Should I tell my teacher that we’ve been to his house?”. Unreal!
On top of history, culture and safari, we experienced an amazing culinary experience. Each resort created gourmet works of art, paired with the most amazing wines.
As we drove along the garden route, we saw the beautiful dramatic coastline, and stopped at wineries tasted the most amazing wines and oysters. Truly unforgettable.
Here are a few of our favorite photos.
We were literally boarding the plane a year ago for this epic adventure when the world shut down. While proceeding with this adventure now may appear somewhat bold, we feared losing all or part of the trip. So, with the help of Darren and his awesome team Travel Sommelier we embarked on this trip of a lifetime! The motto for Wilderness Safaris is “our journeys change lives” and it couldn’t be more true! The intimacy with the wildlife and natural beauty of the Okavango Delta is truly overwhelming! The pandemic certainly made the adventure challenging, but the reward was experiencing places like Victoria Falls virtually alone. I’m very lucky to have such an adventurous wife and so happy to have experienced it with her! What an epic adventure my love @kelliejofalk
We are entirely overwhelmed with complete euphoric emotion reflecting on our recent two-week honeymoon to South Africa. It literally brings tears to our eyes thinking about the immense gratitude we have for Mike & the Travel Sommelier team for putting together this trip of a lifetime for us. We have fallen completely in love with South Africa as a country and are counting down the days until we can go back. We never wanted to leave. Every little thing blew us away: the people, the landscapes, the history, the food & wine, the top-notch service. It was done to perfection through and through. They did not miss a beat.
The properties that Mike and Travel Sommelier have connections at, and the relationships they have with those they put us in touch with on the ground, are top notch. Everything was done on an entirely elevated level than we had ever experienced anywhere else. The planning experience we had with Mike should have clued us into how stellar this trip would really be, yet he still managed to blow us away. From the consultation we received starting a year prior to going on our trip around where to travel to and what countries and properties could best deliver on our desires, to the million and one phone calls and the team’s re-planning efforts for cancelled flights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the constant support and reassurance offered to confirm safety precautions and no drop in trip quality as a result of the pandemic, to the high-touch and genuine attentiveness, care, and friendship built throughout, Mike kept this process fun, exciting, and stress-free even amidst planning a honeymoon in 2020. He covered every single base, and ensured every box was checked to allow us to not stress for a minute that something had been overlooked come time to check in to our flights. As soon as we boarded the plane to South Africa, we didn’t have a single worry. Every factor of transportation & planning had been pre-arranged, which allowed us to fully sink into the experience and be catered to. It was outstanding.
Every step of the way we were reminded how much effort went into planning this trip on our behalf. We were surprised at every turn, and amazed by the thought and care that Mike made to make this a special experience and to remind us of how much we are loved by everyone back home. Mike considered every little detail, and could not have executed better on recommending places that met every desire and surpassed any expectations we had. We were sad to leave each place, and each destination was somehow better than the one prior. We just have no words for how blown away we are. We knew Mike had delivered a quality itinerary and truly listened to us from the get-go, and that was only reinforced once we were on the ground and living this journey in real time.
Mike and the Travel Sommelier team handled the entirety of the heavy lifting for every component of this process, which was a total treat for us. They took care of every requested change, whether in advance or in real time, without hesitation and they gave us full permission to speak up about what we wanted without judgment. They were readily available always for any questions or concerns, both before and during our travel. We couldn’t have felt more taken care of and in better hands.
We genuinely could not recommend Mike and Travel Sommelier more and cannot wait until we can leverage their services again. We will be hard pressed to consider anywhere other than South Africa at this point as we are eager to go back, but we will undoubtedly and full heartedly trust anywhere they recommend at this point. This trip was a 15/10.
“We were just saying we would go back to Africa in a heartbeat! The trip that you arranged last year for us was amazing. As much as I consider myself that home travel planner for the family, there is no way I could have done it like you did! It was beyond belief!!”
“The difference with you is that you listen and create amazing trips because you’ve been there and kicked the tires and you think like a customer. Other firms I have used give the impression of trying to crow bar you into some standard routine that they claim is bespoke, but clearly isn’t.”
What we came away with was a small taste of this great continent. The people we met were wonderful, and we made some great friends along the way. We saw and experienced so much more than this just being a “safari” trip. I can keep going on, but again, we want to thank all you guys for all your great organization and choices you made for us.
David and Dianne Ambrose
Thanks very much for helping us put together the trip of a lifetime. Not sure where to begin. Our Safaris at Mashatu, Mala Mala, touring JoBurg, the wine county, or Cape Town and the Cape. What a trip. Four couples … and all eight of us loved it. Animals and more animals, many close enough to touch. At one point we were in the middle of a herd of elephants that numbered approximately 600. Another day we watched around 400+ buffalo walk right by our Range Rover. Lions, Rhino, Hippos … all the big FIVE and so many more … UNBELIEVABLE! Penguins in the Cape were only 3 feet away from us. The restaurants and the hotels that you recommended were spectacular. Only one meal in 19 days that disappointed us … and what do you know, it was the only restaurant that you did not personally recommend. You batted 1000.
Marissa Ain & Mark Skidmore
South Africa was our top choice for an exciting honeymoon destination, and Travel Sommelier was the perfect partner to make it happen. From Johannesburg to Cape Town, safari to wine country, we had the most incredible time exploring the treasures this unique destination has to offer. The wine is top notch, the people are warm and friendly, and the scenery can’t be beat. Darren’s knowledge and recommendations were fabulous, and we had the trip of a lifetime!
Thank you to everyone at Travel Sommelier for planning the trip of a lifetime. From the safari at Mala Mala to the wine country and finally Cape Town, Darren and his team tailored the perfect itinerary to suit each and everyone’s need and desire. The guides, restaurants and accommodations were first class, it was hard to leave. We are looking forward to returning to this beautiful country soon!
Caroline Curb and Tedford Picha
From beginning to end this was truly the trip of a lifetime. It far exceeded our wildest expectations – the food, the surroundings, the service and the people made this an adventure we will never forget. We can’t thank Travel Sommelier enough for making our trip planning so effortless and our vacation so seamless. They worked so closely with us to make sure this trip was perfectly suited to us and our individual wants and needs. Villa Santorini is pretty much the way I imagine heaven to look. Totally removed and peaceful with a staff that really sets it above anywhere I’ve ever been to before. I will be dreaming of it for a long time to come. The Wine Tour was so personalized that it truly made us feel like we were getting an inside peek into places most people never get to experience. Mala Mala gave us an experience that is difficult to put into words but impossible to forget. It felt so authentic there that you instantly forget any worries you left behind and settle into your surroundings as if you had been there for weeks.
Lisa and Spike Lipschutz
Darren had arranged the most wonderful trip for us to South Africa a few years ago so we turned to him in hopes that he could put together a trip for us to South East Asia. He did and we had yet another Travel Sommelier “beyond words” trip, this time to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Darren arranged for us to have wonderful guides, extraordinary experiences and beautiful accommodations. One of the many most memorable high lights- giving an elephant a bath in Thailand.
We had a lovely 2 days there and they made a point that we were your clients and so treated us royally … Upgraded us to the Quartier Suites. Would highly recommend the hotel. Enjoying our stay here in Cape Town … thanks for your help.
Kyle & Rita Rust
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to South America that Darren and his team planned for us, and once again had an outstanding experience. This is now the 3rd time we’ve used Travel Sommelier, and have nothing but great things to say about planning a trip with them. On this particular trip we were in 3 different locations, and each time we were met by a flawless itinerary and transportation that made the trip happen without any glitches. Through local knowledge of properties on the ground, and also by taking the time to have met with us personally, the trip was tailor-made for our interests and we had one of the most amazing weeks of our lives in South America. Thanks for all the help with another great trip!
We had a unique and unforgettable honeymoon planned by Travel Sommelier. It was the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. All details were handled so beautifully that we had no worries the whole trip! Our favorite part of the trip was the unique Safari experience and couldn’t get enough each day. Having the opportunity to explore Capetown and check out the beach in Mozambique were both very special to us as well, and rounded out the trip. Thank you Travel Sommelier!
Our trip was spectacular! Every detail was completely arranged and flawlessly executed by you guys. Not a glitch or hiccup to be had. The accommodations were wonderful and luxurious. The food was delightful! We absolutely loved everything about our trip and look forward to returning to South Africa soon. Thank you! I will forward pictures in a separate email.
Jon & Kimbel Biele
Travel Sommelier: What they are – a very focused, bespoke travel company that takes care in the very last detail. What they do – Understand every aspect of a trip, know each participant likes and dislikes, interests and passions and plan every component based them. Who they are – people that understand the people they work with and focus on tailoring adventures each one different than the next. Darren and his team took the time to understand our family and tailor an adventure that took in the goals of the whole while incorporating the interests of each individual. The trip made up of four different components, each different from the next but fit together neatly like Lego blocks. When we thought we’d experienced a great thing that was beyond compare we were quickly brought back to reality, that the next adventure was better than the last!
I cannot say enough wonderful things about my recent South African experience. Travel Sommelier attended to every detail, both in the planning, the execution, and the follow-up. What I considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I now consider as my first trip to this beautiful country. The private guided tours by informative and professional individuals provided fascinating insight on both general and personal levels, and felt perfectly tailored to my group’s interests. The highlight of our holiday was, of course, the time we spent at Mala Mala. From the moment we pulled up to the uniformed staff helping us down from the jeep and offering us warm cloths with which to freshen up from our short ride from the airstrip, I knew we were in for a treat. Our elegantly appointed private khaya (home) came with an outdoor shower, heated plunge pool and a private verandah overlooking the river and game reserve. Our ranger, James, was kind, courteous, and completely accommodating. He made sure we saw not only the Big 5 every day, but was so knowledgeable and passionate about his job, we were treated to many other tidbits (on vegetation, tracks, history, sounds, and so much more.) we would have been sorry to miss out on. I am so grateful to Travel Sommelier for all their invaluable input and the work they did to coordinate our holiday. I could go on for pages about the unforgettable people, food, and experiences my friends and I were treated to in South Africa, yet I would never be able to capture the way it touched our hearts. I cannot wait to return to this stunning country.
Tswalu was beautiful and romantic with some of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen and the most amazing stars/sky. It rained the entire time in Cape Town so we missed table mountain but really enjoyed lunch with Bruce, he was a character. Singita Boulders was the highlight of the trip, beautiful lodge, great energy, amazing food/wine, fantastic staff. Mozambique allowed us to chill and recalibrate.
John & Kim Sessions
We had such an amazing honeymoon! Not only did the South African sights and accommodations exceed all of our expectations but the logistics of the trip were planned perfectly with all forms of transportation and guides seamlessly coordinated.
What a way to celebrate a 50th anniversary! Our trip was a dream come true. We always wanted to share the friendly and sensational animals of Africa with our family, but had to wait until the grandsons were the right age. This year seemed like the perfect time as they are now eight and 13. All the arrangements were perfect. We were met and pampered all along the way. Each venue was completely different from the previous. They ranged from high luxury to very simple with different eco- systems and animals to see in each. The food was a delicious mix of African specialties such as kudo and ostrich, and wonderful fresh fruits, salads and vegetables. They even catered to the boys tastes. I think Botswana must be devoid of hot chocolate and pasta after we left. There were formal high teas, sundowners, surprise breakfasts in the bush, dinner with singing and dancing around a fire in the boma and even a pizza lunch served from very functional pizza oven carved into an abandoned termite mound on the banks of a river. The animals and bird that we saw were fantastic: the big five plus wild dogs and their pups, hyenas and their cubs, bush babies, dwarf mongoose, wildebeests and sugar badgers and, I am sure, Caleb, our 13 year old could tell you many more as he kept a careful check list. On just one morning’s drive he identified 48 different species of birds with the help of Chris.our excellent guide at Banaka Bush. Because we were celebrating a special occasion all sorts of special, thoughtful, surprising touches were added such as finding a candle lit bubble bath drawn with a split of champaign sitting on the edge awaiting us at the end of an evening game dive. I don’t think I have ever seen so many little votive candles in one place before. Wow! It was a treat for all three generations. As we were traveling along I realized that I constantly had this happy feeling inside of me. As the trip was drawing to a close our eight year old, Eli, turned to his mother and asked,”When can we come back to Africa again?” That says it all! That is except for a heart felt thank you to Darren, Victoria and Natalie for helping to make sure that this was the trip of a lifetime.
We have just returned from our recent South African family vacation and all we can say is WOW!. The trip not only matched but exceeded our expectations, and believe me when I tell you, we had very high expectations!! Darren did a wonderful job of planning each and every conveyance and portion of our trip and made traveling to a foreign country that we had not yet visited seamless. From the moment we departed JFK, we experienced a first class, hassle free itinerary that included all the highlights we had hoped for before our journey began. We enjoyed a luxurious stay in Capetown, bookended by two unforgettable safari experiences. We were shark diving in the morning, and climbing Table Mountain in the afternoon. We visited museums and wineries, and took a guided day tour down the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope. We enjoyed fabulous meals and fantastic wines, and met a charming and diverse group of people. The safari experiences were beyond our wildest expectations. Along with seeing the “big five”, we saw amazing birds and other animals in their natural environment. We were “up close and personal” with some of the most feared animals on the planet; lions, leopards, elephant, cape buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos. It was awesome!. And the kids had an uninterrupted opportunity to spend quality time together. Darren, thank you for creating such a special trip for our family, and arranging each portion to run smoothly and without interruption. It was without a doubt at the top of our list for great family vacations!
The Donahue Family
Thank you so much for planning the most spectacular trip to the continent of Africa. The experience was seamless from start to finish. The Wilderness Safari organization is run so well and with such care for the traveler. From Victoria Falls to the game drives in Botswana and South Africa to the amazing meals and wines in Capetown – the experiences were all so fabulous. We loved the landscape and the people. Hope to return one day. Thanks again for putting all the pieces together so perfectly.
John McDermott & Heidi Meyer
Darren at Travel Sommelier planned our trip to Namibia, Botswana, and Victoria Falls. We were fitting in a lot in two weeks and asked Darren for the impossible. What we got was the most amazing trip! We stayed at the most beautiful places (victoria falls hotel, vumbura plains, kings pool, little kulala and more). The most impressive part about working with Darren was that when we were on the trip, we felt like someone was behind the scene pulling strings, organizing special enhancements (like getting us a private guides) and basically making everything perfect. We even had a self-drive as part of the trip in which was also expertly planned. Having some high standards from previous trips (that included Singita level camps, nat geo galapagos, etc), our expectations were exceeded. We now have a permanent “agent” and friend to guide us on all of our future trips.
We had a fabulous trip – from touring beautiful Cape Town, to biking and wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and an amazing safari experience at Mala Mala. Thanks to Darren and Travel Sommelier for helping us create a trip to remember forever!
Ann & Bill Jayson
Darren put together a great trip to South Africa for our 40th Anniversary. We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go and the length of time we wanted to spend traveling. Darren stepped in and with his expertise he roughed out an itinerary, some activities, lodging possibilities, and travel options for us. Then he took that baseline and worked his magic. The result, a fantastic 10 day trip that exceeded all our expectations! We visited Cape Town, the wine country, the seashore, and a luxury Safari lodge. And just for fun, he made sure every property we stayed knew it was our 40th Anniversary trip so we were greeted with champagne, chocolates, and Rose petals, again…and again, ha! Darren surprised us with an upgrade at Lion Sands Safari Lodge. When we arrived there I thought a mistake had been made when they checked us in to their deluxe Ivory Lodge! Each day of our trip provided its own wealth of experiences; sightseeing, driving fabulous vistas, gourmet dining, beach days, wine tasting, and amazing game viewing.
What a trip! Thank you Travel Sommelier!
It really will be hard to top our trip to South Africa, thanks in large part to Travel Sommelier’s attention-to-every-detail approach. We didn’t have any kind of game plan when we first met with Darren, but he and his team worked with us and our budget to create a tailored vacation that was perfect for our needs. I’ve already recommended Travel Sommelier to a number of my friends. Thanks for help making the trip so memorable.
Larry, Liz, and Sam Pecan – Voorhees, NJ
My daughters and I spent the Christmas through New Year’s holiday in Argentina, which we could not have enjoyed more thanks to Darren, Victoria, and Natalie of Travel Sommelier. Our trip began with a visit to the falls in Iguazu, arriving mid day on Christmas. The Loi Suites offered a pool for the girls (and a poolside bar / restaurant for me). We spent the next day at the Argentinean side of the falls, including taking the boat ride up through the rapids and being thoroughly soaked when driven straight through a waterfall. Along the trails, which are quite extensive we had the pleasure of seeing many incredible sights, along with butterflies, and even a raccoon walking one of the paths. After Igauzu, Darren and his staff had us in Mendoza, staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast, called Casa Lila. The owner’s were very accommodating, even to the point of inquiring the day after we left as to my younger daughter’s condition after she developed “traveler’s stomach” on our last day. But in the interim, we were off on a hike that took us to about 3400 meters in the Andes, followed by a white water rafting excursion. The final day was for touring wineries (and unfortunately learning just how expensive it is to ship home). Finally a few days in Buenos Aires at Legado Mitico, which is located in an area with great shopping for the girls, all within 10 blocks or so. We had a private tour and the guide took us to a leather shop that custom makes goods, and delivers them to the hotel the next day. We would never found it, and probably not seen half of what we did in the four hours of the tour. Highly recommended. All in all, I would say this was one of the finest vacations we’ve ever had, and could not have been more pleased with the selection of the hotels, and the advice on what to see offered by Darren and Victoria.
Thanks for a fantastic trip to Argentina. The itinerary, accommodations and recommendations in all three locations (Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Bariloche) were first rate. We wouldn’t change a thing and are very much looking forward to the next adventure with TravelSommelier.
Larry Cunningham & Jonathan Kessler, New York
The Travel Sommelier did a great job planning our honeymoon. The itinerary was perfect. The hotels fit our personalities perfectly, and each of the tour guides was superb. We appreciated the individualized attention that Darren provided. He really made it into a dream vacation!
Sarah Humphreys (no relation!)
I took my mother on safari for her birthday, and Travel Sommelier made it the trip of a lifetime. Darren understood what we were looking for right away and created the ultimate itinerary for us – a night in Victoria Falls plus stays at three very different, very stunning Botswana camps. We felt very taken care of in a very foreign land, and my mother was treated to not one but two birthday celebrations while we were away, which was all Darren’s doing (Darren, thanks for making me look good!). Darren’s deep knowledge of Africa – the camps, the culture, the airports, the animals – was invaluable. And Natalie was so friendly, responsive, and organized. We couldn’t have done it without them. I would recommend Travel Sommelier to absolutely anyone planning a trip to Africa.
The Levell Family
Working with you and Natalie has been an absolute pleasure. We were lost trying to decide what to do and where to go to make the best use of our time while we were in South Africa. Trying to find information out for the safari was absolutely impossible without expert help, and we certainly came to the right experts to help us. I will be eternally grateful to Mike V. for putting me in touch with you. Even though we had left our plans a little later than most do, you talked through all the options and proposed several for us to consider, never once pushing us to rush into a decision. Availability was still quite good because we had a month during which to include some time on safari, but going to Sabi Sabi was absolutely the best decision we could have made. The flights to Sabi Sabi direct from Johannesburg was also an integral part of the experience, and 1hr in a plane was definitely a better use of our time than 6h driving (or flying to Nelspruit then driving 2h). My daughters were calling it their private jet, because they have never travelled in a small plane with only 8 passengers before! Beyond our safari plans, your help in every aspect of our trip, and my sabbatical, has been way beyond the call of duty. With me being based in Cape Town for 3 months, your advice on weekend trips, accommodation options and locations, food, restaurants, money and costs, safety, weather, and all the key sights to see has been invaluable. However, the most exceptional things for me is your attention to detail and your diligence in following up with us throughout the planning, safari, and weekend trips. Checking to make sure everything was perfect, and that we were (most importantly) having a fantastic time in South Africa. We were, we are, we did. Thank you.
David & Lori Sprows
Our 2 weeks in Africa was absolutely perfect and we could not recommend Travel Sommelier more enthusiastically ! We had a list of 20 things we wanted to do in Africa and only 2 weeks available so Darren spent hours with us and designed a fantastic, “first time in Africa”, bespoke itinerary. At every camp or hotel we ended up with the best room and the best guide (I am sure Darren’s “pull” had something to do with that!). Of course the initial intent of the trip was to experience the game viewing but the trip was so much more than that: great food, excellent wine, “sundowner” cocktails, camp fires, relaxing in our private plunge pool with elephants a few feet away etc. Our initial thought was to get out into the bush as soon as possible. However, we highly recommend a few days in Cape Town to start. The city has a great vibe, the drive to the Cape of Good Hope is beautiful, and the wine tour was very different from Napa, France, Italy etc. (and who knew South African wines were so good….happy we discovered Pinotage for the first time). We had a driver for the 2 full days in Cape Town and he was very nice and extremely knowledgeable. And don’t forget to visit the penguins ! Our first camp was Rattrays in Mala Mala. Very luxurious accommodations (AC, his and her bathrooms, Wifi, mahogany furniture, a huge deck with heated plunge pool); a great first camp. We saw all of the Big 5 and a whole lot more. We then spent 2 nights at Victoria Falls. The falls were incredible and we highly recommend the River Club; colonial British charm built right into the banks of the Zambezi. The sunset game view (crocs, hippos, birds, warthogs, elephants etc.) with cocktails on their small boat along the Zambezi was fantastic. Our last 2 camps were both in Botswana: Kings Pool and Vumbura Plains. Luxurious accommodations but definitely more “out there” (no internet, phones, TV etc.) than Mala Mala. This was definitely our favorite game viewing and, guns to our heads, we slightly preferred Vumbura Plains. This may have been because we had an incredible guide named Russell who was right out of central casting (an affable, South African “Indiana Jones” with 35 years in the bush). Botswana was “elephant central” but we also saw tons of Lions, Leopards, Giraffes, Hippos, Hyena, Honey badger many variety of antelope (including Sable), Monitor Lizards, just to name a few. If you love birds, the variety and colors are amazing ! The weather in August was perfect, chilly at night and sunny & dry in the afternoon. Darren and the Travel Sommelier team made everything completely carefree. We barely touched our bags from the time we checked them at Kennedy until we landed back there 16 days later. Everywhere we went there was someone to make the trip as smooth and stress-free as possible. Darren checked in to make sure everything was running smooth. The guides and the people working the camps were as nice and as accommodating as could be. If you like to socialize on vacation, you can really get to know some very interesting people at the camps (there are only 6-10 rooms per camp) but if you prefer a solitary vacation, you can definitely keep to yourself. For us, this vacation was a perfect combination of adventure (game viewing), relaxation (chilling on our private deck between drives) and luxury (beautiful rooms, food, wine). We can’t wait to go back to experience the remaining things on our list and will definitely use Travel Sommelier again.
Jim & Ann Rickards
One of the best parts of traveling in South Africa was getting a call from Darren after arriving home and letting him know it was over the top. Sabi Sabi, Earth Lodge, False Bay .. he was spot on. He took the time before we left to understand who we are .. and then matched us up with the maestros of South Africa. So fun .. the best. Having just returned from South Africa, we have a new-found sense of respect and awe for its diverse wonders. Watching the whales in False Bay proved to be a bit more challenging than expected. It was mating season so rather than the occasional siting of a water spout, there were enormous body parts flying everywhere … and who knew whales could be so noisy. In Sabi Sabi our rides into the bush were led by Marcus our guide. He never missed an opportunity to share his enormous reservoir of fun facts about the animals; their habits and mood swings .. he was always grabbing a leaf or a branch and explaining the inter-connectedness of life in the bush. His excitement was absolutely contagious. After a morning ride that was filled with zebra, giraffe and elephant .. that evening those big guys were being a bit more elusive. Not to be deterred, Marcus parked us under a tree filled with baboons that were settling in for the night and then pointed out some southern constellations. The Earth Lodge with its welcoming architecture, offered a perfect blend of being a part of the bush and first class luxury. We are left hoping to return soon with our family in tow.
Michael Toomey & Valerie Strumwasser
Travel Sommelier put together the most wonderful Africa experience I could ever imagine. From the moment the trip began, every detail was organized and taken care of; there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the exquisite vacation. I am so grateful to Travel Sommelier for paying such wonderful attention to every detail. It was truly perfect.
Joe & Beth Vaccaro
From the moment we met with Darren to the moment we began our African journey, we knew we made the right choice. Travel Sommelier is more than just an agent, he specializes in making your vacation a memorable experience that perfectly suits your tastes. We’re already looking forward to planning our next adventure with Darren.
Chris & Roxanne O’Hara
We just returned from literally the most incredible trip to Botswana that we could have imagined. It was my first time on safari and first time in Africa, and we can’t say a big enough thank you to Darren and Travel Sommelier for organizing this experience. Not knowing what to expect, it far exceeded any expectations. Darren planned the perfect itinerary that managed to be both luxurious but naturally at home with the environment and wildlife. We stayed at Vumbura Plains and King’s Pool, where across the board food was fabulous, the accommodations, staff, and camp management was excellent, and (most importantly!) the game drives and our guides were absolutely incredible – leopards, lions, buffalo, wild dogs, giraffes, elephants, hippos and more, too many to name! One of our most memorable experiences had to be our final evening at King’s Pool, watching 50 elephants cross the Linyanti River at sunset from a beautiful wooden pontoon boat while enjoying Sundowners. On top of that, everything about our trip was completely seamless, including all connections, transfers and travel, to the point we didn’t even think about the amount of miles we had come. Needless to say, less than a week after our return, we are already thinking about when our next trip will be!
Scott & Marci Kinum
We just returned from a 10 day trip to Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta and King’s Pool Camp in the Linyanti River area of Botswana organized by Darren. This was our 4th trip to Africa and we were accompanied by another couple on their first true safari to Africa. Everything- from the food, to the rooms, to the guides, the the wildlife was ABOVE FIRST RATE at both camps. We were travelling in the “low/green/rainy” season to take advantage of a great deal offered by WIlderness Safari’s that Darren brought to our attention. We spent multiple drives watching 5 different leopards, saw a lion kill a buffalo from start to finish, and raced through the bush on 4 wild dog hunts (3 of which were successful). So much for the “low” season !!!-and these are just the highlights of what was truly exceptional game viewing. We were truly pampered in possibly some of the nicest safari rooms available in all of Africa, not just Botswana. I wholeheartedly implore anyone considering a safari to consider Botswana for its unique beauty, excellent game viewing, wonderful people, and these two camps in particular for all that they had to offer.
Tina Aronson & Koby Rotstein
Just got back from a personally designed Travel Sommelier trip to South Africa. We choose Darren after much research. There seemed to be a lot of choices at the time, but having completed the trip put together by Darren, we would say without a doubt , there is no other choice! Darren was spot on with our itinerary and took into account our specific style and desires. Upgrades and wonderful surprises greeted us along the way. The guides were fantastic , intelligent and more than accommodating. Our hotels were 1st rate, connections were flawless, service and attention excellent and the magic of his “insider tips” made the trip particularly special. “Priceless”. Where to next??
Beim & Sarbinowski Family
We had a glorious time, the trip created a lifetime memory for all of us. Brooks was an amazingly good guide, bringing us to animals that others seemed not to find, knowing all the names of the many extraordinary birds, and he was wonderful with our grandchildren. The most surprising fact was how very close we were able to get to the animals. I would recommend your team to anyone.
Sara Rawson and Gene Novak
Travel Sommelier did a fabulous job of listening to what we wanted and organized a trip that made our dreams come true. Darren attended to the details and made it all happen with great follow up. Thanks for all your care.
Barb and Jeff Erdmann
Just a quick note to say “Thank You” very much for helping us plan a truly unforgettable trip to Italy as we celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary. In Florance, Gallery Hotel Art was exactly what we wanted … a small trendy boutique hotel which was right in the heart of the city … walked everywhere … amazing art, architecture … great food and wine ! Tuscany was truly beautiful … our tour guide/driver, Rita, was informative and took the stress out of finding our destinations! We loved our day at the the family run wine business … an amazing 7 course lunch at the family’s home/ restaurant where they make their own Olive Oil and their own Wine! Last but not least … actually the highlight of our trip … POSITANO and CAPRI … “slice of heaven” … Our hotel, Casa Angelina, was high atop the Amalfi Coast with views that were out of this world … truly breath taking … The employees at the hotel catered to our every need and make our stay fabulous … They schedule a boat for us to take to Capri, a motorcycle to Almalphi and Revelo … Can’t wait to go back … ! Your travel agenda for us kept us moving and very organized. Again, thank you, thank you … we will absolutely book another trip through your company soon!
Marilyn & Lindsay Gordon
We returned from Mashatu in Botswana and Mala Mala in South Africa simply overwhelmed with our adventures. Your guidance on the choice of safari venues suited our lifestyle completely. The accommodations, staff, food, and atmosphere lived well up to our expectations, but our drive experiences at both Mashatu and Mala Mala far exceeded our expectations. Both were very diverse and provided us with extraordinary memories that are hard to compare. Both rangers from each camp were highly skilled trackers and so well informed about flora and fauna. Our ranger Dan was so highly seasoned in the art, it didn’t surprise me that we left Mashatu with the ultimate safari adventure, a leopard kill right in front of our eyes! Of course we know that there was an incredible amount of timing and luck involved! And in Mala Mala, we were one cape buffalo short of seeing the Big 5 twice, and we achieved Mala Mala 7 status when our fabulous ranger Matthew Hobbs sighted the elusive cheetahs on the last day of our safari! All within 40 minutes of an exhilarating tracking of the wild African dog pack that we had found on the first night. Wow, wow, wow! Darren, Travel Sommelier took measures to insure that every detail was attended to and what resulted was truly our trip of a lifetime. Sad to leave our safari, we still had many adventures ahead in Stellenbosch and Cape Town. Your expertise afforded us several wonderful wine tasting experiences as we toured this breathtakingly beautiful wine region. We had come to be fascinated with the African wild dogs so our Stellenbosch experience was highlighted by meeting Jeremy from Painted Wolf Winery. That truly was a very special day for us. Winding down our trip in Cape Town was so decadent and relaxing spending our last four nights in South Africa at the Cape Grace. The staff was so welcoming and attentive, and it was wonderful being reunited with our friends in a beautiful suite overlooking the harbor and Table Mountain. A wine tasting from your personal cellar at the Cape Grace was indeed a perfect ending for a memorable vacation! We will never forget our experiences from this trip and know that they were heightened due to your constant attention to detail and expertise! Thank you so sincerely. I have a favorite saying, I don’t know who first penned it but it so represents our experience in Africa. “Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” And boy it did just that!
Daniel and Aimara Salcedo
We are very happy we decided to work with Travel Sommelier to plan our once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon trip to South Africa. Without their advice and local relationships, such an important trip would not have turned out to be as wonderful and unforgettable as it was! South Africa is a gorgeous country with a lot to offer, but we were incredibly fortunate to stay at some outstanding hotels, enjoy divine food and wine, as well as enjoy wonderful activities thanks to great planning. We are especially thankful to Travel Sommelier for their efforts to call up every hotel we went to in advance of our arrival to make sure we received the highest level of service. Best wishes to Travel Sommelier, we hope to work with you again in the future!
Brook and Michael Urban
Well, it almost didn’t happen when Hurricane Sandy came to town! But in spite of 5 feet of water in our basement and thanks to a god father (contractor) who appeared on our doorstep … we went. During the days on safari I stepped out of my comfort zone so many times I can’t keep count. Sitting in the heat in an open jeep and having a lion pass within six to eight feet of me, walking to breakfast and encountering an elephant in the middle of camp or eating a native dinner by the campfire with my fingers. Botswana and the camps we visited were very special … mostly because of the people who genuinely wanted us to have a wonderful experience. Each camp had it’s own flavor and tone set by the staff and managers. They wanted to share their country with us and sang traditional songs as we went into dinner. and yes … we did see many animals but the people were the stars.
We wrote a song at Little Vumbra and performed it the last night … sing this to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Take us out on safari,
Take us out on the veldt,
Find me some zebras and wart hogs,
Better yet a pack of wild dogs,
and we’ll root root root for the small game, if they don’t escape it’s
a shame, so its 1, 2, 3 hearty cheers for the, Wilderness Delta Team!
Kyle & Rita
Darren thanks so much for an amazing trip to South Africa. Our experience was 10 times better than we could have ever hoped for, and we enjoyed each and every minute of being there on our honeymoon. From Cape Town to the winelands, then finishing up with safari—we couldn’t have asked for a better planned trip. All the properties you booked for us were amazing, and we will hopefully get the chance to get back to Southern Africa as soon as possible. We learned so much on this trip, and had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people along the way. Thank you so much for planning this for us- this truly was the trip of a lifetime for both of us.
Emily & Jared
Thanks to Darren and Travel Sommelier for making our honeymoon truly unforgettable and the absolute trip of a lifetime! Not knowing much about South Africa or many people who were familiar with the country, we relied entirely on Darren to help plan all aspects of our trip – and we’re so glad that we did! Our trip began in Cape Town. On our first day, Darren arranged a half day peninsula tour through Wilderness Safaris. Not only was the scenery unbelievable, but our guide, Charlie, made the trip. He was extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the tour. Being able to experience all of the sights and scenery of Cape Town is amazing in itself, but having a your own tour guide to give you a personalized tour is truly incredible. Luckily, we had scheduled a full day tour of the wine country (Stellenbosch – breathtaking!) with Charliefor our second day. If you have the time while in Cape Town, we would highly recommend taking a day trip to Stellenbosch. The second leg of our trip was a safari at the Mala Mala game reserve in South Africa. We stayed at the amazing Rattray’s at Mala Mala which was absolutely perfect for a honeymoon! The service, food, accommodations, etc. are all top notch! How many times at a hotel can you sit in your private plunge pool and watch lions and elephants across the river?!? Having never been on safari, we didn’t know what to expect on the game drives, but it would be hard to imagine seeing more. We saw the Big 5 within our first two drives and almost every other animal that you would think to see on safari. We can’t say enough good things about this place and the experience we had. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. We’re already talking about another trip! The last leg of our trip was a week-long stay at Azura on Benguerra Island (Mozambique), which was the perfect relaxation coming off of safari. The helicopter ride from the airport to the island is such a beautiful way to start the stay. The experience there was fantastic. Each villa is assigned their own butler-host for the duration of their stay, and our host (Prosper – although all of the hosts seemed great) really went out of his way to make our stay memorable (setting up breakfast on the beach, bringing a different cocktail at sunset each night, setting up a candlelight beach dinner on our last night, etc.). With only 16 villas at the resort, Azura is secluded and quiet and incredibly beautiful! We couldn’t ask for a better ending to our trip. One of the biggest concerns when traveling to an unfamiliar location for vacation is always where to stay, at what restaurants to eat, what activities are worth the time, etc.? Darren proved to be exceptional with all of this. Not only did he set us up with phenomenal lodging (Cape Grace, Mala Mala, Azura on Benguerra Island), but his restaurant recommendations in Cape Town were perfect! Darren’s planning of all of the details, especially the multiple air transfers, was also phenomenal – the entire trip went off without one hitch or hiccup. Darren was so wonderful to work with and we can’t thank him enough for all that he did. Darren – we’ll be calling you to plan our return trip to Africa!
Our trip to Africa was so much better than we could have imagined on many levels. Every part of the itinerary that Travel Sommelier put together was fantastic. We knew that seeing the animals of Africa would be amazing, but we had no idea how beautiful Cape Town would be or how delicious the food would be at every stop on our trip. The wineries that we visited were gorgeous and the wine was amazing. We learned so much from the people of South Africa and Zambia. The guides at each stop were engaging and knowledgable. Darren took care of every detail so that we could relax and really enjoy our trip. We are already excited about the opportunity to return in the future.
Travel Sommelier was very professional, efficient and responsive with quotes and information which helped us choose between options. They arranged for our single adult daughter to have a double room at Mala Mala without extra charge. We were very pleased with our experience.
Thanks Darren for a trip of a lifetime. We will never forgot the amazing people we met, animals we saw and memories created. Your guidance, planning and advice was invaluable. Can’t wait for the next trip!
Doug & Cathy Johnston
We have travelled all over the world, to many interesting and exotic places, but this recent trip to Africa will forever be the trip of a lifetime! Darren, your careful attention to every detail, including the very perceptive guidance on choice of Wilderness bush camps in Botswana and Zambia, pleased a very particular group of 6 worldly and pernickety adults. You truly understand, in a very first-hand way, the destinations you are recommending. Each camp you guided us to choose was run with extreme professionalism, offering excellent food, superb guides and most comfortable accommodations. Thanks to your keen focus and 24 hour a day monitoring, we were even able to avert an African airline mishap! Thank you, Darren, for taking the time to understand your clients. Travel Sommelier is truly a most specialized and informed resource, which we will recommend to all our friends!
Frances & Leigh Wilson, Connecticut, USA
Darren really knows the ropes. This was not our first bush experience in southern Africa but the best by far. His attention to detail and firsthand knowledge of the areas we selected made all the difference. It was a knockout.
Ken & Pat Young
Just back from a four week trip that took in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. What an experience!! We left the majority of the planning for this “trip of a lifetime” to Darren and all I can say is that we could not have been in better hands. Darren’s knowledge of the area is astounding and that, in combination with his “eye for detail”, allowed us to sit back and wait for the trip to be laid out before us. It did not disappoint. From Cape Town and it’s surrounding areas to Johannesburgh via the Blue Train, to the game reserves in Botswana and a “grand finale” at Victoria Falls, all went as planned just as Darren assured us it would. Our group of six would have no hesitation in recommending Southern Africa as a holiday destination and Darren as the person to put it all together.
Monty & Jean Baker, Toronto, Canada
We travel extensively however had not yet been to Africa. A good friend of ours recommended Darren to us for setting up our trip. Darren was absolutely outstanding in providing us with a “trip of a lifetime”. The safari camps we stayed in were luxurious, the animals/scenery were amazing, the people were awesome and the food/wine was excellent. Our time in Johannesburg was also outstanding with great accommodations, great restaurants and a series of tours that was just right in seeing the highlights from this area. Overall, we took over 5,000 pictures which is a testament to just how good of a trip this was. We definitely will be planning future trips with Darren as well sending our friends to the Travel Sommelier!!!
Caitlin & Mike, New York City
Mike and I had the time of our lives on the trip. The schedule could not have been planned better in terms of the order of places we visited. Cape Town was the perfect place to start and relax, followed by our incredible time in Franshoek and adventures in wine tasting and, of course, nothing could top our safari at the end. There was never a lull and each place delighted and surprised us more than the last. It was literally a dream vacation. Darren knows exactly what he is doing and truly understands the balances of what makes a great trip – and how could you go wrong in South Africa! Its probably one of the most beautiful places I have laid eyes on and the changing landscapes over the regions were unreal. Beyond what the natural beauty of South Africa has to offer, Darren sent us to the coolest hotels with the most impeccable service and hospitality and restuarants where we really had the best meals of our lives (not to mention the incredible food that the safari lodges had to offer). The Tasting Room in Franshoek was an experience we will never forget and for being such a serious dining event, we laughed the whole time. We were literally blown away by the whole experience and we are so happy that we left it in your hands – we could have never planned a trip like that on our own.
Danielle & Vik, New York City
Our honeymoon was a first class experience and exceeded all of our expectations. After a hectic 7 months of planning a destination wedding by ourselves, it was really incredible to take this trip and not have to worry about any of the details. Darren did an excellent job of planning a trip that fit the way we like to travel. While we enjoy sightseeing, we also like to relax and have some down time, and our trip was perfectly executed that way. The Cape Grace is a really amazing hotel and what really stood out for us was that the service there is top-notch. Highlights from Cape Town include great white shark cage diving in Gansbaai and our sightseeing day with Wendell. I can’t remember the name of the tour group Wendell works for but he was a very friendly and informative guide and we had a very nice day with him. We saw 11 individual great white sharks that day, plus we saw whales and cape fur seals. Vik and I also really enjoyed the drive to and from Gansbaai – it’s really beautiful. Darren had arranged romantic turndown surprises each night and it was very sweet. We definitely were made to feel taken care of. Dinner at Test Kitchen in Cape Town was a great experience and the dining in Franschoek was also excellent (dinner at Tasting Room, lunch at Bread & Wine and La Motte.) We had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Mala Mala. We can’t say enough good things about our safari and are still raving about it. The place is amazing and our ranger, Kurt, was phenomenal. We got along so well with him and he was full of fantastic information about the animals. He taught Vik how to use our camera to capture particular close range shots in difficult light – we learned a lot from him and have 1400 amazing photos to prove it. Mala Mala is a wonderful place to stay. Our wildlife sightings were fabulous. Lions, leopards, hippos, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, zebra, cape buffalo, impala, nyala, wildebeest, bushbucks, duikers, baboons, warthog, python, eagles, vultures, mongooses, monitor lizards, crocodiles (!), and all sorts of amazing birds – I’m sure I’m missing something. Kurt had an incredible eye and even spotted a chameleon on a branch at night with his overhead light – the chameleon was as green as the leaf it was perched on and we have a fabulous shot of it. He took us to a hyena den, and we have amazing pictures and footage of two curious and playful hyena cubs that came out of hiding to see what we were all about. If we asked to try to see something, he would do his best to accommodate our wish. We spent our last night at The Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg. But the rooms didn’t have the same over-scented smell, so it was fine! Overall, we had an amazing time in South Africa and we are thrilled that we worked with Darren and Travel Sommelier for our honeymoon.
Outstanding! Travel Sommelier facilitated the best travel experience I’ve ever had. I thought it would be a near impossible – the organisation of a trip for a large family group to multiple destinations in several countries that would cater to both young and adult travellers. And we all had high expectations to boot! Darren radiates enthusiasm. He is passionate about what he does and about his guests’ experience. He knows where to go, when to go, who to meet and where to eat. His almost telepathic understanding of his guests allows him to anticipate their needs. It’s a rare talent. In short, Travel Sommelier cared about our journey from beginning to end. It made a huge difference. We are already planning our next journey with Travel Sommelier and eagerly anticipate it.
Tomas Gilmore, Costa Rica
Travel Sommelier was incredible – every detail was thought of, the sequence of the different components of the trip was perfect, the selection of camps, wineries and sites was exquisite and it all made for an unforgettable journey which we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
Anna E. Hall, UK
My family and friends thought our Travel Sommelier holiday would be a once in a life-time experience, and it so exceeded our expectations. Too much fun, so very educational, truly interesting and perfectly organised. We are already planning our second trip with Travel Sommelier. Thank you, Darren.