Sandy Salle is a native of Zimbabwe and was born and raised in Southern Africa. The Chief Executive Officer of Hills of Africa travel, Sally is passionate about using her first-hand knowledge of Africa to create the trip of a lifetime for her clients. Currently based state-side in North Carolina, she resides with her husband and two small children. Sandy travels home to Africa several times a year and believes that the next best thing to living in Africa is sharing it with others. Read more about this Woman 2 Watch below.
FG: Why did you feel it was important to start the Hills of Africa tours?
SS: Once you’ve been to Africa and experienced the soul of Africa, it lives with you forever. It changes you, and you have a feeling of completeness with yourself. In starting Hills of Africa, we wanted to share this beauty—which is derived from the landscapes, animals, cities, and people of Africa—with the world.
FG: What types of trips and travel packages do you offer?
SS: We mainly specialize in luxury family, group, and honeymoon trips to Africa, but we offer all kinds of trips and packages. All of our trips are completely customized to fit our client’s individual needs and preferences—there are no pre-made or generic itineraries. From wildlife encounters to wine and oil tastings to sunset river cruises, we are dedicated to making our client’s dreams come true, and we’ll go to great lengths to ensure our clients receive everything they desire on their trip to Africa.
FG: Why is Africa a great place for a vacation or romantic getaway?
SS: Whether you’re celebrating your honeymoon or your 50th wedding anniversary, Africa is the ultimate romantic escape. Many honeymooners to Africa are looking to experience a rich mixture of adventure and relaxation—two elements that Africa offers in great quantities. Therefore, many romance-based itineraries include everything from the beaches of Zanzibar to Botswana walking safari tours. Romantic activities abound, from horseback wine tastings to side-by-side bush baths beneath the African night sky to champagne picnics on the beach.
Visiting Africa as a family is one of the most rewarding and unforgettable ways to share the experiences of new cultures, fascinating history, and exciting adventures, as an entire family. Whether you have younger children or late teens, everyone can enjoy experiences that range from adventurous safaris to Cape Town city tours, horse riding tours on the beach to cultural expeditions with the native Bushmen, and a trip to Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary to elephant back rides. Children-friendly camps offer a variety of activities for the young ones who aren’t yet of age to participate on a game drive or safari tour. While the children are enjoying bush treasure hunts, bead-making classes, and bedtime stories from traditional African storytellers, parents can relax or partake in an adventurous safari tour.
FG: What are some of the common misconceptions people have about vacationing in Africa?
SS: There are many safety misconceptions about Africa; for example, many people think the food and water are inedible, mosquitoes and disease are rampant, and safaris are inherently unsafe. In reality, trusted accommodations have access to filtered water at all times and offer only the freshest food that is absolutely delectable and completely safe to consume.
When it comes to mosquitoes and insect-carrying diseases, you will stay healthy as long as you follow suggested precautions to ensure complete safety, such as taking anti-malaria pills during your trip. Also, accommodations that are prone to mosquitoes always offer mosquito nets to guests. You can rest assured you are safe when embarking on safari with a qualified and professional safari provider. Guides are armed with weapons, equipped with handheld communication devices, and have undergone extensive training in proper safety procedures and animal behavior. In fact, professional guides require a minimum of four years of training in the field before they can accompany safari goers on an outing!
FG: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had in creating the Hills of Africa tours?
SS: It would have to be seeing how Hills of Africa has changed lives—both the lives of the African people and our clients. Hills of Africa practices sustainable tourism and only partners with eco-friendly and Fair Trade companies, which ensures that the communities our clients visit receive the direct economic benefits of tourism, such as job creation. The locals who work in tourism at Fair Trade companies are guaranteed safe working conditions and just wages. It’s thrilling to see the money that tourism brings to these local communities used to boost the standard of living through education programs and wildlife initiatives. Often Africa touches our clients’ lives in small, yet profound ways. A couple of instances come to mind: For a family of twenty visiting Africa, we organized a tour to a small village, where they played a soccer match against the villagers. Despite it pouring rain, the game was filled with much camaraderie and laughing and the day become one that no one in the family will soon forget. Another was a client who loved elephants. All she wanted to do on her safari was to be around them, so we arranged for her to work with elephants at a sanctuary – It was a dream come true for her.
FG: How do you balance family life and the work you do for the foundation?
SS: It is very important to close shop at the end of the workday and spend time with family. For me, it’s a blessing that I am able to work with clients and on the foundation doing something that I truly love and that I feel changes lives, but it’s my family who empowers me to be able to do what I love. Family time gives me the energy to be able to go out and help people.
FG: How many of your business decisions are based on know how vs. your intuition?
SS: I am a thinker, so every idea is usually a know how, which is then clearly put together through our proven formulas. I have each member of our team work through our Procedures Manual.
FG: What do you consider to be some of the major highlights of your career thus far?
SS: Working with clients whose lives have been touched and changed by the magic of Africa, being in a position to help the people of Africa, for example by teaching them how to plant vegetable gardens that will feed their family for a year or painting a school classroom.
FG: What is a spiritual mantra or philosophy that you live by?
SS: I live by a mantra that I made up “live big, love big, dream big and travel big”. It means a lot to me in so many ways, but it’s essentially a reminder that it is so important to live your life to its fullest.
FG: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
SS: Don’t play small, and stop treating your business as a hobby and treat it as the corporation that it should be.
FG: What would you tell your younger-self if you knew then what you know now?
SS: We are all here for a reason, and we are here to be of service to others.
Finish this sentence….
FG: Women should stop complaining about _______________ and start _________________
SS: Women should stop complaining about how much they are responsible for in family life and start enjoying the family they have created.
FG: If your life came with a soundtrack, what would be the top three songs (and please indicate the singer or band)
SS: “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, and “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” by Shakira (the official 2010 World Cup Song)
FG: What project(s) do you have coming up?
SS: We have some exciting group safari tours coming up! Soul Safari Transformation, led by Oprah Soul Series author Ainslie MacLeod, is a 9-day African Safari from April 29-May 7, 2011 through South Africa and Zimbabwe that combines MacLeod’s life-changing teachings, daily spiritual workshops, and the energetic boost of the African bush. Participants are guided by MacLeod to discover the path their souls intended while enjoying leisure activities—such as game-viewing, canoeing, and elephant-back riding—all within the safe haven of an intimate environment of 24 people there for the same purpose. To learn more, visit: and website: http://www.hillsofafrica.com/Soul_Safari/Soul_Safari.html.
We are in the final stages of developing several more group tours, including the Awakening Inspiration Safari with renowned holistic healer and author Jonathan Ellerby commencing September 19, 2011. Please check the Hills of Africa website (www.hillsofafrica.com) over the next few weeks for the latest info all our upcoming group safari tours.
For more information on Sandy Salle or the Hills of Africa visit www.hillsofafrica.com and blog: www.livethemagicofafrica.com or on Twitter: @hillsofafrica. You can also call Hills of Africa by phone 1.800.940.9344 or email: email@example.com.