EVA Air offers autumn savings on its Kangaroo Route

EVA Air offers autumn savings on its Kangaroo Route

Thursday, 27 October 2016 08:00

EVA Air is...

Vietnam addition from Thomson and First Choice

Vietnam addition from Thomson and First …

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 14:00

Thomson and First Choice have announced the introduction of Vietnam to the winter 2017 programme.

Ranch Rider adds authentic Arizona ranch for next year

Ranch Rider adds authentic Arizona ranch…

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 11:00

Keen to expand on its portfolio of authentic US ranches, Ranch Rider will be introducing Arizona’s Hideout Working Ranch in its 2017 brochure, which is situated near Portal near the...

Qatar Airways announces daily Seychelles flights

Qatar Airways announces daily Seychelles…

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 08:00

Qatar Airways will provide UK holidaymakers with greater access to the Seychelles from December 12 when it launches daily flights via Doha.

HF Holidays highlight winter breaks

HF Holidays highlight winter breaks

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 14:00

HF Holidays is promoting a selection of winter getaway including a Christmas Craft Weekend at Dovedale in the Derbyshire Dales, Festive Walking At Dovedale, A Seasonal Stay at Malhamdale in...

Flybe puts more summer 2017 routes on sale

Flybe puts more summer 2017 routes on sa…

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 11:00

Flybe has put more early release routes on sale as part of its preliminary summer 2017 schedule.

YHA submits plans for London’s first ‘Super Hostel’

YHA submits plans for London’s first ‘Su…

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 08:00

A planning application has been submitted by YHA (England and Wales) to open its first Super Hostel in London.

£2.3million immigration hall upgrade plans at Bristol Airport

£2.3million immigration hall upgrade pla…

Monday, 24 October 2016 14:00

Following a major overhaul of the security search area for departing passengers, Bristol Airport has unveiled plans to address congestion in arrivals.

Intrepid targets socially conscious Gen Z with new Geckos age-range

Intrepid targets socially conscious Gen …

Monday, 24 October 2016 11:00

30 year olds will be ‘too old’ for Geckos Adventures next year, as the Intrepid Group has announced that it will cut the age range to meet a growing demand...

New survey reveals just one in 12 Brits manage to wangle an upgrade

New survey reveals just one in 12 Brits …

Monday, 24 October 2016 08:40

New research from Jetcost.co.uk has revealed that only 8% of British travellers have actually managed to secure a free upgrade for their holiday, with flight upgrades and hotel room upgrades...

Just You launches travel trade solo experience

Just You launches travel trade solo expe…

Friday, 21 October 2016 14:00

Just You has announced its largest investment to support the travel trade with the launch of 200 joint marketing events to promote solo travel.

Spontaneous people are happier according to Snaptrip survey

Spontaneous people are happier according…

Friday, 21 October 2016 11:00

Spontaneous people are often believed to lead more exciting or glamorous lifestyles and a new study has confirmed that they are happier in all aspects of their lives.

Top Brighton attractions on Combi-Saver tickets for half term

Top Brighton attractions on Combi-Saver …

Friday, 21 October 2016 09:00

Visitors to Brighton this October half term can save up to 20% on its top three paid-for attractions with combination tickets now available for British Airways i360, SEA LIFE Brighton...

Free cabin upgrades with Cosmos Tours

Free cabin upgrades with Cosmos Tours

Thursday, 20 October 2016 14:00

There still’s time for agents to book a Croisieurope river cruise for their customers with a free cabin upgrade on a range of river cruises throughout Europe, when booked with...

Last minute autumn breaks available at Haven

Last minute autumn breaks available at H…

Thursday, 20 October 2016 11:00

Agents can still give their customers a last minute family break this autumn from £99 when booking a Haven holiday between now and November 5.

Skiers urged to head east for best piste costs reveals new report

Skiers urged to head east for best piste…

Thursday, 20 October 2016 08:00

Cash-conscious skiers can avoid the slippery slope of higher prices for their annual downhill trip by heading to ski resorts in Eastern Europe.


As Acacia Africa marks its 20th birthday on May 31, company director Vivian McCarthy looks at how overland travel has evolved over the past two decades.


Originally from New Zealand I came to London in the early 1980s after a backpacking trip and got a job with a London based tour operator. The operator was well known for using double-decker buses to tour Europe, America, and Asia – and the job was an immediate introduction as to what makes tours work – what to do and what not to do.

An overland expedition in Africa from London to Johannesburg was the start of a life-long love for this amazing continent. The industry was different back then – trips were longer and trucks had little of what we take for granted these days – seat belts, fridge-freezers, charging points. Routes were different too. In the mid to late 1980s demand was mainly for trans-Africa tours, London to Kenya 15-20 weeks plus a further five or six weeks to Zimbabwe or South Africa. The choice was to go via West and Central Africa or via Egypt, Sudan and the Nile. My choice was always ‘out west’ – a region with a fascinating mix of cultures, scenery, beaches and jungle. Nowadays people don’t have the time for such long expeditions and the focus is on shorter tours often in East and Southern Africa, which is where most of the wildlife is located. You can still see a lot of Africa even in a relatively short time with tours ranging from under a week long up to eight or nine weeks’ duration.

Acacia was the new kid on the block when I joined in 1995 but from the very start we wanted to develop innovative itineraries and new ways of running tours. We were a team with one objective: to provide adventurous and exciting tours showing clients the Africa we knew and loved. We’ve grown since then and now have offices in South Africa and London but have retained our focus to operate value for money tours in East and Southern Africa and to have frequent and regular all year round departures.

In Africa itself things have changed dramatically. Apartheid fell away, obviously a huge development and one which led to South African based operators entering the overland industry. Some things haven’t changed though: Mother Nature’s compelling wonders, from Victoria Falls to Spitzkoppe, the Namibian sand dunes to the Indian ocean, and wildlife everywhere - Chobe (Botswana), Etosha (Namibia), Serengeti (Tanzania) or my own personal favourite, Kenya’s Masai Mara. Fantastic then; fantastic now.

In cultural terms many things remained the same despite modernisation and with photo and video sharing blurring the lines between the real traveller and armchair traveller, Africa’s exoticism is never lost - a safari with the San Bushmen or local Maasai village visit is much the same now as it ever was.

Customers are more knowledgeable these days; the internet allows people to research companies and experiences in depth so they are less likely to be taken in by unrealistic advertising or false expectations. Clients expect more of their tour operator – surely not a bad thing – but most retain their sense of humour when things don’t quite go as planned… a hazard, still, with any tour in Africa.

Conservation and sustainable tourism play a greater role, clients are more aware of what’s happening to our planet and this has encouraged the industry to be more transparent, open and innovative in shaping tours and experiences. You could call it adventure with a purpose.

Adventure travel may have ‘softened’ in the last 20 years and it is perhaps less well defined than it was, but then our client demographic is broader. Most travellers in the 40 plus age bracket opt for a higher degree of comfort whilst the majority of younger travellers (18-39 years) are happy to pitch a tent and get back to basics on our camping overland expeditions, with those who like something in between opting for our Small Group programmes. Age is an important element in the group dynamic and can affect customer experiences on tour which is why we give age guidance in our brochure and on the website.

When it comes to an adventure in Africa, the individual travelling is still experiencing something different to a conventional holiday and feeling they have put something of themselves into their trip. For many it’s a transformative and life changing experience – it certainly was for me – and from that perspective the continent will never lose its mystique. Travelling in Africa is still a joy.

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