Beyond first class 

Date:

Seat yourself in the lap of luxury with an exclusive pre-flight and bespoke travel escapade, courtesy of SAA, Discovery Bank, Vitality Travel and Wild Horizons. 

By: Dylan Muhlenberg

I’m living the high-life and really starting to get a feel for it. The Uber – black, naturally; don’t be a peasant – drops me off at Curbside Check-In at 7:30am. Someone hands me a coffee, someone else takes my ID card to check me in, while another person deals with my luggage. I don’t wait in lines because lines are boring. After being fast-tracked through International Departures, I use the Discovery app to generate an access voucher to the newly renovated Premium section of The Lounge by South African Airways and Discovery. Here, I’m coddled and cooed over while having my every need met.   

While seated in a comfy chair and looking out over the airport apron, chef Wandile (Wandile Mabaso, owner of Les Créatifs restaurant) shares platters of moreish tasters, which include his take on a Brazilian feijoada as well as umngqusho. Charged with all the new lounge menus, Wandile will also consult on SAA inflight meals, too. Delicious. (Read more about him on page 42.) 

After a ribbon cutting by SAA senior executives – the speeches included a standout bit on how the future of State-owned-enterprises is a collaboration with the private sector – there was the announcement that SAA has added two new international routes: Brazil and Australia.  

Things are looking up, especially since this sneak peek into the future of premium travel is a part of my future, courtesy of the Vitality Black bank card in my wallet. After a morning spent mingling with TikTokkers, YouTubers, influencers, tastemakers, and SAA and Discovery executives, I join a select few at the front of the plane for a three-day visit to Victoria Falls, where the VVIP experience continues. 

The only complaint about the flight is that it’s over too quickly. We’re then shuttled to The Wallow Lodge, Victoria Falls, where we sip on welcome cocktails, mop our brows, and start snapping photographs of the elephants cooling off in the stream in front of us. Taking inspiration from nature, we decide that the best way to deal with the 40-degree heat is to cool off in each of our villa’s private plunge pools and sip on a few local Zambezi beers. At sunset, we opt for a game drive around the property and finish up with cocktails and canapés at the Batoka Gorge, watching the sun dip below the horizon.  

The smoke that thunders

The next day, I’m up before the sun and visit “the smoke that thunders”. It’s interesting that Zimbabwe has maintained the colonial name ‘Victoria Falls’ instead of reverting to Mosi-oa-Tunya. The guide says it is to maintain tourism and someone shares an interesting anecdote about how Port Elizabeth has reported a drop in tourism since changing its name to Gqeberha. ‘PE’ is arguably easier to Google. Otherwise, it’s positive to see how many Africans are experiencing one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with us, and that Zimbabwe offers reduced rates to tourists from SADC countries.  

It’s the dry season and so instead of a single curtain of water, the falls have different sections cascading down. We literally soak up the scenery while making our way through the rain forest and “ooh” then “ah” at the rainbows viewed from the various lookout points. Over on the Zambian side, a few intrepid bathers wade in a pool right on the edge of the falls, which is scary but not as scary as what’s to come.  

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