End of Year Report for 2023

I’ve always found it helpful to reflect on years past, but I’ve never put it into writing, until now.

It’s been a great year, and although not everything has gone quite according to plan and there were a couple of hurdles, I am far happier than not. So, in this blog post I thought I would explore some things, both good and bad, I thought it would make a great point of reference for the year ahead.

Tour Bookings are Up in Durban

That’s probably the best news of all, When covid struck, tourism barely survived and for 2 years it was really touch and go as to whether I would be able to stick it out.

Well I’m so glad that I bit the bullet and bided my time. The cruise ship season of early 2023 injected much appreciated cash into Durban’s coffers and of course that filtered down to the smaller guides and operators like myself.

The amazing view over Inanda Dam towards Durban in the Valley of a 1000 Hills

The rest of the year followed suit as more travellers booked my tours to Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana and then safaris suddenly became popular again.

I finished off the year strong with 6 days of tours which in the finally tally, means I was almost as busy as pre-covid era.

Direct Bookings Were Up As Well

Like many other tour operators and guides, I am also listed on “OTA’s” (online tour operators) like Viator and Get Your Guide.

Now most travellers don’t realise that OTA’s pretty much squeeze the life out of small businesses like myself; they take large commissions, they promote only those that are prepared to pay extortionist commissions, some charge a fee to pay our money to us and one top of all that, some OTA’s have even begun to charge operators to list their tours in the first place.

An obstinancy of buffalo in a mud wallow

The good news for me though, is that far more travellers booked directly with me than through OTA’s. For those visitors, that means better rates, and of course for me, it means I don’t lose quite as much in terms of commission – so a win win for both!

Durban is Recovering

For those that didn’t know, the city of Durban struggled with a tiny little bit of social unrest, and then floods caused a great deal of chaos and damage to our water reserves and systems. It’s not been much fun at all.

The good news of course, is that Durban has recovered from all of that and is rightly taking her place back in the sun! Sure, Durban still has issues, crime is still a problem, the city is struggling with a homeless population with no real solution being proposed, and with a growing population, trash, discarded plastic etc is still a concern.

A glorious Durban

But there are problems that every city in the world faces, not just Durban.

What has been really gratifying is that the city is working on these modern issues, and when I drive my guests on city tours through the city, they have often commented on how clean the city appears, even more so that Durban’s very famous sister down south (you know who I’m talking about I’m sure).

At the end of the day, Durban is still one of the best cities in South Africa to visit, with big 5 game reserves in within short driving distance, the ancient Drakensberg Mountains just west of the city, the welcoming Zulu people in the Valley of a 1000 Hills and the beautiful beaches – I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit!

My Amazing Guests

Nothing of what I do is achievable without my amazing guests. I have had nothing but guests that are excited for the their experiences, that are open minded, ready to take on any challenge (including being firmly stuck in the made while lion roamed nearby), dealing with torrential rains with a laugh and just being all-rounded fantastic, warm, friendly, decent human beings!

Emakhosini; Valley of the Kings

Most of my guests have become friends who have invited me into their homes for when I and my partner once again travel, and that speaks volumes as to how wonderful they have been.

To every single one, I thank you deeply from the bottom of my heart.

The Staff at All the Sites We Visit and the Guides I Work With

South Africans have a reputation for being some of the warmest and friendliest people in the world, and honestly I see it every single time I visit a game reserve, historic site or cultural village.

Not once have I felt like the staff considered I and my guests a distraction or inconvenience. The staff have bent over backwards to ensure my guests and I have been well taken care of; including taking the time out of the rest days to help pull us out of very sticky mud while lions were about!

White Rhino spotted somewhere in KwaZulu Natal

At the end of the game, the game reserve would not be in operation without the amazing staff that maintain fences, clean chalets, cook and do the million other little takes that are needed to ensure all our visitors are well taken care of.

I also have to say a huge thank you to the tour guides that I work with, Paul and Barry and Tezz and Brandyne and Tim and all the others. They have taken care of my guests with the utmost care and professionalism and I could not ask for more – so a deep thank you to them at all.

On a Personal Note

Finally, I do feel like I have grown as a person and a tour guide over 2023. Every time I start a tour, it’s an opportunity to meet someone new and help them discover just how amazing my part of the world really is.

I’ve always been terrible at admin but thanks to being open minded in learning new skills (AI for one) I have been able to get on top of my admin which for me, is a big improvement.

I’ve also reached out when I’ve needed help, and again, if you know me you would I would rather have sunk than admitted I need help – these days, I have no fear in asking for help. Growth that it.

There are naturally quite a few things I still need to work on, procrastination being right at the top of the list, that and eating healthier, but small steps right.

Going Into 2024

2024 Is going to be a great year I believe – not just for me, but for tourism in South Africa in general, and Durban in particular.

Tour guide and company owner, Shelldon Wells

As my small business grows, as my colleagues become more successful and visitors continue to travel to our shores, I know that the year ahead is going to be amazing and I for one, cannot wait.

Book a Safari With Durban Safaris and Tours

If you are planning a trip to South Africa in 2024, then have a look at the safari tours, battlefield tours and all the other tours I offer. I am also happy to offer bespoke tours to fit your itinerary and your budget.

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