Professional make-up artist extraordinaire and founder of her own cosmetics empire, Bobbi Brown visited southern Africa last year and fell in love with the wide-open spaces, scenic beauty, incredible wildlife and inspirational people she met along the way…
In July 2013, I travelled to South Africa and Botswana for a 12-day trip with my extended family. All together, we were 14, including my husband and three sons. It’s always been my dream to go on safari and it didn’t disappoint. We explored Cape Town and Johannesburg along with various wild game reserves and national parks. We journeyed with a company called Backroads (I had travelled to Morocco and through southern France with them before) on a multisport adventure, which meant that every day there was a sporting component to the trip, such as hiking or biking. It was the perfect trip to stay active, catch up with my family, explore and be inspired.
This was my first trip to South Africa, so I couldn’t leave without visiting the local Bobbi Brown artists. A couple of hours after landing (my flight from New York was delayed), I showed up to meet the team. The energy and openness of each make-up artist was incredible. The greeting I received was enthusiastic, happy, and loud – in the best way. I loved hearing their different stories and learning about their backgrounds. After an hour of Q&A with my artists (my best market research), we chatted informally and took a lot of photos together. It was a long day for sure, but a great one. What an inspiring team!
We began our trip in Cape Town. First, we went to see Table Mountain, which offers stunning views of the city and its mountains. We hiked along the forested flanks of the mountain to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Here, we stopped for a picnic lunch in the gardens, surrounded by some of the most exotic flowers from the region. Back at the hotel, the family could choose from a variety of activities that included golfing, tennis and swimming. We spent the night in Constantia at The Cellars-Hohenort, a historic manor house located in the vineyards. It was an amazing place to stay and our room had a great view of Table Mountain. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Greenhouse Restaurant, which serves a seasonal menu using local produce.
We shuttled to Cape Point for a walk along the cliffs to reach one of the highest sea cliffs in the world, at more than 200 metres. It’s said to have the freshest air – straight from Antarctica. There were really impressive views of the lighthouse and sea, and we even spotted a couple of whales and penguins out in the ocean. We then set out on a biking trip through Table Mountain’s National Park, along a beautiful road that follows the sea. That night we had dinner with a man who’d spent time at Robben Island’s prison with Nelson Mandela.
Day 4 & Day 5
We travelled four hours by car to Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Western Cape. The hotel was set on a desert-like plain and had fantastic views of the river and dramatic rock formations. During the day, we went out on a game drive where we saw plenty of animals – mountain zebras, antelopes, ostriches… I have to admit it took me a few days to totally relax in the Land Rover because the animals are literally right in front of you and they seem to be looking directly into your eyes. It’s unbelievable. That evening, we enjoyed a tasting of local wines at the hotel before dinner. The food was deliciously fresh, serving organic produce from the hotel’s garden.
We jumped on a plane to Bostwana where we checked-in to the Mashatu Game Reserve, a remote luxury camp built around a waterhole where elephant herds hang out. I was incredibly excited as I’d been told that this location was excellent for game viewing, thanks to the local conservation efforts. Mashatu provides refuge for more than 500 elephants and is also home to hundreds of bird species, cheetahs, and lions. We enjoyed lunch outdoors in the shade of the trees and then took a guided game walk where we saw tons of animals, including giraffes and cheetahs. That evening, we took it easy at the hotel and played board games.
Today was an adventure! We set out early and mountain biked (slowly) along elephant paths – it was pretty nerve-racking. After a leisurely breakfast of organic eggs and fresh local fruit, we hung out by the pool. In the early evening, we took a Jeep into the bush to look for more animals. We even saw a cheetah catch an impala while a leopard waited patiently to steal his meal. Then our guides found the perfect place to watch the sunset and prepared delicious cocktails and snacks for us to enjoy in the middle of the reserve. I felt like I was in the movie Out of Africa.
Day 8 & Day 9
We spent a couple of days back in South Africa in the Mpumalanga province, which means “place where the sun rises”. We arrived at Cybele Forest Lodge & Health Spa, a beautiful farmhouse set amid a lush forest and banana plantations. The gang split up to enjoy walks along a waterfall, go on guided walks to see the animals, enjoy the spa, visit the local artists’ community or shop for local arts and crafts.
Day 10 & Day 11
We slept in and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at the hotel. That afternoon, we arrived at the Londolozi Private Game Reserve – my favorite part of the trip – where we spent a couple of nights. The setting was spectacular. The hotel is situated on an immense privately owned game reserve so the animals are literally on your doorstep. The staff were warm and attentive, the rooms were beautifully designed, and the food was amazing. But, above all, what I loved about Londolozi was that it has a strong commitment to conservation and giving back to the community. The hotel staff predominantly comprised local villagers and led many grassroots education initiatives to create a focused, achievable and digitally powered education model through the Good Work Foundation. We got the chance to witness Londolozi’s involvement in the community and visited new schools and the community gardens. Some members of the staff even invited us into their homes to learn more about their culture and rituals and how education helps empower them.
After lunch, we started the long journey back to New York. On the way, we looked through our photos and shared our favourite experiences. When I got back to the office, I couldn’t wait to show everyone all the inspiration pieces – the camouflage jackets, the star-studded skies, the animals, the local food, etc – that made the trip so awe-inspiring. These items helped inspire the Sterling Nights Collection that launches this fall.