“Never has a wine been disliked when coupled with a good story and a bunch of fine people,” says Harry Melck, a wine expert and avid storyteller from Cape Town, South Africa.
South Africa is the oldest of the new world wine regions reaching back 360 years while Harry’s family stretches back through eight generations and is linked to the historical Muratie wine farm. He is one of only 102 Cape Wine Masters in South Africa. His wine journey has led him to explore and learn about wine to the point that he is now the principal of the Cape Wine Academy. Harry is also part owner of a chain of restaurants in London called Roxie. Harry has developed close relationships with many wine makers and leaders in the wine industry, which enables him to create once-in-a-lifetime, personal experiences for Big Five Tours & Expeditions’ guests.
His wine journeys focus on interactions between people, sharing stories as they learn about what the South African winelands have to offer. He leads guests on visits to the well-known vineyards and wine estates in this diverse landscape, from regions with specific wines such as the Bordeaux varieties of Stellenbosch to the Burgundy varieties of the Elgin region.
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Bryan is a registered culture and nature guide for the Eastern and Western Cape area that encompasses about two-thirds of South Africa’s coastline that includes some of the country’s oldest and most interesting settlements. For a decade, Bryan been guiding between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, including the well-known Winelands region, home to the rich vineyards and wine estates for which South Africa is known. He also frequently travels the Garden Route, one of the world’s smallest and most botanically diverse floral kingdoms on earth. Bryan is a guide in Addo Elephant Park, which has become the third largest game reserve in the country after a recent expansion. Bryan speaks English and Afrikaans fluently.
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Ian was born and raised in South Africa, and has been a professional guide since 1999. He has a passion for wine. He has spent five years at the Stellenbosch Winery, now known as Distel, learning about wine production, tasting and wine appreciation. He also loves animals and over the years he has obtained a comprehensive knowledge of the animals of South Africa, their habits and environments, with a special focus on whales, great white sharks and elephants. Ian’s diverse career history stretches from working in the largest winery in the country, to owning an advertising company for ten years, to cleaning drains in the squatter camps with high pressure water jet machines.
As a tour guide, Ian feels he has found his professional niche. “Showing visitors our truly wonderful country and our special people is the best job in the world.”
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James (Jamie) Whitehouse
After school at St Andrews in the Eastern Cape and a brief stint at university, Jamie emigrated to England where he worked at a number of jobs including as a policeman before returning to South Africa in the 1990s. He has worked as a professional full-time guide for some seven years. He has a thorough all-round knowledge of the Western and Eastern Cape and is often requested by clients for his experience as well as his engaging personality.
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David Dabuka Zitha
David Dabuka Zitha has a varied background, ranging from furniture sales to radio broadcasting. His love of natural and animals eventually led him to find his way to his chosen profession in the tourism industry in 2016. He is currently embarked on a three-year study program in the tourism field, studying topics such as transport, international travel and tourism marketing, expanding his knowledge in his chosen field. He loves the lowveld and its animals, fauna and flora. With his charismatic personality, David welcomes Big Five guests with enthusiasm and provides a memorable and educational journey in the lowveld.
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Siphiwe Kubheka was born in Pimville, a section of Soweto in Johannesburg. He also lived in the city of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal Province. After completing school, he worked for the South African Department of Social Welfare and Pensions. But his interest in working in tourism led him to earn his diploma in travel and tourism and obtaining a tourist guide qualification. He joined a tour company in 2009, gaining experience in all aspects of working with travelers. In 2016, Siphiwe was awarded “Guide of the Year” by his company. The following year, Siphiwe was appointed head tourist guide. In 2017, he was selected to visit two safari lodges in Zambia and Zimbabwe for a first-hand look at the experiences of his guests in southern Africa. He is a registered guide for Gauteng Province and will soon be registered for Mpumalanga Province. He continues studies in related fields.
In his spare time, Siphiwe enjoys attending cultural activities, and is a member of a community Maskandi (Zulu dance group) in KwaZulu-Natal.
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Garth Angus Rondeboch
Garth was born and grew up in South Africa. Around the start of the new millennium, his family moved to Cape Town just before the Y2K internet bubble burst. That financial crisis proved to be life-changing for Garth. The stress of the resulting emerging markets crisis persuaded him to change career paths from financial field to travel and tourism. He became a tour guide in and around Cape Town.
“What a privilege is it to now call places like Table Mountain, Company’s Garden, Cape of Good Hope and the Cape Wineries my office. After almost 20 years of doing the same thing, I still find myself enchanted by this area. It is a well-worn cliché, but it’s true nonetheless, the Cape Peninsula is one of the world’s most exquisitely beautiful places, and it’s my stomping ground,” smiles Garth.
And as a guide in Cape Town, he takes pleasure revealing what makes South Africa so special and spending time with interested travelers. “One of the things I have learned over the years is that interested people are themselves interesting. And that doubles the reward of my career,” Garth shares. “They share their experiences, opinions, politics and socio-economic challenges.”
Later in life, Garth discovered a passion for history, and welcomes talk about the difficult path that South Africa and the African continent have walked. This often includes topics such as colonialization, slavery, struggle for human rights and civil conflicts.
Garth also loves nature and the outdoors that the area offers including hiking on Table Mountain or in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. He enjoys walking his dog with his wife, mountain biking and social tennis. “If my guests have active interests, I’m always keen to incorporate a walk or a hike or something similar into their experience of Cape Town.”
For Garth, that is just another day at the office.
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