ATLANTA -- In the Shona language of Zimbabwe, mushinda means
"personal attendant to the king" and harks back to the days when
the nation was, indeed, a kingdom.
It has been a long time since a mushinda attended a king, but
Judy Udwin, operator of Mushinda, the African adventure safari
company based here, believes the name personifies its product:
custom-designed, independent tours of southern Africa with an
emphasis on luxury.
Of the 80 or so U.S. ground tour operators now sending clients to
South Africa, this company claims to have an edge.
Its three founders are natives of the continent -- Judy and her
husband, Leon, are from Zimbabwe, and Jonathan Dubovsky is South
African -- with firsthand knowledge of the area and with agents
living in southern Africa.
"We have agents on the ground in Cape Town and Harare (Zimbabwe)
to make sure things go smoothly," Judy Udwin said. "This is not
Zimbabwe may not be middle America, but neither is it northern
Africa, she was quick to point out. The only difficulty Mushinda
has experienced lately is retrieving a camera one of its clients
left on a bus, a job left to their ground agent, Udwin said.
"It's perfectly safe. If you look at the map, Uganda is way up
to the north," she added, in reference to the recent murder of
eight tourists in that country. "Anywhere they've had problems,
it's to the north. I can't understand why tour operators send
people there. Zimbabwe is in the south. They've had no
With Judy Udwin's 20 years as a travel agent behind them, the
Udwins and Dubovsky four years ago opened the Sophisticated
Traveler, a high-end travel company running trips to various
countries around the globe.
Mushinda is its southern Africa division and Judy's professed
passion. "Everybody does Kenya and Tanzania," she said, explaining
that she focused on Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana after
taking friends back home to Zimbabwe and seeing their reactions.
"We knew there was a need," she said.
At the turn of the millennium, she said she hopes to be sipping
champagne in the Zimbabwe bush as part of Mushinda's 17-day
Millennium Safari to the Heart of Africa.
The tour departs Dec. 19 and returns Jan. 5, in the interim
taking in the sites of Cape Town; celebrating Christmas in
Zimbabwe's capital, Harare; game viewing while based at a luxury
safari lodge on the shores of Lake Kariba; flying up the Zambezi
River over the gorge for a two-day visit to Victoria Falls, and
celebrating the millennium at a luxury bush camp in the Hwange
The price is $8,250 per person, inclusive of air fare and all
activities, meals and lodging. The trip is fully commissionable at
12% for both air and land.
The air is on South African Airlines, which departs from New
York or Miami. Add-ons are available from most cities. Mushinda has
also released a brochure with two sample, nonmillennium 15-day
trips: the High Adventure Safari and the Luxury Safari.
The price for a custom safari ranges from $250 to $350 per day,
and Mushinda pays a 12% commission on these bookings, as well. Both
itineraries begin in the U.S. and spend three days touring in Cape
Town and Cape Point, South Africa, before flying to Harare.
There guests will visit the Parliament buildings and art
galleries, where they can purchase the works of well-known Shona
Zimbabwe has an extensive network of parks and game reserves. On
both tours, guests board private charter planes for low-altitude
flights over grassy plains, teak forests and the mile-wide sheet of
cascading water that is Victoria Falls.
Accommodations provide what Udwin calls "five-star service" in
mostly small hotels, lodges and tented camps, holding between 12
and 18 people. "We custom-design our trips according to the
client's needs and budget, but they are high-end," she said.
The High Adventure Safari includes a canoe trip on the Zambezi
River, where the banks provide ample opportunities to view African
wildlife. The Luxury Safari affords an extra day in South Africa to
take in the Winelands tour and forgoes the canoe safari for game
viewing along Lake Kariba, where a chartered plane sets its party
down at an isolated strip on the shore.
With the air-conditioned Pumula Lodge as a base, guests can
embark on a sightseeing cruise aboard a 46-foot boat or venture out
on a game drive or game walk, accompanied by a certified ranger.
Johannesburg is the gateway home for both tours as well as the
The High Adventure Safari price starts at $3,995 per person,
double occupancy. The price of the Luxury Safari trip begins at
$4,395 per person, double.
Air fare can be arranged but is not included in the price.
The costs for both sample tours include all accommodations, most
meals, transfers, guides, park fees and taxes.
Phone: (800) 522-8093 or (404) 843-0046
Fax: (404) 843-2946
E-mail: [email protected]