My Fall FAM Tour Experience

Matt Spalding and student Alexandra Edwards at The Boma in Zimbabwe

As a student enrolled in the Tourism & Hospitality Management program at JWU, I had an amazing opportunity to travel abroad as part of the Tour Management Operations course’s FAM (Familiarization) Tour. Every student enrolled in the Tourism & Hospitality Management program takes this course before they graduate, and every term, students travel to a different destination. Our destination was Africa — South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana to be exact. Besides brief stops during cruises, this was my first time leaving the United States. That in itself was a WOW factor; my first trip abroad was to Africa! I never thought my first trip outside of the US would be to Africa out of all of the places in the world, but I am glad it was. I am also fortunate I got to experience it with fellow peers who I grew so close to during the trip. It was truly an indescribable feeling of happiness and accomplishment.

Weeks of preparations for our trip led up to the big day. Our class departed for South Africa from Boston on November 3. After 2 long flights and 1 layover in Dubai, we arrived in Johannesburg and spent the first two days of our journey there. During our first day we traveled to the nearby township of Soweto. Soweto is best known for once being the home of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, 2 leaders who helped end the Apartheid that existed into the early 1990s. We toured Mandela’s home, visited the Apartheid Museum, and enjoyed authentic South African cuisine at local restaurants before returning to our hotel. Day 1 was both educational and inspirational.

After a good night’s rest, we traveled back to the airport to board a Zimbabwe-bound jet. We settled into our next accommodation by late afternoon and prepared for dinner at The Boma–Dinner & Drum Show, an interactive drum show and African buffet. Here, we enjoyed traditional foods including crocodile tail and warthog.

 Botswana safari in Chobe National Park, known for its vast variety of African animals, including the elephant seen in the photo.

The next morning, we journeyed to the country of Botswana for a safari in Chobe National Park, known for its vast variety of African animals, including elephant and water buffalo herds, zebras and lions. We boarded land cruisers and began the drive along winding, sandy trails, where we spotted an abundance of wildlife up close. We explored for a few more hours on land, then headed to the water to board a safari boat. The boat navigated through wetlands as we spotted crocodiles and hippos. Once mid-afternoon came around, we docked and enjoyed a delicious barbecue lunch on a floating platform amongst the African bush.

Whitewater rafting on the Mighty Zambezi River known as one of the best and most extreme rivers for whitewater sports

As Day 5 approached, our class prepared for a thrilling, once in a lifetime adventure — whitewater rafting on the Mighty Zambezi River. The Zambezi is known as one of the best and most extreme rivers for whitewater sports. We concluded the action-packed day with a picnic lunch overlooking the river gorge.

On our final day in Zimbabwe, we journeyed to Victoria Falls for a hike. Victoria Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world. After capturing some stunning images at the falls, we visited the local town and shopped at the market. To end the day, we embarked on a sunset river cruise and reminisced about the experiences we have shared with each other over the past several days.

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

After a busy week in Zimbabwe, we boarded the jet back to South Africa and journeyed back to the hotel where we spent one last night sharing photos, laughs and stories around the fire pit. The next morning we departed for the US.

I crossed a lot of things off my bucket list within the span of 1 week. This trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With that said, I strongly encourage everyone to inquire about Study Abroad opportunities here at Johnson & Wales University. They will change your life and your outlook on the world.

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Zambezi River photo courtesy of Adventure Zone. All other photos taken by Matt Spalding.