Hello there! Welcome to our African travel blog. We are the Westerweels – Janine and Otto. Having found each other late in life, we’ve spent the last 9 years thoroughly enjoying our life and spending time together in every way. We live to be out and about (hence the name of our blog) and discover new places and experiences.
The early days
Between us, we have four children and at an early stage in our relationship, decided to move in together and blend our two families. This consisted of four teenage children at the time – not an easy task, I can tell you!
For the first few years, we had a bit of an uphill battle. Otto and his children are from the Netherlands and my two girls and I are South African. It was quite tough adjusting to different cultures and methods of upbringing. Nevertheless, the one thing we did not do was allow this obstacle to interfere with us and enjoying our newfound life together. We’ve travelled many kilometres and experienced wonderful places and things on our African travel adventures over the last few years. The natural progression, we thought, was to begin to share our experiences with those of you who might be interested!
Join us on our African travel adventure
So, this is the start of our new journey together. Although our skills can easily cross-pollinate, we’re going to assign ourselves fairly specific roles – Otto is the official photographer and I will be the scribe. I too, love my photography and have taken some fairly good photos in my time. Otto is quite used to putting together documents for his real estate business, but we’ll begin this way and see where it takes us.
Apart from our travels and experiences together, each of us has travelled to many different countries around the world. My experience as a tour operator has also given me the opportunity to explore the most amazing places around Southern Africa on my own – Mozambique, Botswana, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, as an example – and I’ll be sharing all of these experiences with you, as well as information about luxury hotels and game lodges throughout Southern Africa.
More about Janine
My main passions are wildlife and travel, and where I can combine the two is where my soul is happiest. I spent many years (in another lifetime) in game lodges – catering; hosting; managing; guiding (I am also a qualified guide). When I divorced and the life in hospitality started to take its toll as a single mother on her own, solely responsible for her two children, I moved into tour operating.
I then spent a good few years planning and booking dream holidays for my clients, and in-between, travelling all over to experience (or in some cases, refresh my experience of) the destinations, accommodation and activities that I was booking for my clients.
The “anti-bucket” list
I often say I’ve been spending my time working through my “anti” bucket list – all the things I swore I would never, ever do before I died and could possibly die doing!
I have: stepped off the bridge and swung from the arch at Moses Mabida stadium in Kwa Zulu Natal, just before the opening of the 2010 World Cup; zip-lined across Victoria Falls (both of these done even though I am absolutely terrified of heights); done a diving crash (resort) course and dived to 5m in the Quirimbas Archipelago (even though I’m terrified of the wide-open nothingness of the sea, not to mention sharks and other biting, stinging things!); water-skied in the sea at a Mozambique island resort in the Bazaruto Archipelago (my love of water-skiing managed to overcome my fear of the sea creatures in this instance); and even tried the shark cage diving experience at Gansbaai, near Hermanus (even though – did I mention?- I am absolutely terrified of sharks).
All of these done in the name of being able to tell my clients exactly what the experience would be like and if it was worth booking.
So many countries, so little time
I have travelled to 63 cities in 17 countries so far and the one thing I love almost as much as travel is sharing my experience of it. Not just the anecdotes and destinations, but all the nitty-gritty stuff that people who want to do the same, need to know.
More about Otto
Otto moved his family from the Netherlands to South Africa in 2002, when he decided that the property market in the Netherlands had become stagnant.
They already had a holiday home in Plettenberg Bay and decided to move there permanently. He has been in property since leaving school and that is what he knows and loves.
Otto meets Janine
He has travelled extensively throughout the world, but when we met, he had been travelling to and living in, South Africa some seven years already. Up to that point, he had only experienced the wildlife in the Western Cape. I was a tour operator at the time and travelling on site inspections (also known as Fam – Familiarization – trips or Educationals) all over the show. I would take him along (and the kids who wanted to go), whenever I could.
Our first big adventure in the African bushveld
I arranged a trip to inspect as many of the luxury game lodges in the Kruger National Park and surrounding reserves as I was selling and could see in one week. Travelling from Cape Town to Mpumalanga and the North West can be a challenge, so time was limited. We set off on a combination journey of flying and driving a total of 8,000 kilometres in eight days.
Flying game drives!
This was the first time Otto had experienced what I call “the real bush”. We managed to visit a record 57 game lodges in the area in those eight days. Most of that time was spent racing from one game lodge to the next, having been delayed en route by an overturned tanker. We were flying past the most incredible sightings (often Big 5!), yet Otto managed to get some really spectacular photographs. This is where he discovered three more passions in his life – wildlife, in the “real” bush, and photography. I still have a very vivid memory of my poor husband taking photos “on the fly”, as I’d turn to him, point and say, “Lion on the left”, or “Buffalo herd, right”, while I instructed the guide not to slow down, please!
Eventually, I was leaving all the picture-taking to him so that I could focus on the details of the lodges. He was capturing the essence of each place we visited – sometimes in a matter of minutes – in a unique way. His photographs were hauntingly beautiful and composed in a way I would never have dreamed of.
Cooking, golf, sailing and more
He has also loved cooking since he was in his twenties, experimenting with all sorts of cuisine and fusions. His speciality today is Indonesian and Dutch cooking and he became a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in 2004. We’ll be sharing some of our favourite dishes and recipes with you as and when the mood takes us.
Being an avid golfer for many years, Otto has played on some interesting courses in South Africa and around the world. Goose Valley in Plettenberg Bay and Vale do Lobo Royal in Algarve, Portugal are just two examples.
While living in the Netherlands, Otto did quite a bit of sailing – in Veerse Meer and Oosterschelde in Zeeland; as well as Le Lavandou on the French Riviera in the South of France.
So, as you can see, we share many of the same passions in life – water sports; cooking; travelling; wildlife; photography; fine dining and good wine. We hope that as we share our love of all of this with you, it becomes the biggest adventure of all!