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active 12 hours ago

Deborah Smook

I get super excited every time I get to share my country with anyone and I want to make sure that when someone does come, they are blown away by the people, the beauty, and the incredible value for money experiences. I enjoy spending the time to find out what each visitor needs to make their experience unforgettable and then craft a trip accordingly. I want every visitor to Southern Africa to have authentic experiences!

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"We specialize in all of Southern Africa (Cape Town, Kruger, Garden Route, Vic Falls, Chobe, Okavango) as well as the Indian Ocean Islands - Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion, and Madagascar.

We DO Africa! We want you to have authentic and meaningful experiences. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the local community or prefer mountain biking, motorbiking or hiking the incredible scenery or become one with the Winelands and the mouthwatering food options, we want you to DO is at well."

How did you get involved in travel?

"I studied Tourism Management, but mostly because it was a means to move to Cape Town - it was one of few places it was offered in at the time. Traveling is in my genes though and as soon as I was done, I started working and traveling for about 5 years. Mostly in the Far East and Europe. When I got back to Cape Town, I started working in the industry and then got extremely lucky - I was offered a position to market South Africa as a backpacking, volunteering and adventure destination for an industry association! I still look back and think it was the best job in the world! I got to really see my own country and also go around the world to tell others how awesome it is. Not to mention the incredible people I met along the way - many of whom are still very good industry friends and partners.

But life goes on and I needed to start doing my own thing. Fast forward a few years and here I am - still sharing my beautiful country by crafting it especially for you!"

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"There are a few, but for a South African, living on the other side of the world, Alaska was the most mind-blowing for me. It is just SO different from what I know and hiking on a glacier on my birthday close to the small town, McCarthy was something I will never forget.

Back on this side of the world, Victoria Falls will never stop to amaze me. Besides the majesty of the falls, it also has a real African feel and you actually do have elephants walking around in the streets. It is only an hour from Chobe where there are plains full of wildlife. In May I am going on a luxury houseboat on the Chobe River and I think that will then be added to this list!"

Featured trips & expertise

A vineyard in Stellenbosch near Cape Town
Cape Town & Garden Route - 8 Days

Experience one of the most beautiful parts of the world as you make your way along South Africa's Garden Route for a unique mix of scenery, multiculturalism, and outdoor activities. This 8-day adventure starts and ends in Cape Town—capped by the magnificent Table Mountain—where you'll have several days to explore this fascinating city (and nearby vineyards) with the help of local guides.

A road in the Western Cape, South Africa
South Africa Self-Drive Tour - 11 Days

This stunning road-trip itinerary encompasses urban sophistication, a wildlife safari, and one of the country's best wine regions—all in the span of 11 days. Kick off in Cape Town where you'll have four days to explore the city's culture and hiking trails. From here, drive to a beautiful private game reserve that is home to the 'Big 5'. Finish in the Franschhoek Valley to see some of the best wine estates and gardens in South  Africa.

View of the Atlantic from Table Mountain, Cape Town
South Africa and Victoria Falls Adventure - 14 Days

This itinerary is sure to satisfy any adventurer looking to explore the best of Southern Africa's natural scenery. From the coast of Cape Town up along the Garden Route and into the deserts of the Great Karoo, you will be able to experience all the defining ecoregions of South Africa and beyond.

Recent trip reviews for Deborah

South Africa · South Africa - Aug 13 - Aug 25, 2019

Traveler: Hilary C. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

We had a great trip to southern Africa! Deb booked everything we asked for and more. Our favorite experiences included shark cage diving in South Africa, the Chobe photographic safari with Pangolin lodge in Botswana, a great Kruger safari, and the eye opening Soweto tour in Johannesburg. Beautiful parts of the world with comfortable lodging and memorable moments. Deb took away all of the logistical issues I was stressed about when I initially started planning, and incorporated experiences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Loved it!

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hello Hilary!

Thank you for the awesome review! You are the best. So happy you enjoyed all the experiences. We really try to match everyone with the experiences best suited to their interests and I am very happy we managed to succeed in doing it.
I hope you will carry Southern Africa in your heart for a while and find time to come back here again soon!

All the best
Deb & Tara

Dale's Birthday Trip to Southern Africa · South Africa - Jul 6 - Jul 21, 2019

Traveler: Brett J. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

First, I need to thank Deborah and Tara from Eglin Africa Travel in Cape Town for their recommendations and for planning & arranging an amazing two week holiday in Africa. This was important as my family celebrated my wife's 60th while away.
I cannot recommend their services highly enough - real five star support right throughout the process and they even created a WhatsApp group so we could communicate while away.
Deborah recommended amazing hotels in Cape Town and Stellenbosch and three... read more

First, I need to thank Deborah and Tara from Eglin Africa Travel in Cape Town for their recommendations and for planning & arranging an amazing two week holiday in Africa. This was important as my family celebrated my wife's 60th while away.
I cannot recommend their services highly enough - real five star support right throughout the process and they even created a WhatsApp group so we could communicate while away.
Deborah recommended amazing hotels in Cape Town and Stellenbosch and three fantastic game lodges in Khwai, Chobe and Victoria Falls.
Two of the lodges were Pangolin Photo Safaris. Each guest is given a Canon 80D DSLR camera with a 150-600 telephoto lens and taught how to use it to take fantastic photos of the amazing wild animals in Africa. My entire family, none of who have photographic experience beyond an iPhone, really enjoyed the experience and we have hundreds of photos of lion, leopard, elephant, hippo and the amazing African antelope and birds.
If you travel to Africa, please contact Deborah and Tara.

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hello Brett, Dale, Ellie & Pete

Thank you again for the kind words and the really good review. It means the world to us, but it means even more to us that you had the trip of a lifetime. We knew it was important to you and a big trip for the family.

Hope to see you back here again soon.

Deborah & Tara

lilia

South Africa in 15 days · South Africa - May 15 - May 29, 2019

Traveler: lilia s. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

This is the third time I’ve used kimkim to help with my travel planning. Clearly they work with the best travel specialists in the world. For my South African adventure kimkim connected me with Elgin Africa, I couldn’t have asked for a better match!

Deborah contacted me first, she got back to me right away with answers for my questions about budget and best time to visit South Africa. After couple of emails I knew I was in good hands.

Tara contacted me second, she was wonderful from the... read more

This is the third time I’ve used kimkim to help with my travel planning. Clearly they work with the best travel specialists in the world. For my South African adventure kimkim connected me with Elgin Africa, I couldn’t have asked for a better match!

Deborah contacted me first, she got back to me right away with answers for my questions about budget and best time to visit South Africa. After couple of emails I knew I was in good hands.

Tara contacted me second, she was wonderful from the start, always available to quickly and patiently answer any questions, worked around my budget and tailored the itinerary based on the list of places and experiences I wanted.

This trip was amazing largely to Tara’s impeccable planning, I never had to worry about a transfer, guide (the guides that Elgin Africa works with are wonderful), or accommodation, everything was perfect!

While traveling, Deborah and Tara checked up on me often making sure everything was running smoothly and that I was enjoying my trip.

Anybody planning to visit South Africa should contact Elgin Africa, they are the best!

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

I've asked Deborah to post my response to your beautiful review here as I was not able to.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit about your experience booking with us, and for the amazing feedback. It is truly appreciated, and heart-warming to know that you enjoyed your trip so much. We could not have asked for a better result. :) Seriously, it brings us so much joy that you enjoyed your vacation in South Africa this much!

We wish we could review our clients too. You were... read more

I've asked Deborah to post my response to your beautiful review here as I was not able to.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit about your experience booking with us, and for the amazing feedback. It is truly appreciated, and heart-warming to know that you enjoyed your trip so much. We could not have asked for a better result. :) Seriously, it brings us so much joy that you enjoyed your vacation in South Africa this much!

We wish we could review our clients too. You were and have been nothing but a pleasure to work with. It was also wonderful to meet you in person in Cape Town. We do hope you visit again!

Wishing you all the best,
Tara

*Hi Lilia
From my side as well, thank you for the great review. Tara is still talking about you!
And I have to compliment you on the photos you posted - they are really good!
Deb

Wine tour · South Africa - Apr 30 - May 1, 2019

Traveler: Mary P. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

We had two tours- one with Eon and one with Lisa- and both were wonderful! Eon took us to the wine country- 3 wineries and lunch- and Lisa took us on a scenic tour of the peninsula- Cape Point, Boulders Beach- and lunch at Two Oceans. We cannot say enough about them- both guides were so knowledgeable, fun, interesting, attentive, sweet- we were so very impressed! Would definitely recommend both to our family and friends.

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hello Mary

Thank you for the positive feedback. I have been wondering how it went! Eon said you had a great time, but always good to hear it from you as well. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay in our beautiful country as well.

Till next time.

Deborah & Marita

South Africa Jaunt · South Africa - Apr 10 - Apr 22, 2019

Traveler: Seth J. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

We had a truly great trip. We spoke with Deborah and Tara beforehand and they planned everything out perfectly. All great choices for accommodations, tours and guides. Also, they stayed in touch with us the whole time to make sure we had no problems or to make additional suggestions on the go. So glad we found them and KimKim!! Seth Jacobson

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear Seth and Susan

Thank you for the great review (and the peanut butter cups 😉). It was a pleasure working with you and if we could rate the travelers, then we would give you a 5 too. All the best and hope to have you back one day.

Deborah and Tara

Northern Namibia Tour · Namibia - Nov 4 - Nov 14, 2018

Traveler: Wayne J. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

A big thank you to the KimKim team for the planning, organisation and great communication that went into making our 5 weeks in Namibia a truly memorable trip. From the first contact, throughout our requests for changes and alternate itineraries, nothing seemed like it was too much trouble for Tara and Deborah.

Everything around our self drive Safari/Tour was exceedingly well planned and co-ordinated with a perfectly suited vehicle, that was ideal for the conditions and well equipped. Their... read more

A big thank you to the KimKim team for the planning, organisation and great communication that went into making our 5 weeks in Namibia a truly memorable trip. From the first contact, throughout our requests for changes and alternate itineraries, nothing seemed like it was too much trouble for Tara and Deborah.

Everything around our self drive Safari/Tour was exceedingly well planned and co-ordinated with a perfectly suited vehicle, that was ideal for the conditions and well equipped. Their local representatives were both very friendly, helpful and informative, which added to the overall sense of confidence in the planning and the enjoyment of the tour.

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hello Wayne

Thank you so much for the lovely review. We really do appreciate it and we are so happy you enjoyed your trip. I'm thinking back about your trip now and itching to do the same trip myself. We will hopefully be going to Namibia as a family in June.

Whenever you feel like coming back or exploring other parts of Africa, give us a shout and we will happily assist again.

All the best!

Deborah & Tara

Cape town - garden route - kruger · South Africa - Dec 8 - Dec 22, 2018

Traveler: Zoe N. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

Deborah was a fantastic tour guide and helped us to find 2 amazing once in a lifetime tours.
Kruger national park was amazing and hosted by an awesome local guide who showed us the big 5 and more. Everything went really smoothly with meeting the guide and Deborah and Tara were super helpful ensuring we were collected and happy throughout the trip.
The second part of our holiday was doing the garden route which again was a fantastic experience and showed us many of the best sights!
I'd really... read more

Deborah was a fantastic tour guide and helped us to find 2 amazing once in a lifetime tours.
Kruger national park was amazing and hosted by an awesome local guide who showed us the big 5 and more. Everything went really smoothly with meeting the guide and Deborah and Tara were super helpful ensuring we were collected and happy throughout the trip.
The second part of our holiday was doing the garden route which again was a fantastic experience and showed us many of the best sights!
I'd really recommend Deborah and Tara to anyone going to S Africa as they helped us find 2 great tours that were perfect for us and ensured we had an amazing holiday!
Thanks again!
Zoe and Rob

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Zoe and Rob

I am so happy that you enjoyed your time in SA as well as the tours we picked for you!

Thank you once again for trusting us with your travel plans.

All the best!

Deb

Garden Route highlights · South Africa - Dec 10 - Dec 16, 2018

Traveler: Shimaila A. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

Excellent service from Deborah. She managed to find a group tour of the Garden route which suited our needs. She was always quick to respond to my messages.
Would highly recommend Kimkim!

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

HI Shimaila

Thank you for your review and I am really happy you enjoyed your time in SA!

Shout if you ever need to come back.

Deb

South Africa Self-Drive · South Africa - Jul 15 - Aug 6, 2018

Traveler: AJ H. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

This is an incredible service, and I can’t express how much I appreciate being able to visit a new place — new cultures, new languages, contested histories — and feel like I left it with something more than a superficial layer of tourist-appropriate experience.

Deborah (with help from Tara - of Elgin Africa) provided us with an incredibly thoughtful and perfectly paced itinerary for our 22-day holiday. Deborah’s understanding of us — she really listened to us — and of the options before... read more

This is an incredible service, and I can’t express how much I appreciate being able to visit a new place — new cultures, new languages, contested histories — and feel like I left it with something more than a superficial layer of tourist-appropriate experience.

Deborah (with help from Tara - of Elgin Africa) provided us with an incredibly thoughtful and perfectly paced itinerary for our 22-day holiday. Deborah’s understanding of us — she really listened to us — and of the options before us, given our interests and length of stay allowed her to guide us to choices we wouldn’t have considered or known about. The process of working with Deborah was easy — we emailed several times, and spoke on the phone once — and each ‘visit’ with her left us more and more excited about our trip.

Deborah has worked in tourism for many years, and not only knows places and people, but has an encyclopedic knowledge of how businesses are run, what their values are, and how accommodations, tours, and even key local people will suit her clients.

We loved (LOVED) this trip. We would trust KimKim with any future travel based on our experience with Deborah. She heard our desire to travel according to our values, even though it might mean risking new experiences with accommodation, local tour guides, or wildlife (!). We asked for a non-Disney version of South Africa, and that’s exactly what we got. We’ve been home for two weeks, and already we’re saving for our next holiday (with Deborah at the helm).

My husband’s primary interest was in tracing the lives and contributions of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Deborah ensured that we visited each significant location in that ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ — including the various branches of the Apartheid Museum. More than that, Deborah identified several contacts for us over the course of our holiday who we would meet and speak with to help us understand personal stories of activism during the struggle for a Democratic South Africa.

In Johannesburg, we stayed in the arts district Maboneng, and toured the city with “King,” a Soweto-born tour guide whose vibrancy and realistic portrait of the city challenged the ‘victory’ narrative. It was wonderful to have a more complex portrait of the country immediately — and with personal experiences and explanations to make that portrait more concerning.

In Qunu, the place of Mandela’s birth, Deborah paired us with an incredible local guide we’re still talking about. His activism during the struggle to end apartheid forced him out of university and into prison. Still an activist, and finished with his formal education, “Zim” allowed us to question him about his current work (defining and re-defining masculinity, and leading groups of people to experience their own power). Deborah had arranged for us to have lunch at his home, where we met his wife and ate a beautiful meal prepared with fresh vegetables grow in their garden. This sort of encounter is simply not possible without current connections and deep interest in one’s work. Wow, Deborah!

Deborah’s care throughout the trip created opportunities and connections like this for us. In Cape Town, for example, tickets to Robben Island were scarce because of ferry trouble and unforeseen closures of the museum. Deborah to the rescue. Robben Island may sound like a trip only for tourists, but I found it to be remarkably organized, insightful, and deeply moving. Need I mention that our tour of the prison/museum was led by a former political prisoner?

My primary interest in the trip was to see and experience the vast expanse of South Africa — its open skies, its languages, its people, and expressions of its cultures. Deborah consistently steered us toward places and encounters we wouldn’t have been able to have on our own. The range of people she put us in touch with ranged from shops selling the work of local people (sometimes co-owned and operated by those people), or informal locations where she was sure we would encounter local artisans selling their work. Our accommodations provided us with not just a white South African holiday. (On our flight home, we noticed that the cosmopolitan artsy 12 Decades Hotel in Johannesburg was written up as a ‘must-go’ location in the in-flight magazine!) Even before we left home, Deborah’s itinerary for us included descriptions of accommodations like this one, describing a beautifully designed backpacker lodge: “Hopefully you’ll meet one of the owners, Sal, who basically grew up at the lodge and is very knowledgeable about all the community projects in the area.” Intersperced with backpacker accommodations, Deborah planned luxurious nights for us. In another part of the itinerary she writes: “It’s 5-star accommodation at 4-star rates and includes breakfast.” She failed to mention that the staff at Falcon’s View Manor (“high above the town of Knysna”) would wash our car (!) while it was parked overnight in their covered carport. At this hotel, we got to our room and discovered that Deborah, who had passed through the area days before, left a beautiful bottle of wine for us. (Need I mention that the adjustment to routine life at home has been difficult!?)

Deborah arranged for several game drives during our holiday, including photographic safaris in Chobe National Park in Botswana. She had personally experienced these safaris, and although such an excursion wasn’t on our radar, our stay at Pangolin Lodge and experiences with drivers and our photography ‘teacher’ couldn’t have been better.

Our trip covered a true range of natural environments, cultural locations, and physical activities. Everywhere we were safe and cared for with attention to detail. Deborah put us in the path of people and encounters that moved us and enlarged our personal and political worldviews. This is the best of travel.

Deborah’s deep knowledge of her client’s desires (we wanted to support family-owned and community-supportive businesses), coupled with her vast knowledge of opportunities for tourism in South Africa, and even Zambia and Botswana, made this a trip our friends simply can’t believe we were able to take. Deborah’s itinerary for us included details about the businesses we patronized, what we should expect for food, even what to pack for day hikes in specific regions... I can’t tell you how grateful I am for her knowledge. Impressed, and grateful.

I can’t thank you enough for referring us to Deborah and to her collegue Tara at Elgin Africa. Although we’ll need to save for a bit before we travel again, I’d reach out to Deborah without hesitation. KimKim was a terrific way to get us started. I’m grateful for your expertise and for the thoughtfulness of your method in pairing travelers with local experts like Deborah.

Cheers!

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear AJ & Shannon

I can not thank you enough for the beautiful review and the opportunity to plan this trip with you. Tara and I really enjoyed doing it and felt like we were traveling with you.

Thank you for sharing the photos and your experience with us. It was really great meeting you too and hearing all about the trip. We will plan a trip with you again any day!

And you are on my to-visit list in the US soon.

Love

Deb & Tara

Family vacation · South Africa - May 25 - Jun 1, 2018

Traveler: Danny S. - Local specialist: Deborah Smook

OH MY GOD, Deborah is Awesome, so nice ,patient and always answer when i call on her , sometimes 12 am . She is GREAT and the best i have ever known my whole Life . Indeed she is a Specialist. I recommend anyone going to South Africa and booking with KimKim should Chose Deborah . God this lady is Amazing , her timing , planning and service is amazing , she will make you feel like a Royal away from Home . I have decided to come go to cape town every year because of her. She is the best i have... read more

OH MY GOD, Deborah is Awesome, so nice ,patient and always answer when i call on her , sometimes 12 am . She is GREAT and the best i have ever known my whole Life . Indeed she is a Specialist. I recommend anyone going to South Africa and booking with KimKim should Chose Deborah . God this lady is Amazing , her timing , planning and service is amazing , she will make you feel like a Royal away from Home . I have decided to come go to cape town every year because of her. She is the best i have ever seen in the whole wide world . Deborah thumps up. Be proud of yourself , Thank you for the wonderful service , God bless you ..

Deborah Smook profile photo
Deborah Smook, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear Danny

Thank you SO much for your very generous review! I can't wait to hear from you again and plan your trip to SA again soon!

Kind regards
Deborah