Terri Abadi spent her childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, where she developed a love of wildlife, wild spaces and “her people.” In 2013, she launched Atlanta-based safari tour company Iconic Africa, specializing in planning tours for adventurous and curious travelers. A top choice on most bucket lists, the South Africa safaris elicit remarks such as “life changing” and “intensely spiritual” from Abadi’s travelers.
“I feel the closest to God when I’m in wild places,” the Iconic Africa director told the AJT. “Nature, with its wealth of diversity and unfathomable complexity, is a gift from God and where I feel most spiritual. When I’m out in the African wilds, I often ponder God’s acts of creation and see incomparable genius. Waking up to the sounds of the wild, the vivid colors of the African sunrise, sounds of the coucal at dawn, the roar of a lion reverberating through the night … I breathe in the crisp air and smell the wild sage as we drive out of camp; the cool morning wind on my face makes me count my lucky stars that I get to do this so often.”
Leaving South Africa in the 1990s to be near her brothers in Atlanta, Abadi partnered in 2014 with an old friend, John Holley, who now runs her South Africa office, to turn a traditional travel agency into a superior online travel platform showcasing African destinations representative of her values: most importantly, an authentic commitment to wilderness conservation.
Iconic Africa has teams in South Africa, Kenya and the U.S. staffed by African-born travel experts who are committed to being close at hand on each step of the journey. Beyond sightseeing, the company maintains philanthropic goals focused on facilitating positive change for Africans in Africa, while creating a seamless and unforgettable experience for their clients.
Abadi does not chaperone every trip, but does take three to four tours herself every year, usually with extended family, in June.
“It’s important for agents to know the areas to which they send clients, so I make sure I have experience with every destination included on an itinerary,” she said. “While I do not personally go on each tour, I curate each trip for the particular client from start to finish.”
Each trip is completely customized, from multi-generational family trips, once-in-a-lifetime honeymoons or conservation-driven trips. To make the ordinary truly extraordinary, Abadi probes the desires and expectations of each client ahead of time. Iconic Africa includes boutique elements with customized packages that fit every budget from standard tours to totally private, ultra-luxurious expeditions.
When it comes to safety, Abadi says, “All our tours are completely safe, and we are always in the loop, making sure our travelers’ safety is paramount.”
Yes, kosher accommodations are available. Iconic offers fully Beth Din-approved hotels and lodges. At remote safari lodges and destinations, they offer various solutions, from flying in prepared kosher meals to preparing fresh kosher-friendly food on site, or even arranging private chefs to reside on hand.
Being South African, Terri favors the Greater Kruger area, particularly the Sabi Sand Reserve, where game viewing is most incredible. “There are so many wonderful lodges in Africa, each with its own brand of magic,” she recalled. “From panoramas over the Great Rift Valley, to glamping in style in the Botswanan desert, every landscape awakens the soul!”
One of Abadi’s unmissable sights is leopard viewing in Londolozi Game Reserve. “The leopard viewing is surreal!” she exclaims. “I have seen more than my fair share of these beautiful cats there over the years and have even watched some grow from tiny cubs to having multiple litters of their own.”
Abadi is a member of Congregation Beth Tefillah and has four children. Her other passions include yoga, reading and photography.