Veteran luxury travel consultant Judy Udwin has built a world class travel business focusing on her homeland that spans across South Africa. Over the past 25 years, she has organized hundreds of customized safaris and unforgettable itineraries with a personal connection that transforms every trip.
Growing up in Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe), Udwin recalls, “I had an idyllic childhood. Rhodesia, in those days, was a wonderful country to raise a family. Excellent schools, great climate, safe and with a vibrant Jewish population. Our lives revolved around the Jewish youth movements where lifelong friendships were made and we were tasked with responsibilities that prepared us for later success.”
As things changed, she shared, “Sadly, the politics of the region forced almost all the Jews to leave for greener pastures. In 1979, my husband, Leon, and I arrived in Atlanta, newlywed, and immigrants from Rhodesia. Leon had spent seven years in Israel, and I studied languages at Cape Town University. Once in Atlanta, Leon quickly found a job in his profession as an engineer, and I needed to choose a career path. I decided to use my language skills and entered the exciting field of travel.”
In 1995, the Udwins ventured on a family trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa where they introduced their two daughters to their homeland.
“A family friend in the tourism industry took us off the beaten track to wonderful and exciting safari destinations,” Udwin said. “Seeing my home, through the eyes of my girls, feeling the warmth, the hospitality, and the passion throughout the region, ignited a spark in me to share this experience with others and to support the local economies. It was then that I decided to launch my travel company, Mushinda, focusing exclusively on private, customized travel experiences to Southern and East Africa. Mushinda is a Shona word meaning “personal attendant to the king.”
With each trip Udwin plans, her goal is to ensure that her clients return having experienced a trip that exceeds their expectations and with memories to last a lifetime. The customized itinerary and journey typically begin with a phone call months or years in advance of taking flight and she is passionately involved in every aspect. The clients vary from honeymoon couples to retirees, thrill seekers to food and wine-lovers, animal and nature lovers to photo fanatics. In recent years, she has seen an increase in multi-generational family trips. She has many clients who experienced a Mushinda trip, returned home with Africa in their soul and have a deep desire to share their adventures with their extended families. With advanced planning she can secure fabulous private camps for these memorable family retreats.”
Longtime Mushinda client Garrett Van De Grift said, “My favorite is a quote that Judy conveyed to me, and it remains indelibly etched in my travel memories. When I received her proposal for the first trip she coordinated for my family, I asked, ‘how can I know if this pricing is worth it for this trip?’ Udwin replied, ‘Garrett, like my other clients, you work hard, you juggle multiple tasks on any given day, you have to make numerous decisions daily even when on vacation. With my trip, there is only one thing you need to do, and one thing only the entire vacation.’ Udwin then dramatically paused, so I bit and asked, ‘what is that?’ Udwin replied, ‘All you have to do when you arrive is remember your name and everything else will be taken care of.’ She did not exaggerate!”
Mushinda traveler Patty Poline commented, “In 2016, Judy planned a safari trip to Southern Africa for my husband and me. It was a pleasure working with her from beginning to end. We found her to be very professional with excellent attention to detail, follow up, and was one of our favorite vacations. We have continued to stay in touch with Judy always looking forward to a return and enjoying her expertise making everything perfect.”
To explain further, Mushinda is a tour operator, which means that all itineraries are prepared and quoted as a comprehensive package, exclusively crafted for each client’s unique personality and budget. For a family traveling with teenage children, they may include zip lines, stand-up paddleboards, or Segway tours in the vineyards. For those interested in the local cuisine, they might do a walking tour of Cape Town getting to know the history of South Africa through the medium of food – and dishes which reflect the varied cultures.
Udwin said, “I attribute the success of my trips firstly to pairing the right experiences, guides, restaurants, accommodations, with my clients’ desires and, secondly, to my local relationships. I have been working hand in hand with an affiliated agency based in Cape Town for 30 years. One cannot underestimate the importance of having someone to meet you when you land and take care of your needs as well as any unexpected problems. We pride ourselves on taking care of everything – from the transfers to the meals and the guides and the accommodation.”
To keep her finger on the pulse, Udwin personally travels to Africa two or three times a year. Knowing the staff at each of these properties is extremely important. Africa has enormous diversity, types of accommodation, not to mention the finest game viewing in the world. The conservation policies and the guides are outstanding, and their use of open vehicles guarantees the most rewarding game-viewing experiences.
She said, “We know which properties have great managers and passionate staff, which ones have excellent safari guides that can make the African bush come alive, and which camps are a good match. Each property, like the iconic Ellerman House or the historic Mount Nelson in Cape Town, or one of Singita’s luxury safari lodges or a remote bush camp in Botswana, has a unique personality. I pair the client’s personality and budget with those of the properties they will be staying at.”
Udwin adds, “I like to expose my Jewish clients to Southern Africa’s very strong Eastern European and Sephardic Jewish heritage. I may include a Friday night Shabbat service at the Garden’s Shul with their choir, or a visit to the Jewish and Holocaust Museum. We have even helped clients find the graves of deceased family members. In addition to all the wonderful sights and scenes, there is the cultural history of Africa. I want my clients to understand the many forces that have created the melting pot of Africa and the unique cultural heritage of these regions.”
Udwin said, “I suggest that clients visit two safari lodges in different parts of the region. Differing topography and environment mean different animal species. When visiting Southern Africa, I recommend visiting Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Cape Town, with its beauty and sophistication, is the perfect ending to this experience.”
She added, “When visiting East Africa, the highlight is the Great Migration with millions of wildebeests, zebra, and associated predators. This, combined with gorilla trekking in the mountains of Rwanda, is a fantastic all round safari destination. To know that in my own small way I am giving back to the wonderful, warm, hospitable people that make up the fabric of Africa. Tourism is a major revenue source for these countries and every visitor that I send enriches the lives of so many.”
Udwin continued, “Mushinda is ready to help you explore Africa. From the mighty majestic Victoria Falls to the unique Okavango Delta of Botswana, incredible wildlife and wilderness sanctuaries, private game reserves to the magnificent beauty of the Cape in South Africa, we’re prepared to take you on a trip of a lifetime. Even our clients who are world travelers are amazed by the hospitality, luxury and elegance experienced in this region of the world. I am truly humbled to also call it my homeland.”
For more information, visit www.mushinda.com.