Bonnie-Sue O’Garey

Although not knowing a lot about Africa before having travelled, being half Malawian myself, Africa has always had a spot in my heart. It was in 2015 that I decided to make my first journey to Africa where I travelled from Vic Falls – Nairobi and everything in between on an overland camping safari. The warmth and welcome of my first trip (or maybe it was the magic of watching the sun rise over the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania) had me officially bitten by the famous Africa travel bug that has since had me return to Africa on multiple different adventures over the past few years.

From taking the craziest plunge in my life that was bungee jumping off Bloukrans Bridge along the Garden Route in South Africa, to sleeping under the stars in Spitzkoppe, Namibia or even just simply soaking up the warmth of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar, Tanzania I have never had a day in Africa that hasn’t absolutely amazed me.

Africa truly is a travel destination that has something for everyone. It welcomes it’s visitors with open arms and leaves them with a huge piece of it in their soul forever. 

Nicki De Jager

Nicki’s husband is from Cape Town so she has spent a fair bit of time in Cape Town, seen Victoria Falls from the bottom, the top and from the sky. She’s been swimming in the Devils Pool, and trekked through Bwindi to spend an hour with some of her closest friends, the Mountain Gorillas. Nicki joined the Bench team in May 2019, and she is delighted that she now has the opportunity to talk about Africa, to anyone who will listen!

Lara Behrens

Lara was born and raised in Kenya and spent several years living in Ireland and England before migrating to Australia. Lara has worked at Bench for five years and previously ran an events company bringing with her a fantastic new insight and a wealth of marketing skills to Bench. Lara’s family owns and operates safari camps in Kenya so she grew up on safari and has travelled extensively around Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa.

Nicky Oosthuizen

Nicky was born in South Africa and lived there until 2011 before relocating to Australia. Having travelled extensively through South Africa, she has had the privilege to stay in various types of accommodation from camping to exclusive lodges. She has also visited Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya. She loves working in the travel industry because it allows her to share her passion for Africa with others and help make their travel dreams come true. Nicky enjoys exploring new destinations and has an enormous passion for people and photography. She strongly believes that Africa is one continent that offers something for everybody. Her favourite destination is Victoria Falls. And the Seychelles tops her list for most picturesque islands – no photo does it justice… true paradise!

Karen McKilliam

Karen always wanted to visit Africa and had the continent firmly on her bucket list! On Karen’s first trip to Africa she spent 5 weeks in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and fell in love with the people, the animals and the whole safari experience. On Karen’s first day in the Masai Mara she was lucky enough to see the ‘Big Five’ and was hooked! With Africa now well and truly in her blood she kept returning to discover new places and experiences, any chance she got.



Lyndal first travelled to East Africa in 1997. Setting off on a basic camping safari, nervous and excited to be sleeping under canvas, she headed into the unknown. On Lyndal’s first day on safari, in the Masai Mara she spotted so much game that she said that she could have gone home happy! Nevertheless, she continued her trip, through Tanzania and on to Rwanda, where she had her most memorable travel experience, coming face to face with a silverback! She has now visited 26 of the 54 countries in Africa!

“No matter how many times I go on safari my experiences are never the same!”

Cameron Neill

After travelling the world for close to 7 years, Cameron finally made it the continent he had been dreaming of from the beginning and spent three months exploring the different areas of Africa. From then on he was hooked and has since returned many times to explore and experience the many different adventures that Africa offers. From trekking with the gorillas in Rwanda, scuba diving the Red Sea, climbing a sand dune in Namibia to an encounter with a wild elephant from his front deck in the Okavango Delta, he never gets tired of seeing what there is to offer and considers himself lucky to be able to share his experiences with others for a living. He firmly believes that you haven’t really travelled until you have experienced Africa and although there are still some small pockets of the world he hasn’t been to (and would like to) he travels back to Africa any chance he can. In fact he was in the middle of a gorilla impersonation when he met his wife and believes this may have been what set him apart from many other suitors. If you want some help to land a great partner he’d be happy to teach you a grunt or two.

Maria Tropiano

It had always been Maria’s dream to travel to Africa on a safari, and after her first trip she knew she would just have to keep going back. Maria’s first African experience was joining a 7 week tour through Africa. Visiting East Africa, Maria was lucky enough to experience her first ‘Big 5’ safari in Tanzania which included a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater. More recently Maria visited Namibia for the first time, self driving around this huge country with its amazing landscapes, game viewing in the mind blowing Etosha National Park, but the biggest achievement of the trip was summiting Namibia’s highest sand dune “Big Daddy” – as Maria says “it was a killer, but definitely worth it”.

Julie De Palo

Julie is one of our longest serving members, having worked for Bench for nearly 20 years. Julies love for Africa first began when she experienced her first safari to South Africa and Botswana.

“Words cannot express what it felt like – it’s not only about the animals, that is a bonus. It is about the people, the landscape, the simplicity of life and how you realise the simple things in life are what ground us and how we forget that. Once you have gone there, you come back with a little piece of the magic that stays with you and makes you want to go back.”

Hank Barton

A South African born and raised, there is little that Hank doesn’t know about travel in South Africa. Hank has lived in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Stellenbosch before moving to Sydney in 1995 to work in travel. Hank’s knowledge and experience covers much more than just South Africa; with over 16 years’ experience specialising in Africa travel he has travelled extensively on the continent and even worked as a tour escort earlier in his travel career.