After a two-year break from working as a BDM in the travel industry here in Queensland, I heard about a possible role with Bench Africa. These two words, BENCH and AFRICA, are synonymous with everything I love about the travel industry – Africa is my absolute favourite destination on planet Earth, and Bench has an incredible reputation here in Australia for its customer service, expertise, and product delivery. It was a match made in heaven, and I feel blessed every day to have joined the ‘Bench Africa pride’.
Before working for Bench Africa, I spent 15 years as a State Manager for Australian Pacific Touring and Travelmarvel. Over the last two years, I started my own photography business on a break from the industry. Travel and photography go hand in hand.
Since joining the Bench Africa team, I’ve been busy familiarising myself with the incredible diversity of tours, accommodation choices and available countries to visit. I’m amazed at the expertise and passion of our staff, each an expert in all things Africa travel.
Brett has been working at Bench for 4 years and within the travel and tourism industry for over 30 years in various capacities of a support nature. He is our guy behind the scenes keeping our reservations system ticking over nicely and making our lives so much easier; ensuring our Africa experts have all the support they need.
Eric grew up in Cape Town, in South Africa and moved to Australia in 2011. Since then he has been back to Africa over 15 times, mostly on safari. He has been with the Bench team for over 2 years and promoting Africa as a destination for 20 years. Nothing compares to being on a safari and once Coronavirus is over and it is safe to travel he just can’t wait to head out to Africa. Doesn’t matter where – just somewhere out in the African bush.
Stephanie was born and raised in England, and during her studies for an Anthropology degree at Edinburgh University, she first travelled to South Africa to research for her dissertation. This trip became the first of many, and on completing university, she spent three months backpacking through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Since working in the African travel industry, Stephanie has been fortunate to experience the more luxurious side of travel to Africa. However, she still believes the country and people make your safari truly unforgettable. Her favourite moments include summiting Kilimanjaro at sunrise, diving untouched reefs in Mozambique, gorilla trekking in Uganda and self-driving through the South African Winelands, and the African sunsets, which never fail to amaze!
Certainly well-versed in luxury tailor-made travel, Steph is excited to share her expertise, passion and knowledge with you all!
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. In 2010 Maria journeyed to 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”. In 2016 Maria travelled to South Africa on a personal holiday, it was there, at Kwandwe, that she met a safari guide who she then married in 2022.
Bench Africa is a member of a select global portfolio of companies that promote Africa tourism, all owned and operated by Lara’s family. With more than a decade of experience in the travel industry, Lara’s career began as a Reservations Consultant at Southern Cross Safaris, the parent company of Bench Africa, in her hometown of Kenya. She then moved to the UK, where she developed her leadership skills in the events industry, serving as General Manager at The Eventa Group.
As the Director, Lara plays a pivotal role, overseeing all aspects of the business with much of her time spent on marketing and public relations. Her personal connection to the African wilderness, having spent her childhood on safari, has instilled in her a profound passion for the diverse responsibilities she undertakes within the company.
Julie is Bench Africa’s longest serving member of the team, having worked for Bench for over 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.”