It is so reassuring to arrive in a new and foreign city and immediately be accompanied by someone with all the local knowledge of the place you were visiting at their fingertips. Especially if you are only staying for a short while and really want to immerse yourself in the destination and get the most out of your trip. We have built strong relationships with a handful of brilliant private tour guides over the years and felt it was high time we highlighted them. We continuously get fantastic feedback from our clients who shower our guides with accolades and so we in turn would like to thank our guides for being who they are and for adding their unique brand of magic to our Africa trips. Second up on our list of star guides is Melissa Sutherland. Based in Cape Town, she is the guide for you if you love nothing more than a wine-tasting adventure through the Cape Winelands and a gourmet experience at one of the many incredible Franschhoek restaurants.
Q&A Questions With Melissa Sutherland
- Do you have a specialty? (eg: History, photography, wine, birds) Wine and Art. I love showing visitors around the South African Winelands and introducing them to top South African wines and estates including staying at one of the many top-rated Franschoek hotels. For many years, my parents owned a vineyard, and I love the fact that wine is such an international product representing the history of a region and its people. I also have a blossoming interest in the South African art scene and like introducing visitors to our artistic heritage.
- Where is your favorite place to take visitors? Please give one urban and one nature destination. The beautiful village of Franschhoek. The Agulhas National Park at the tip of Africa.
- How did you get into guiding? (What was your profession before you became a guide?) I am passionate about South Africa, her friendly people and natural beauty. I served as a diplomat for South African in New York following our transition to democracy. I love meeting new people and introducing them to the delights of our country so that they return home as our best ambassadors. I was also involved in educational publishing in Sydney, Australia for a couple of years.
- What is the feel good factor about being a guide? Knowing that you have shown guests something local and authentic, which they would not otherwise have discovered whether it be introducing them to a passionate wine maker or a delicious local specialty. Also matching someone’s interests to maximize their holiday, be it astronomy or wine tasting along the Franschhoek wine route.
- Do you have a most nerve wracking or nightmarish tour guiding moment in your career to tell us about? So far, so good although if the weather doesn’t play ball one always has to be ready with an alternative.
- What is the most amazing/ off the charts/ thing that you’ve done with your clients? Visiting the South African Observatory at night with a guest who was an amateur astronomer and getting a personalized guided tour at night of the 19th century old observatory – pretty spooky.
- What is the best part of your job, and what is the worst? Meeting people from all over the world and showing them the best that South Africa has to offer. Dealing with service providers who don’t always meet the expected standard.
- What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to become a guide? You need to love people, be able to think on your feet and continuously be open to learning and adding to your knowledge. You need to be able to customize the experience to suit your guests. At the end of the day it is your client’s holiday, and you want to ensure they have the best time.
- What skills do you need to make it in this business? Professionalism, diplomacy and hard work.
- What is your favorite wildlife moment? Swimming with whales in the distance off Brandfontein beach near the tip of Africa.
- Do you have a preferred nationality and why? Having been a diplomat I will skirt the question! However; I do love the enthusiasm of American clients. Because I am conversant in French and German, I enjoy the opportunity to brush up on my language skills.
- If you could only go on one trip in your lifetime, which one would it be? It would have to be an around the world trip starting in France and visiting Bordeaux and Burgundy to taste their legendary wines. I would then walk the Camino in Spain before attending the Venice Biennale. My dream would be visiting America and then taking a train trip through the Rockies. Visiting China, Russia and India before flying home to the most beautiful city in the world that is Cape Town would be the epic ending to my dream trip!
- Some quick one answer questions:
- Favourite animal? Kudu for their elegant appearance and gentle nature
- Favourite country or place? The Overberg and Arniston and in particular Springfield Farm
- Favourite sundowner spot? Brandfontein Beach
- Favourite restaurant and food? Café Bon Bon in Franschhoek, Fillet Steak and French fries with mushroom sauce and a glass of full bodied red wine!
We always try our utmost to match our clients with the best guide and for a Cape Winelands experience Melissa is the perfect choice. Thank you for all your hard work Lissy and for showcasing this beautiful country of ours to all our clients. Keep up the good work!
A recent client had this to say about Melissa :
“Melissa Sutherland is remarkable. She brings intelligence, energy, good taste, knowledge, cheerfulness and diligence to her work. For three days (and until 10:00 pm one night), Melissa showed me the beauty of Cape Town and South Africa, its marvelous wineries, restaurants and cafes. And penguins. Those times are unforgettable; one of the best experiences of my many years of travel. “