travel is our passion

We are luxury travel experts

Years of collective experience in the tourism industry and a love of the country provide a filter for the gimmicks, the unsuitable and the rip offs! What remains are the best properties, transport and people in the business. We carefully incorporate these gems into an itinerary perfectly suited to each client’s interests and requirements; drawing on long standing relationships in the industry to secure the best rates and most special experiences possible for our clients.

We have been in the wonderful world of travel for exactly 20 years this year and can proudly say that thanks mainly to a rich collection of past clients, staff, suppliers, friends and family, we are well established, respected and unblemished. We started small on solid foundations of passion for our country and dedication to client service. We grew slowly and carefully primarily through ‘word of mouth’ and faith in the new South Africa’s travel industry.


Debbie Mc Hardy

Debbie manages Earth Touch Travel from her new found home in the US.

With a background in Incentive Travel and having lived most of her life in South Africa, Debbie understands the travel landscape and the needs of the luxury traveller, and especially the value of bespoke bucket-list experiences that travel in Africa, for example, can offer. She spent many years designing and hosting incentive travel to Africa as well as many desirable destinations – from Hawaii to Nepal.

Family and friendships are important to Debbie and she quite naturally incorporates the need for similar strong bonds to be created in business too. Her love for travel and her wealth of networking and relationship building experience makes her the perfect person to spearhead Earth Touch’s reason for being – to connect travellers to the right people in the beautiful places they want to travel to next.

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Vanessa Ratcliffe

Vanessa founded Southern Destinations in 1997 and is incredibly proud of how slowly and solidly it has grown in reputation but stayed small and bespoke over the past twenty years. She is a partner at African Safari Consultants.

Vanessa’s love for travelling, languages and wildlife has earned her many special friends and valuable contacts across the world, opportunity to live in France and Austria and countless trips into Africa’s amazing wilderness destinations with a treasured pair of Swarovski binoculars. She lives in Cape Town for most of the year with her husband who restores Alfa Romeos and her 8-year-old daughter who knows 4 languages and loves to skateboard.

With family and good friends spread across the world,  and like many of us with an ingrained need to travel, Vanessa is always planning the next trip – whether it be to experience new safari lodges in Botswana, travel to New York on a marketing trip, or go cycling in her beloved Burgundy. Vanessa loves it when a good trip comes together and takes personal interest in our client’s journeys, vicariously travelling with them and soaking up feedback and trip reviews.

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Liesl Matthews

Liesl Matthews is one of the top Travel Advisors in Africa and a partner at Southern Destinations and African Safari Consultants.

After almost 20 years in the luxury African travel industry, Liesl has countless happy past clients (some now lifelong friends) in her wake and is highly recommended and praised on TripAdvisor and Fodors.

Liesl is motivated by a natural born desire to make people’s dream trips come true and to spread the ‘Mama Africa’ love that travellers to this continent feel so strongly. Add to that her genetically ingrained (she’s of German descent) need for perfection and seamless logistics, and you get Liesl Matthews – an unforgettable and invaluable Travel Expert.

As a result, most of our clients seek to replicate Liesl when they travel to the next destination on their wish list. Over the years, quite naturally, and because she operates with such genuine heart and warmth, Liesl has nurtured lifelong mutually respectful relationships with like-minded travel professionals in a handful of destinations around the world.

We’re at a point where we can constructively and confidently build on these relationships. By introducing our clients and their friends so that they get the “Liesl Matthews” treatment wherever they go!

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Neil Ratcliffe

Neil is the director of African Safari Consultants and a partner at Southern Destinations.

His leadership skills, vision and collaborative management style is well respected in the industry. He is an active member of Travel Smart Crew and TSCA and is passionate about contributing to conservation and eco-tourism by encouraging partnerships with tourism conservation companies like Wilderness Safaris and Natural Selection. His ‘go-getter’ A type personality has taken both his travel business as well as his champagne importing business to new levels of success thanks to his innovative thinking especially in terms of technology and systems.

Neil travels to New York regularly and has a good understanding of business in the US. He does a great deal of his thinking when on his bike competing in extreme mountain bike races like EPIC (South Africa) and The Pioneer (New Zealand). He loves Africa and takes his energetic young family on adventures to beautiful places in Africa and the world whenever he can.

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