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Cruising the Chobe River in Botswana
Founded by South African native (and current Laguna Beach resident) Richelle Lavin, Soul of Africa Travel shares the beauty and history of the country with Californians.

By Kate Miller

 

Despite 20 years in the United States, Richelle Lavin still has Africa in her blood. Born and raised in South Africa, Richelle immigrated to the U.S. to finish her college degree at the University of California, San Diego. After a career in the corporate world and starting a family, she found herself longing for her home country.

“That yearn for Africa was always calling to me,” Richelle says. “I’ve always loved to travel and explore, so Soul of Africa Travel just seemed like a natural transition.”

As a boutique travel agency that tailors each trip for the specific client, Soul of Africa Travel takes vacationers into the heart of Africa, exploring everything from the expansive savannahs and wildlife to the historic cities that dot its coastline. “[Soul of Africa Travel] combines my love of culture, wildlife and environment,” she says. “Now I have the ability to share my passion with those who are interested and want to experience the same sort of thing.”

 

Laguna Beach Magazine: Why did you decide to start Soul of Africa Travel?

Richelle Lavin: I worked for quite a few Fortune 500 companies, and then I started a family. I’m sure many women have reached this fork in their life, where they’ve worked so hard to accomplish something in the business world and then they start a family. [Soul of Africa Travel] was a natural way for me to raise my kids and still [contribute] to society. If I was going to be away from my kids, I knew it was going to be something that was meaningful.

 

LBM: Why did you choose to base your company in Laguna Beach?

RL: One of my favorite cities in South Africa is Cape Town, and it’s very much like Laguna Beach. It’s built into the hillside—it’s a cross between every sort of culture. …[Laguna Beach] was a community that would appreciate and understand what I was trying to do. Residents of Laguna like to travel and to explore new adventures, so I thought my company would resonate with my peers.

Sunrise in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Sunrise in Moremi Game Reserve, BotswanaLBM: What does a typical trip to Africa entail?

 

LBM: What does a typical trip to Africa entail?

RL:  Each trip that I plan is bespoke, which means that it’s tailor-made per the client’s request. What I really like to do is meet in person and get to know the individual. I always recommend a few key attractions: a visit to Cape Town, … a tour [of] the [Cape] Winelands, … a safari, … a tour of historical places that played a part in Nelson Mandela’s history, … the Okavango Delta. We can do it from the most luxurious to the most comfortable, modest safari.

 

LBM: What are your favorite parts about taking people to Africa?

RL: Road tripping through in a cruiser has been one of my favorite memories as a child, so I try to include that in every itinerary I create for a client. It’s just really the history and culture of it. [Many people] think of Africa as this Third World country that wouldn’t have this much history and influence, but it’s so dramatic and romantic.

 

LBM: What are your favorite things about Laguna Beach?

RL: Growing up in South Africa, [it was] a small community. You know everyone and everyone knows your parents—you feel like you really belong. The No. 1 thing that resonated with me when I moved to Laguna was the community … we’re all involved in making the city a better place.

 

LBM: What do you hope these trips will bring to your clients?

RL: Perspective. I would like my clients to have a better appreciation of global conservation and social relations, to foster love for Africa and to enjoy themselves—to disconnect themselves from their busy lives and give themselves the gift of connecting to the earth and other people.

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