Illona Cross

Illona Cross

  • Africa

My Expertise

  • Botswana Flag Botswana
  • Chad Flag Chad
  • Ethiopia Flag Ethiopia
  • Eritrea Flag Eritrea
  • Kenya Flag Kenya
  • Madagascar Flag Madagascar
  • Mauritius Flag Mauritius
  • Mozambique Flag Mozambique
  • Namibia Flag Namibia
  • Uganda Flag Uganda
  • France Flag Reunion Island
  • Rwanda Flag Rwanda
  • Saint Helena Flag Saint Helena
  • Sao Tome and Principe Flag Sao Tome and Principe
  • Seychelles Flag Seychelles
  • South Africa Flag South Africa
  • Sudan Flag Sudan
  • Tanzania Flag Tanzania
  • Zambia Flag Zambia
  • Zimbabwe Flag Zimbabwe

Born in a small South African town, I have always followed my passion for nature and discovery. After studying Nature Conservation in Pretoria, I was one of the first women to complete a very tough cadetship in the Natal Parks Board. It was here where I cut my teeth in African wildlife management.

My desire to see more led me to work as a guide for AndBeyond, first in South Africa, then in Tanzania as the company expanded. Here, I lived and worked in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro, guiding and running safari camps.

After many crazy experiences in Tanzania, I travelled to London and first taught horse riding in Hyde Park (where I met my husband) and then moved on to work as a keeper in the London Zoo. Although fascinating, this was not for me and I joined Steppes Travel in 2000. Many enjoyable years of adventurous travel have passed, and I have this wonderful company to thank. I don’t think there are many travel companies where multiple experts are still in situ after 20 years.

Journey of giraffes, Etosha National Park, Namibia
Etosha National Park, Namibia

Chasing Clouds in Namibia

I travelled with my family and some friends through Namibia by car. We drove ourselves and due to the exiting roads and easy signposting, it was a very doable experience for us. There was something new to see and do every day. Exciting desert passes, through gorges and riverbeds. Hair-raising dune rides and magnificent vistas. Tasting delicious seafood, kayaking with seals and searching for desert-adapted elephants and rhinos were some of the highlights that made this one of my most memorable journeys.

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Camel market, Keren, Eritrea
Keren, Eritrea

Uncovering Eritrea

It is rare these days that you can visit an entirely new country. The Eritrean war has ended and a new chapter begins for a generation who have only known war. I travelled to Eritrea to try and understand the ancient history, the modern influences and mood of the country. I encountered an ever-changing daily situation for those who try to adapt to an influx of modernity and tourism. A very interesting place.

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Penguins, Cape Town, South Africa
Penguins, Cape Town, South Africa

Take care of my children

Travelling with my children to the South African Cape was and still is one of the most entertaining things I have ever done. Not only was it refreshing to see things I had seen before through their eyes, but it was hilarious as they interpreted things so differently. We visited locations I would never have if I were travelling on my own or with another adult and in so doing, I see a very different perspective.

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Makanyane Safari Lodge, Madikwe & The Waterberg, South Africa
Wild dogs, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

My Travel Advice

  • Buy your insurance when you book the holiday, not just before you travel.
  • Pack light, manage your own luggage, don’t let luggage distract you from enjoying yourself.
  • Before you go, halve your clothes and double your money.
  • Make a resolution when you travel, note it and try to stick to it at home.
  • Drink more water than you think you should, preferably from a non-disposable bottle.
  • Be curious, drink the local coffee, eat the local food.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Allow yourself to relax.
Lion at sunset, Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park, Zambia
Kafue National Park, Zambia
Plains zebra (Equus quagga), Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Masai Mara, Kenya
Journey of giraffes, Etosha National Park, Namibia
Etosha National Park, Namibia
Lesser Flamingo, Walvis Bay, Namibia
Flamingos, Namibia

Why Africa is so special as a tourist destination

An abundance of big hairy and feathered wildlife makes Africa special, differentiates it from the other continents. Then mix in diverse culture, a huge range of activities, a stunning coastline, some western luxuries, cosmopolitan cities, uninhabited wild spaces, a touch of mystery and it becomes the ultimate tourist destination.

Herd of rhino at sunrise, South Africa
Herd of rhino at sunrise, South Africa
Oryx between Flowers, Namaqualand, South Africa
Cederberg, South Africa
Cape buffalo, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Leopard, Sabi Sands, South Africa
Sabi Sands, South Africa

My recommendations for a first-time traveller to Africa

Imagine what you want, paint a picture of it, see yourself there. Then explain what you see to your travel consultant. South Africa is a popular first-time destination because of easy transfers, no visa requirements, diversity of activities and accommodation and fantastic value for money.

My Favourite Experiences

Tell us what you love doing and we’ll curate a journey that’s perfect for you.

Rock Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Rock-cut Churches

Visit Lalibela’s iconic rock-cut churches, which are hewn into the hillside. Built during the 12th and 13th century, these still-active religious edifices are cut into the red volcanic rock.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Seal Kayaking, Swakopmund, Namibia

Kayak with Cape Seals

Kayak with playful Cape fur seals off Swakopmund’s Atlantic coast.

Related blog post

Balloon over Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park, Zambia

Hot Air Balloon Adventure

Take a hot air balloon trip above the mesmerising Busanga Plains.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Lioness playing with cubs, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti Safari

Take a safari out on the majestic plains of the Serengeti, dotted with granite kopjes and home to breath-taking wildlife.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Gorilla family in wild, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Gorilla Trekking

Trek in search of the mountain gorilla families of Bwindi.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Meet the rest of the Africa team

The Africa team at Steppes Travel are considered to be the most experienced Africa experts in the travel industry. With more years of hands on African experience than they care to remember, they have run and managed safari lodges in East Africa, qualified as safari guides in Southern Africa, pioneered new expeditions in Central and West Africa and worked on conservation projects throughout the continent.

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