Tourism queen marries travel and food to promote SA heritage

Published Sep 22, 2022


Johannesburg - South Africa is a melting pot of different cultures, and food is a significant part of the heritage of the people that live here.

Coupled with the beautiful scenery of the landscapes different parts of the country have to offer, curious minds can have an opportunity to pair their love of food and travel for a quite rewarding experience.

This is exactly what 35 year old, Soweto-born Theo Makhathini offers through her food tourism business, The Dream Basket SA.

“Through travel, we curate unique experiences and retreats to places not frequently visited, hidden gems, and untapped locations. We currently have a road trip through South Africa to a remote village in the Eastern Cape. It’s a gathering of like-minded individuals (people who are open to trying something new, who want to travel differently, have delicious food and who need that well-deserved self-care getaway, “ she says.

Makhathini’s visits to these locations also serve to empower local communities by creating opportunities to become service providers by supplying her and guests with food that is indigenous to the area that they are visiting.

“Our trips also have a social development element, where we get the community involved, and we hire the locals to assist with some of our food requirements, fresh bread, traditional meals and fresh seafood.

“We also outsource our activities from the community kayaking, surfing lessons and recently, basket weaving. This ensures that the community also benefits directly from our trips,” said Makhathini.

Makhatini’s love for travel was ignited at a very young age, her memories of family road trips to the coast being some of her earliest. The nostalgia that is brought on by those memories has played a big part in the establishment of The Dream Basket SA.

She said: “My earliest memory of travelling was when I was probably seven years old, and my mom hired a van, gathered a few family members and, off to Durban beach we went. That is one of my earliest and favourite travel memories from my childhood. I will never forget just how happy we all were!”

“Since then, I’ve been on a course to chase, recreate or exceed that special feeling! I started putting together travel experiences for my family and friends from 2009 and then officially via The Dream Basket SA in 2021.”

Makhathini took the brave step to quit her day job as an e-commerce consultant and start her business during the height of Covid, a decision she attributes to pure intuition and the need to find fulfilment during a time of uncertainty.

She said: “What Covid showed me when so many people were dying, so many people losing their loved ones, some going through mental illness and just the general instability. What kept coming to mind is that the only way I was going to be happy is if I pursued something that was good and personal to me.”

It has not always been smooth sailing for Makhathini, and she reflects on some of the challenges she has faced, but she has persevered and found inventive ways to circumvent the various obstacles.

“I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a small business and start-up, is that of capital. Things are always slower, tougher and often discouraging when your business is still in the early stages, or rather in its learning and development phase.”

“But not having capital has never been a deterrent. It instead forces me to think of creative ways on how we need to generate and raise funds in order to continue to work,” said Makhathini.

Her bravery and tenacity seem to be paying off as The Dream Basket SA continues to grow and flourish. Makhathini now employs two other people and is receiving recognition for her contributions to local tourism.

Makhathini has recently been appointed to the Gauteng Women in Tourism board.

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