Unathi Nkayi is one of the country’s biggest celebrities. But away from the glitz and glamour, she loves being at one with nature.
And it was most than apparent on a recent game drive at Umfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
The 40-year-old was eager to learn about the wild and the province’s culture. Our game ranger, Artist Gqwetha of Mthembu Lodge, was ready to indulge her curiosity, as well as that of the group.
A judge on one of the country’s favourite music reality show, Idols SA, Nkayi has a string of albums to her name. Her most recent one being Unathi: Brave, True and Strong.
Her career often takes her to interesting and wonderful places.
But travel has been in her blood since an early age - her first passport stamp was when she was six months old.
Her visit to KwaZulu-Natal brought back good memories.
“KwaZulu-Natal is one of my favourite places. The people are humble, deeply rooted in culture and are very welcoming. It is also one of the country’s most integrated provinces and has the best weather,” she said.
Nkayi loves travelling around Africa, too. And she ticked off many bucket list items already.
From visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza, walking through Vic Falls, dancing with the Maasai people on the beach and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, she has experienced Africa in many ways.
“The continent is home to rich architecture, textiles, coffee, beer, beaches, music or culture. It is colourful, friendly, sexy and warm in most parts,” she said.
As our game vehicle navigated a windy road, Nkayi spotted an impala, which she photographed. She then shared the image with more than half a million of her fans.
Travel has afforded her many great life lessons.
The mother of two says travelling offered her a newfound appreciation of the warmth of South Africans.
Nyaki recollected a trip to Los Angeles, which she describes as her “worst travel experience”.
“The people are so fake. Everybody looks the same because they heavily believe in plastic surgery. They are just different shades of flesh, with the same features. No one looks you in the eye, and everyone just wants to know what you do for a living so they can see what they can get from you. The 5-star hotel we stayed at had a floor for recovering plastic surgery patients. Sad,” Nyaki recalled.
However, she is obsessed with Amsterdam. The TV personality studied in the city and watched Beyoncé perform during her Formation Tour.
“Amsterdam is ultra sexy and has some of the friendliest people. It is home to beautiful canals, architecture, boat houses and restaurants. I also love the clothing stores.
“Lagos in Nigeria, London Town and Ghana are also some of the places that have seduced me.”
Food plays an integral part in her travels. She remembers tucking into a plate of Jollof rice in Ghana.
“I ate Jollof every day during my stay, and I don’t do carbs a lot. The popular dish originates from Senegal. I am a big fan of the meal.”
And she has quite a few travel trips lined up. This month she will go on tour in Swaziland, and will celebrate her birthday at Biyela Lodge at Umfolozi Big Five Reserve, with her girlfriends, in November.
Next year she will travel to Trinidad for the Carnival in February, and Las Vegas for another friend’s birthday in July.
She also plans to play with the gorillas in the DRC and go on a hot air balloon over the Namib Desert.