March 03, 2014

Struth! Charles makes Bench-mark in travel

LION encounter… the writer and his wife get up close and personal
with this lion on one of Bench International's most popular Southern Africa wildlife opportunities.

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that when a tennis-loving young Brit named Charles Bench came here from England to play the game in the 1960s, he sensed on the potential to get adventure-seeking Aussies to visit South Africa – something he'd done with quite some success with equally-adventurous fellow young countrymen while working in London with South African Airways.

So, young as he was, he set up a travel agency in Sydney – and had others in the industry quietly chuckling when he set himself a target of 100,000 Australians to Africa within the coming 50 years.

Today it's Charles who is doing the quiet chuckling: the first clients of his fledgling Bench International went off to the wilds in 1969, he launched into the group-travel business to South Africa with some dedicated wine and food enthusiasts just three years later in conjunction with an Aussie foodies' magazine, and had his 50,000th Aussie into Africa in the mid-1990s.

And last month the 100,000th client of Bench International jetted-off there – in the company's 45th year, a half-decade before Charles' own confident prediction.

Guess who is now doing the chuckling?

(For free colour brochures about the diverse attractions of South Africa and other parts of the African Continent, freecall 1300AFRICA, or visit

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