Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



Game for kosher: entrepreneurs give travellers a big-five experience

Avatar photo



Armed with the belief that keeping kosher need not limit one’s travels, a small but flourishing safari industry is dedicated to offering kosher dining to tourists exploring Africa and beyond.

From interacting with gorillas in Rwanda to witnessing the great migrations through the Serengeti, these kosher safari tour operators not only provide gourmet kosher cuisine, they also design unforgettable travel experiences.

Doron Gavronsky, Rabbi Yoni Isaacson, and Chanan Green are part of this burgeoning industry.

By 2024, chef and entrepreneur Gavronsky aims to open at least 50 Beth Din certified kitchens in safari lodges across the continent. Gavronsky started what he believed to be the first in-house private-chef hiring service in the Jewish community in 2015 after training as a chef and working in hotels.

His chef hiring business grew from offering meal preparations in private homes to catering for small simchas and then started offering kosher safaris within Africa. “Two operators began contacting us to cater privately for their Beth Din certified tours,” Gavronsky says. Soon, he and his chefs were spending most of the month catering safaris across the continent, allowing for once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.

“In 2021, we launched a kosher safari company,” says Gavronsky. This is now also a travel agency which creates bespoke kosher safari experiences in Africa, providing a full service offering for local and international holidaymakers. In addition to a private chef, optional extras include a medic and security team who travel with clients throughout their stay.

Over the past two years, his agency, Kosher Africa, has certified four permanent Beth Din kosher kitchens in luxury lodges throughout South Africa including Ivory Tree Lodge in the Pilanesberg and Tintswalo Family Camp at Welgevonden in Limpopo. They also negotiate directly with any lodge that clients wish to visit, working to organise pop-up kosher certified kitchens.

Gavronsky works with an increasing number of lodges, offering them the chance to attract more international clientele by appealing to the largely untapped kosher market. “The lodges will do whatever it takes to have kosher guests come into their properties,” he says. “Some have even paid for brand new equipment just so guests can have kosher catering at their properties.”

Gavronsky, 30, encourages other young entrepreneurs to find a niche, regardless of how small they think it may be. “There’s massive demand for kosher travel in Africa,” he says. “You can’t always look at how small the kosher market here may be, you need to target areas around the world – the market is much bigger than you think.” He’s driven by a desire to ensure that people eat kosher, no matter where they may be.

“I fly with clients and do the catering for them – we do fine dining with three-course plated dinners, ensuring that our clients get good value for money,” Gavronsky says. In spite of their best efforts, flying kosher meat from South Africa into certain African countries is sometimes too challenging, in which case guests are served fish or vegetarian meals.

“Seeing different African cultures and how they live sustainably off the land has been amazing,” says Gavronsky, speaking of how travel has enriched his life. “My dream one day is to open a fully kosher lodge under the Beth Din.”

The founder and chief executive of Gourmet Kosher Safaris, Rabbi Yoni Isaacson, spent many a school holiday driving around the great national parks of Zimbabwe with his father, the late anti-apartheid activist Rabbi Ben Isaacson, who at the time served as a rabbi in that country. It was then, at the age of 12, that Isaacson was first overwhelmed by the Victoria Falls and the great wildlife of the African bush.

Years later, in 2001, he began delving into the kosher safari space. His company, initially named Africa Kosher Safaris, soon made its name as a leader in luxury kosher eco-tourism. “Love of the bush, nature, and sharing it with people was my initial inspiration,” says the Johannesburg-born Isaacson. “I was a young, passionate teaching rabbi at the time and had already done many non-commercial trips for my own students.”

Later expanding into East Africa and then beyond the continent, the company began its international journey and so, Gourmet Kosher Safaris was born. Today, it offers packages and customised tours in southern and East Africa as well as globally from South America to Australia and New Zealand, Europe to India.

To manage global operations, Isaacson oversees a unique team of logistics experts, guides, kosher chefs, and mashgichim. African safaris and tours are supervised by the Johannesburg Beth Din. “A few lodges have existing kosher kitchens, but usually we need to kasher the kitchen or part of it – we store equipment all over the world,” he says.

Discussing the growing appeal of kosher safari and other travel experiences, Isaacson says high-end kosher travellers are no longer prepared to take, “whatever kosher pre-prepared food a hotel can come up with”.

“They can and do expect equal treatment to non-kosher five-star guests, and with us, they get it.” At the top end of the market for global kosher travel and within the safari space, his company draws on 21 years of experience in catering primarily to the international market, he says.

He believes there’s nothing more one could ask for in a job. “I get to see Hashem’s incredible wildlife and nature, and meet some of his wonderful people as our guests and staff.”

Israeli-South African Chanan Green launched a business in 2013 to cater for the Torah-observant tourist, arranging their entire trip and providing three gourmet kosher le’mehadrin meals a day. Offering both public and private safari tours in South Africa and in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, his company, Glatt Safaris, also offers an immersive religious experience, arranging minyans and unique Shabbat experiences.

Passionate about travel and Torah, Green found his calling when he organised a safari trip for Israeli relatives and experienced the limitations of providing glatt kosher meals. Mindful of meeting this need and catering to budgetary constraints while maintaining high standards, Green started Glatt Safaris.

“People have already gone to a lot of countries, especially places in Europe,” he says speaking of the appeal of bush holidays. “Now they want to go to more unique places that they’ve never been to like Africa, where they can be in nature.” Providing gourmet kosher food makes such trips even more appealing to observant Jewish tourists who enjoy luxury travel, especially Americans and those with strong currencies.

“All of our clients are happy,” says Green. “Seeing them enjoy the food and holiday experience is why I love what I do.” He’s also grateful to be able to work with his wife, who joins him for part of the tours.

Green says that to make a living in the kosher safari industry, you need to be dedicated to it. “If you’re not doing only that, it’s not going to work,” he cautions.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *