Rabbi Yoni Isaacson

For many, a safari represents the ultimate escape, a lifelong travel dream. From the early morning dewy wafts of air to the gentle hoot of an owl deep at night, there’s a natural rhythm to a safari in Africa. If you’re lucky, you may hear the distant whoop of a hyena, the throaty calls of a leopard, or the roar of a lion. Gourmet Kosher Safaris has all this, and more.

In the aftermath of the October 7 Massacre, Rabbi Yoni Isaacson, founder and CEO of Gourmet Kosher Safaris, suspended its operations for several months due to the shocking nature of the attack. “We just couldn’t bring ourselves to try marketing tours after what happened,” he said.

Devastated by the atrocities perpetrated by the Hamas barbarians, he was unable to do anything for weeks. “As a South African Jew, I was also very hurt by the South African government’s initial refusal to condemn the atrocities, and then taking it to the ICJ. The government has always been pro-Palestinian since the end of apartheid, due to past alliances and Israel’s friendship with the apartheid government, forgetting that before African countries joined the Arab boycott of Israel, Israel was one of the first countries to condemn apartheid. Yet this was just the final straw.

“It also put us in the uncomfortable position of having our core centers of operation at the forefront of the diplomatic and legal war against Israel. We did not want to support the government’s awful actions, nor did we want to hurt or boycott the wonderful South African Jewish community, or the pro-Israel South Africans who provide many of our supplies,” he said. After much deliberation, Rabbi Yoni and his team decided to let clients choose for themselves, while increasing their operations in pro-Israel countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Argentina, Greece, and Vietnam.

Now, nearly five months after October 7, Gourmet Kosher Safaris is back in operation, including several exciting new destinations to its plethora of luxury options. What spurred his decision to resume operations at this point in time?

“While the war is ongoing, the economy has to keep going and people need a break,” he explained. “Israelis always pride themselves on carrying on no matter what. Restaurants in Israel are busy again, Baruch Hashem, as is pretty much everything else. As an Israeli of South African origin, it was a tough call, but I believe it was the correct one. If we let Hamas destroy our routine, we let them win. We couldn’t carry on business as usual after the initial shock. We had to stop to mourn, daven, and show empathy. We all knew of someone who was hurt, killed, or captured on October 7. We all have relatives fighting for our country’s survival. Many of us still don’t feel like going anywhere. It’s hard for me to leave my family for long periods of time, but so many in our neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh commute overseas for work, and being in nature has a therapeutic effect.”

Founded in 2001, Gourmet Kosher Safaris transformed the landscape of kosher travel, expanding its horizons as never before. Truly a gamechanger in every aspect, GKS offers the Torah-observant traveler a plethora of unparalleled possibilities to experience world-class adventures without compromising kashrus, quality, or amenities. That Gourmet Kosher Safaris is the preferred tour option of discerning kosher travelers is not surprising. Unique in concept, GKS has a keen understanding of the high-end kosher market, and has catered to this unique clientele for 22 years. With meticulous attention to detail, they offer signature service, special touches, and gourmet cuisine on par with the world’s most celebrated restaurants. Since its inception, the company has earned a sterling reputation for its custom-curated top-tier tours. At the helm is Rabbi Yoni Isaacson, a noted talmid chacham with expert knowledge of halachic issues related to travel, kashrus, history, current affairs, and logistics. Simply stated, he has redefined the Shabbat-friendly kosher travel experience, elevating it to a luxurious and indulgent lifestyle.

“Ever since my first childhood taste of the wonders of the African bush, I have been addicted to the splendors of Creation,” Yoni shared. “As a child, my father was the Rabbi of Zimbabwe, and we spent many vacations exploring the great wildlife reserves with all the natural wonders of that gorgeous land, and although it is difficult to impress a 13-year-old boy, my first sight of the Victoria Falls left me speechless.”

After discovering his affinity for Hashem’s magnificent world at a tender age, it became Yoni’s dream to share his love with others. In the ensuing years, he became frustrated by staying in gorgeous hotels and eating kosher food wrapped in tinfoil, while observing the hotel’s non-kosher guests experience five-star cuisines. Realizing the dearth of existing upscale options for the Sabbath-observant traveler, Rabbi Isaacson was inspired to launch his first venture, “Africa Kosher Safaris,” an innovative and unique concept at the time.

The company soon evolved into the premier choice in luxury kosher eco-tourism. “Although every year, another aspiring tour operator appears in the market, our reputation is cemented as the most experienced, reliable, and gourmet in this genre,” Yoni noted. “Over the years, our expansion from Africa into Latin America, Australia, Asia, Europe, India, and now South East Asia has secured our place at the pinnacle of the market, with every venue carefully researched by our personnel before putting our itineraries together.”

On a GKS tour, guests are treated to the culinary artistry of a team of master chefs using the freshest ingredients to create dishes on par with Michelin-starred restaurants, watched over by a team of machgichim. Guests are pampered in luxurious five-star accommodations and receive concierge-style service by a team of support personnel, all in a Sabbath-friendly environment.

Providing the highest level of security for clients at each destination is a priority for Rabbi Yoni and his team. “We assess each place individually based on local security recommendations,” he explains. “In places where it is deemed necessary by security professionals, we have trained personnel present, or give clients the option of hiring a private bodyguard. Our groups are small. We keep them low-profile and we avoid providing too much detail on public forums. Our clients report that they feel safer with us than walking around New York, London, Los Angeles, or Paris these days.”

For Rabbi Yoni, the most rewarding aspect of being at the helm of Gourmet Kosher Safaris is showing the amazing sights and sounds of Hashem’s wonders. “Mah rabu masecha Hashem.”

Orchestrating every detail of the adventure to perfection can be challenging, but GKS does so seamlessly so you can enjoy yourself in a worry-free environment. “High end kosher logistics are complex and costly,” Yoni shared. “Our trips are incredible and something everyone should experience, but we’ll never cut corners. We intend to maintain our reputation as the best in the business. People sometimes compare our prices with less experienced, less high-end operators, but we are a unique lifestyle choice. We offer the best experiences, the best accommodations, the best cuisine, the best kashrus, and the best service.”

On the subject of service, Rabbi Yoni and his team of professionals are committed to providing signature white-glove service that ensures every guest has the ultimate gourmet kosher experience. “We take care of everything, from minyanim to gourmet cuisine, to an amazing Shabbos atmosphere so you can marvel at Hashem’s creations and exquisite landscapes. Additionally, we offer a minyan man service upon request.”

Rabbi Yoni and his team cordially invite you to savor the splendors of Hashem’s natural world as you experience an extraordinary, exhilarating, and enriching GKS adventure.

“We are back in action. If you are ready to travel, we are ready for you and can’t wait to meet you and take you on the adventure of your life.”

For additional information regarding Gourmet Kosher Safaris, please contact Rabbi Yoni Isaacson at yoni@gourmetkoshersafaris.com or refer to their ad in this issue of the 5TJT. n


Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at RochelleMiller04@aol.com. Read more of Rochelle Maruch Miller’s articles at 5TJT.com.


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