Tourism has always been in my blood, especially given that I was born in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
East Africa and especially Kenya and Tanzania as tourist destinations have so much to offer and it isn’t just the usual sightseeing experiences. The peoples of these great countries are also part of the attraction that brings tourists from all parts of the world. Just to name a few, we have the Masai with their colorful ‘shukas’ or woven cloth and beautiful beads, a tribe which has preserved its culture to the Luo fishermen on Lake Victoria, a people very proud of their ancient skills and craft in boat making and fishing. The Kamba who are skilled woodworkers producing some of the most magnificent animal and human carvings and the Kisii who use locally quarried soapstone to carve items such as chess pieces based on traditional African items as well as egg cups, coasters, ashtrays and soap dishes. It’s interesting to note that the first three tribes are found in both Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the Abakuria who are cousins to the Kisii.
So, when I decided to venture full time into tours and travel business, Travel For Change Africa was born. I purposed that this company would not only offer traditional tourism per se but make those visiting Kenya become a part of the local community as well. What a great opportunity it would be to provide tourists with the chance to experience firsthand the life and culture of the local tribes. This was also an effort of preserving what is slowly being lost as modernization and technology take over up to the village level. I didn’t just want my company to provide safaris for the tourists but also wanted to give them a chance to experience and enjoy the culture of Kenya and Tanzania’s people.
Travel For Change Africa was born to bring a change in the lives of all who in one way or another, become a part of it. By being a big supporter of ecotourism, we believe in responsible travel and maintaining a high priority of the conservation of Kenya and Tanzania’s environment and the local community’s lifestyle. That’s why many of our guides and drivers come from the locals themselves, people who know their home areas very well. By including locals as our staff, this is one way of making them responsible for the resources found in their area so these can be preserved for posterity. We strongly believe in providing income-generating activities for the locals as they interact with tourists and this goes a long way in helping reduce the need for the locals to engage in nature destroying practices like poaching, overhunting, and destruction of natural resources such rivers and lakes by overfishing. This we do by encouraging them to sell their crafts to the tourists at fairly reasonable prices and everyone is happy at the end of the day.
From competitively priced tailor-made itineraries for different safaris to spending time in a smoky little hut in a small village enjoying the local cuisine, we provide a once in a lifetime experience for all our clients. Letting the world see Kenya through the eyes of the local people gives a whole new meaning to tourism. That’s why Travel For Change also offers opportunities for those who’ve had safaris with us to volunteer their time staying with local families to see how they experience everyday life.
Can you imagine entering a smoky hut and watching your hostess preparing the evening meal for her family and you as a guest in the home, and all this done over a traditional wood stove? Some even bake bread and cakes using the same stove!. The moment you set foot in a homestead, chickens begin squeaking as little happy boys and girls chase after them, watched by their smiling mothers who are ready to prepare a delicacy to be enjoyed by all. Sleeping under a mosquito net in a villager’s house listening to nights sounds and feeling at one with nature is quite an experience from the conventional hotel rooms. Taking part in raising a house for a villager and painting that classroom that would have remained derelict if the community hadn’t come together, carrying a pot of water on the head from the river in cases where water is scarce, picking up a hoe and being part of food production activities for a family and also tying bundles of firewood makes for a wholesome experience.
After spending the day with your host, imagine the deep sense of satisfaction when you join their evening singing and dancing whether as the whole community or as an individual family. Seeing the simplicity that is village life strikes a chord of awe into the hearts of most people because these people rejoice and love life. It is a well-known fact that East Africans love welcoming visitors to their homes and we as a company are the link between the two.
That is the experience Travel For Change brings to the tourism table. A wholesome experience that provides opportunities to learn and be taught, and also providing jobs for the locals.
Having been born and raised in Africa, I have had the chance to now live in Europe and the differences in lifestyle are vast and I guess I can say that I’m enjoying the best of both worlds. Travel For Change Africa as my brainchild seeks to bring people of diverse cultures together so that the world can be a better place for it. For those tourists who only want the safari
experience, we work one on one with them to provide personalized itineraries for whatever number of days they want to spend in Kenya and Tanzania.
I also realized that some couples who are getting married would like to have a very different experience as they exchange their vows and itinerary weddings are now part of the packages that we offer. From Kit Mikayi, or the ‘Stone of the first wife,’ to the shores of Lake Victoria, there’s a special wedding site for everyone. All this prepared and planned for you by the local people and colorful entertainment crowns your special day.
There’s a long road ahead but every step taken counts and is worth it.
Written by Patricia Ouko, Partner & Director of Sales and Operations at Travel For Change Africa.