1) Be culturally sensitive.
Whether you are on the giving side or the receiving side of service, it always helps to learn a little bit about the other side’s culture. We had a Russian rush in January. We learned that Russians celebrate New Year more heartily than they do Christmas, and that they celebrate their “old New Year” until mid-January. It really helped to know this so we could make their New Year’s in Tanzania a memorable one. We spoke with the manger of the lodge to assist with the festivities, and ensured that the lodge was stocked with vodka! Clients appreciated our anticipation of their cultural needs. And we enjoyed making them feel welcome in Tanzania. While most hospitality staff does not have a problem with serving alcohol to guests, it helps to be mindful that some Tanzanians are Muslims and they do not consume any alcohol.
2) Leadership and empowerment are important if you want to reach the top, literally.
In March, 11-year-old Dylan successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with his mother Beverly via the Lemosho route. Temba (Amani Afrika’s founder and director) ran up the “hill” to join the duo on Day 6 of their climb to cheer them on. The climb was demanding for Dylan at times, and he had to overcome the challenges of fatigue and frostiness. After receiving checks and getting thumbs-up that he was fit enough to go on, Dylan had to make the call himself as a young man – whether to keep going or to turn back. Even as a veteran climber and guide himself with a bag of tricks, Temba had much to learn from Young Dylan. This experience has added a new chapter to Temba’s repertoire of guiding. “You are not the one leading clients. They are the leaders. As a guide, you are merely giving guidance and empowering clients to lead themselves. If Dylan wasn’t going anywhere, none of us would be going anywhere.”
3) Different season = different travel experience.
Many people think that going on safari is a “once in a lifetime” experience. But each safari experience is different. For example, from August to September – the peak of the migration season, you get to witness herds of wildebeest risking their lives to cross the crocodile-infested Mara River. In February, you get to see mothers giving birth to young calves. Just like people-watching at a café, animals-watching provides a varied experience each time you go on safari. From fighting to mating, from hunting to relishing their prize, animals provide endless “entertainment” to wildlife enthusiasts and seasonal tourists alike – there is never a dull moment, as you can read from our client Anna’s review: The Live Theatre: Why Tanzania Will Never Disappoint You.
4) Different travel companion = different travel experience.
Time and again, it is whom you travel with that makes the trip a different experience altogether. Do you remember the first time you went to New York City for a family holiday? How did the experience compare when you returned with your partner years later? Sceneries change, your itinerary and activities change, but more importantly, it is your thoughts and sentiments that change over time. Traveling is about the connection you share with your companion as much as the connection you share with the place. Joelle travelled with us when she was a volunteer working in Tanzania. She came back with her fiancé (now husband) Malakai in April. She can tell you, “Sharing the experience with Mala, it’s like going on safari for the first time all over again.”
5) Things don’t away go according to plan.
It’s life! Michele and her group of friends went on a Kilimanjaro trek and safari with us in December. Despite countless efforts to plan the perfect itinerary with suitable international flights to ensure a smooth journey, one of their flights got cancelled last minute because of snow storms. We helped them rework their itinerary, so they could still go on with their grand trip after they arrived, despite having some bags displaced in transit. It’s always great when everything goes smoothly according to plan, but on a rainy day, having someone who knows local customs to assist really helps when you are in a foreign country. Your travel plan may not execute perfectly, but your holiday can still be hassles-free! Greg and Maria had a similar experience on their honeymoon with flight delay on arrival and we were glad to have been able to get their travel plans back on track.