PART 1: BEING A TRAVEL CONSULTANT: FIRST TIME AS A DRIVER GUIDE - I GOT LOST IN THE MARA FOR 7 HOURS WITHOUT GUESTS KNOWING.

April 29, 2020
PART 1: BEING A TRAVEL CONSULTANT: FIRST TIME AS A DRIVER GUIDE - I GOT LOST IN THE MARA FOR 7 HOURS WITHOUT GUESTS KNOWING.
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In 2015, I got an opportunity of a 10 days safari through Nairobi, Nanyuki, Nyeri, Nyahururu, Nakuru, Naivasha and Masai Mara. Venturing into the wider travel industry, after 3 years of building Lake Magadi Adventures. , this was a great opportunity for me to cover various destinations and do pre-visits of the various facilities as I learn and explore to sharpen my skills and information. I had very scanty hands-on-information about many places and I always had a lot of doubts and fear in my communication with guests. My information heavily depended on hearsay, self-readings and online information... As a travel consultant travelers assumed you know everything everywhere and they can ask you anything out of the blues.

In this year, I also suspected my driver guide by then was stealing from me; whenever I sent him on a safari he would always call to ask for more money for fuel and the garage… My heart would always skip a beat whenever I saw his call while he was on safari.

"Ben wewe hujui hizi barabara za huku na Kilometres tunacover... Blablablabla nonsense...”

Faced with this opportunity, I took the keys, asked him to sit back relax and watch as I do the safari myself. I was so scared at the thought of everything to do with this safari and many times I almost gave up and allowed him to do his job but my thirst for knowledge and experience would allow me to drink up and empty an ocean. There is always a starting point, isn’t there?

I used to think travel consultancy and tour guiding are the easiest careers to do and the most fun of all. Yes, it is enjoyable and fun if you are truly passionate (not the passion that your parent told you to take it up when you were joining college) but it is neither an easy walk in the park. A travel consultant and a safari guide are people with very high IQ as the task requires you to have a lot of patience, think critically and fast and to be absolutely accurate in communicating, packaging and planning logistics to measure up to the unknown expectation of guests from various backgrounds.

I took up the challenge to do the job myself as I realized to be a travel consultant, and to have that convincing voice of a professional with vast experience and deep knowledge in the travel industry, one needs to be well traveled and have a great convincing power. Travel experiences exposes you to many factors in travel and gives you a deep understanding of many details that you cannot get in books, online or from hearsay...

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When you find a guest who is very specific to details and knows exactly what they want or have some prior information of the destination, especially these mzungu experts who live and work in Nairobi, have been conned before in river road and can speak a few Swahili words, or the Indians living in Parklands running a hardware store in Ngara referring to you as “rafiki” while shaking their heads musically, it will be a very tall order for you, staged as a travel consultant with scanty travel experience, to try and sell a safari package to them…

Some of these clients have an overwhelming believe in Google information and Google maps and everything you say will be counter checked online to confirm if it is actually true... At some point they will throw in a silly simple question that you never expected, just to confirm that you actually know, while staring at you directly in the eyes… The moment you start fumbling with words and taking them in circles, like when you are showing your wife a funny video on your phone and suddenly “I miss you” message pops up at the top of the screen; you will wishing somebody else asks something in between your answer or the phone to suddenly ring loudly, so that you have time to think through or brush off the question… you are dead on arrival.

At the least suspicion that you have doubts in your answer, they will suddenly develop a sense of power over you and “ARE YOU SURE?!” will be placed at the end of all your answers to them henceforth. It’s a terrible feeling when you get here… This is when simple addition and subtraction of numbers become complex equations, your phone will suddenly hung and all the frantic calls you will make to confirm and check availability will coincidentally not be picked but the guests will be in front of you with tiger sharp eyes locked on your face and their ears wider than Obama’s ears…

Dressed in my new khaki trousers, a safari boot and a Kudu Safaris T-shirt and armed with two mobile lines, latest version of google maps, Giga bundles, a car charging system, a power bank, Money in Cash and Mpesa... I set off at 6am for the airport …

TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY NEXT WEEK…

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BENARD KARIGO

TEAM LEADER / TRAVEL CONSULTANT

KUDU SAFARIS LTD

Info@kuduhills.com / +254727075986