Quantcast

The People Behind Responsible Travel in Malawi

  • WHL Group
  • 25 May 2010

An interview with Kate Ward and Chimwemwe Siyabu of The Responsible Safari Company of Malawi

Every month, we delve into the travel experiences of people in the extended WHL Group network. This month we talk to Kate Ward and Chimwemwe Siyabu, both of whom work for The Responsible Safari Company, the whl.travel local connection, based in Blantyre, Malawi.

Kate (right) and Dom (centre) own and run The Responsible Safari Company in Malawi, together with their colleague, Chimwemwe (left)

Kate (right) and Dom (centre) own and run The Responsible Safari Company in Malawi, together with their colleague, Chimwemwe (left)

KATE WARD is British and, together with Dominic Webb, directs of The Responsible Safari Company (TRSC). She has a Masters in International Development and Education and runs the responsible travel side of the business. (In June 2009, TRSC was the first company in Africa to be recognised with two-star eco-certification by Sustainable Travel International.)

WHL Group: Which is your favourite WHL Group destination and which would you most like to visit?

Kate: My favourite WHL Group destination would have to be Malawi! We are about to launch our new whl.travel site and spending time uploading all the information I realise what a wonderfully diverse destination it is. I would most like to visit Bolivia. Dom and I are trying to put together a trip to South America next year and I am hoping Bolivia will be the highlight!

WHLG: What would you never travel without?

Kate: My cotton shirt – perfect for hot days and balmy evenings, easy to wash, easy to dry and it doesn’t matter how creased it gets!

WHLG: What do you miss most about home when travelling?

Kate: My bed and bath.

WHLG: What’s the most interesting trip you’ve ever taken?

Kate: Picking up a dhow in Lamu, Kenya, and sailing around the islands, sleeping in our hammocks Robinson Crusoe–style under the stars – perfect. When I was 16, I travelled to Israel and found the history and politics fascinating.

Dom sailing around the island of Lamu in northern Kenya

Dom sailing around the island of Lamu in northern Kenya

WHLG: What is your funniest travel experience?

Kate: In 2005, Dom and I joined an all-night party on an island in the middle of the Zambezi. A tiny bar, a bit too much to drink, watching the sun set and rise over the mighty Zambezi and dressing up in ridiculous costumes all led to an unforgettably funny 12 hours.

To finish a 12-month trip, in 2005 Dom and I crossed South Africa from Johannesburg to Cape Town by vegetable lorry – two days spent on the road, with one night spent in the cab of the lorry. What astounded us more than anything was the driver drove for about eight hours nonstop between stops!

Our first trip to Malawi saw us travelling for five hours on the back of a pickup accompanied by piles of fish from the lake, chickens and a dog who was repeatedly sick throughout the journey from eating the rotting fish! Our backpacks had their first proper wash after that journey!

WHLG: What is your scariest travel experience?

Kate: Hitchhiking through Botswana, we stopped off for fuel and Dom got out to buy some drinks, at which point our lift decided that he would drive off with me, saying he would just be five minutes. One and a half hours later we returned, having stopped for drinks with his friend, to Dom waiting completely terrified that I had been abducted and working out how he was going to tell my parents. We bought mobile phones at our next stop!

The local bus from Kampala, Uganda, through to Nairobi, Kenya, has to be my most terrifying journey, after an equally terrifying white-water rafting experience on the Nile.

WHLG: If you could go on holiday with anyone famous – living or dead – who would you take?

Kate: Michael Palin or Sir David Attenborough.

WHLG: Describe the best and worst accommodation you’ve ever stayed in.

Kate: The worst was a small guesthouse in Mombasa, Kenya. Just winding down after a day on the road to suddenly realise that my mattress is wet – it was soaked in urine!!!!! They didn’t even offer us our money back or another room!

The best accommodation is a very hard choice. Do you go with location, rooms, service or all three? I have gone with rooms and that would be Ras Kutani Beach Lodge in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

WHLG: Describe your earliest travel memory.

Kate: Driving through France with my parents rowing about how to get through Paris. Doesn’t everyone from England have the same first travelling memory?!

Kate teaching adult literacy classes in Uganda

Kate teaching adult literacy classes in Uganda

WHLG: Please briefly explain what you think local travel is.

Kate: Local travel is travel that encompasses all things local to a destination: buying your vegetables from the market, listening to a local jazz band, watching a community football match, eating sugarcane straight from the field, pounding cassava in a rural village.

WHLG: In what ways do you see local travel benefiting the country in which you live?

Kate: Local informed travel increases awareness of environmental issues, which in turn increases the demand for the government and larger organisations to be more responsible. For example, battling the pollution of Lake Malawi.

Use of local employment is key to the wonders of travelling local in Malawi and is helping to boost the local economy. Visiting your driver’s/guide’s family after your safari. Chatting with your Mulanje porter after a day hiking. Visiting the United Nations Millennium Villages and learning from the community about ways in which life has changed.

Eco-tourism: community committees using the structure of ecotourism to provide alternative income. Njobvu Cultural Village, Liwonde National Park. Visiting an orphan care centre in Mulanje and donating educational resources. Buying recycled paper cards from a small roadside building where community volunteers use office waste from Blantyre to make recycled paper products.

———-

CHIMWEMWE SIYABU is Malawian and works as a travel consultant for the Responsible Safari Company. She has never left Malawi, but dreams of doing so sometime in the future! Since joining TRSC, she has a newfound passion for travel and the environment.

WHL Group: Which is your favourite WHL Group destination and which would you most like to visit?

Chimwemwe: Middle East sounds cool! Am sure visiting it would be the greatest adventure, especially Oman. Experiencing the beautiful, exciting and interesting side of this destination would be quite interesting. I would love to learn more about the culture, lifestyle, entertainment and history.

WHLG: What would you never travel without?

Chimwemwe: My Bible and a map. I know these two always lead my way.

WHLG: What do you miss most about home when travelling?

Chimwemwe: I know this may sound really weird, but it’s true… I miss our bathroom! I don’t feel comfortable using new bathrooms and this makes me feel like going back home and using the bathroom, then coming back.

Chimwemwe giving an inspirational talk at an orphan care centre in Mulanje, Malawi

Chimwemwe giving an inspirational talk at an orphan care centre in Mulanje, Malawi

WHLG: What’s the most interesting trip you’ve ever taken?

Chimwemwe: The trip to an orphanage in Mulanje, Southern Malawi. I loved the way we were welcomed and how excited the children were to see us. Dancing and giving an encouraging speech to the children were the highlights! Above all, watching my boss (Kate) giving a speech alongside an interpreter whom she wasn’t sure was telling the children what she was saying was the best part.

WHLG: What is your funniest travel experience?

Chimwemwe: Visiting a lodge located at the edge of Mount Mulanje with my friends and challenging ourselves to find the main water source of the swimming pool at this lodge. We followed its main pipe into the bush only to find that the source was a beautiful small waterfall. We all wished it hadn’t been discovered in the first place so that we could give it a name!

WHLG: What is your scariest travel experience?

Chimwemwe: The first time getting on a boat was when I visited this farm in Mangochi and it was on a dammed lake. I was 10 years old and together with me were my sister and my cousin. Just after about a kilometre from the mainland into the water, all of us got scared and started crying. To make things worse, the guide refused to take us back because he thought after some time we would calm down, but his thinking was wrong! Since then water activities haven’t been an interesting sport for me.

WHLG: If you could go on holiday with anyone famous – living or dead – who would you take?

Chimwemwe: The former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. I am sure it would be more of an educational trip with long, slow lectures, rather than a holiday!

WHLG: Describe the best and worst accommodation you’ve ever stayed in.

Chimwemwe: I am not sure if I have ever stayed in any accommodation worthy of being called the best. The worst accommodation had furniture that was being eaten up by termites and I was afraid to sleep on the bed (which was also being eaten up) and unpack my stuff.

WHLG: Describe your earliest travel memory.

Chimwemwe: Going to Lake Malawi with my family in a car that was fully packed with food, clothes and bedding, and sleeping in the same car in the middle of nowhere because the driver was too tired. It was so amazing to watch the sun rising with a beautiful orange colour shining from the horizon.

WHLG: Please briefly explain what you think local travel is.

Chimwemwe: This is where people from abroad visit specific local areas in order to see and understand local things found in that area.

WHLG: In what ways do you see local travel benefiting the country in which you live?

Chimwemwe: Malawi is benefiting in ways like:

  • Job opportunities – within tourism industry, e.g. porters and guides
  • Local community economies – visitors pay to visit different local places, e.g. visiting a local village and spending overnight in a local hut
  • Environment – local people are encouraged to take care of their environment through civic education and are introduced to new ways of managing their environment, e.g. using rocket stoves instead of three stones that consume too much firewood
  • Skilled labour – visitors who are skilled assist local people in different areas of life, e.g. teaching at a local school or working at a local clinic
  • Community development – local travellers may choose to support projects taking place in a given community, e.g. helping to build a local school block
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Spread The Word:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • Reddit

adventure travel, Africa, Eastern Africa, interview, local knowledge, Malawi, personal experience, WHL Group newsletter, whl.travel, women,

Leave a Reply