A Truly African Story

Words: Andrew Shapland – The Roving Ambassador -Naseeb Mfinanga and Donna Duggan

Photographs: Nasikia Camps and Maasai Wanderings

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Maasai Wanderings was founded in 2005 by Naseeb Mfinanga (Tanzanian) and Donna Duggan (Australian but Tanzania resident) and has been steadily growing ever since. ‘Nas’ began with very humble beginnings, a story of a childhood struggle to gain education and help his mother provide an income for the family with tea and chapatti sales through the streets of Arusha. Donna, a different story of a middle class upbringing, excellent educational opportunities and a nursing background. They met in Moshi, neighbours in a suburb called Rau. Nas was getting away from the hustle of Arusha, while Donna was volunteering at Majengo clinic for childhood immunisation and birthing clinics. “Below I share my insight into the safari and trekking adventures in Tanzania that our companies offer, as part of our Prominent Women in Business series that I was part of”.

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Maasai Wanderings and Nasikia Tented Camps

Donna and Nas operate safari and trekking adventures in Tanzania, Maasai Wanderings Ltd – focusing on wildlife viewing, landscape explorations and cultural interaction. “We initially established ourselves to create an income opportunity to filter through to their school and community projects in several Maasai villages throughout northern Tanzania”. From there, they have made a name for themselves as an ethical, fair-traded and committed outfit that cares enough to take travellers on the adventure of a life time. Maasai Wanderings primarily focusses on the English and French speaking markets, although they do have partnerships in place with Italian, Spanish and German-speaking markets.

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They have more recently branched out to other destinations within Africa, and Rwanda,  Zimbabwe and Namibia are new hotspots for us”. They are lucky to receive a high percentage of repeat clients and sometimes they want to explore more than Tanzania – so this is where they have established partnerships in these locations with those who have a similar vision with regards to client services and experiences. Nas and Donna also own and operate Nasikia Tanzania Ltd (aka Nasikia Camps), a portfolio of tented camps located in the national parks of the northern safari circuit in Tanzania. And new ones about to open in 2018!

Women join boardrooms

Historically in the safari business, the operations and logistics were often done by men. It was a rugged and wild job, but full of the thrill of the adventure. Women tended to play a more administrative role or that of a travelling companion, whereas these days, Donna sees women taking on the more gruelling tasks of logistics, staff management, tour leading, guiding, negotiations with authorities and also seeking new areas to explore. She sees women and their attention to detail as a crucial part of creating a perfectly unforgettable safari for travellers in today’s world. Donna says that: “The majority of the safari itineraries we operate are unique from one another – indeed we concentrate on listening not only to peoples’ budget and wish list – but also to what activities and experiences they are hoping for, the style of accommodation, type of guide, length of time they have, and who they are”.

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From this, they design an itinerary that caters for personal needs and expectations. Donna and Nas don’t think a safari can just be ‘bought off the shelf’ – Donna thinks they are on the shelf for us to get ideas, but tailoring them to suit guests as individuals is so very important.

Reflections on a balanced workforce.

It is a fact that the more women are educated, the more successful they are – this in turn leads to more successful and healthier families and futures. It is no secret that when a woman has the opportunity to learn and earn, a community benefits as a whole; health behaviour and hygiene improve, peer support and mentoring improve, communication and awareness improve, and so do goal setting and financial planning – men are encouraged as allies and advocates. When women lead, it often comes with a nurturing effect where everyone involved moves forward in a positive manner. Women are adaptable within their role, they are natural leaders who have the endurance to problem solve with care. In the words of Hilary Clinton, ‘Women are the largest untapped reservoir in the world.’

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Insight into the role

“As the director of Maasai Wanderings, Donna’s role is vast and varied. Donna primarily focuses on sales and reservations for incoming travellers. However, Donna also plays a part in team management and training for both safari operations and our camps, community project liaison with regards to budgets and funding for building projects, financial accountability (they have a team of accountants but Donna is the one writing the cheques) and general supervision of the customer service aspects of trips”. Donna and Nas both feel it is crucial to be involved in every aspect of the company, indeed to watch how everyone in the team interacts with colleagues, with suppliers, with clients and so on. Donna does not believe that when you are a director you can just supervise from afar; her husband Nas gets on the ground underneath a vehicle and Donna sits up late at night writing menus. It is the nature of this beautiful woman. Let’s not forget – Donna still runs her family home – she is a mother and wife before she even gets up in the morning to go to the office!

The vital role of Donna’s team

The team in Donna’s opinion are the front line, they are the bridge that links the company to the rest of the world – past, present and future safari-goers. First impressions mean a lot and imprint a memory, often even before the first words are spoken. Donna and Nas invest a lot of time and money into team training and believe it is a crucial part of their success. It is not enough to just know facts and figures, to regurgitate statistics and smile. They need to listen to their guests, and communicate information in such a way that it is received, understood and creates a dialogue for further discussion. Donna and Nas have always told the team that they can’t possibly be a good guide or team player if they themselves are not a good person, good husband/wife, good father/mother and good member of the community. They have guys who have been with them right from Day 1 – they are a working family and those families have extended their opportunities into something where their dependents are now working with the network. They might now provide fresh produce to the camps, sew car seat covers for the vehicles, supply woven baskets for storage or demonstrate their skills in professional development training.

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 Opportunities and challenges ahead

Donna and Nas have had a few tough years with global economic crises, global health issues, global terror threats and the implementation of VAT on tourism services in Tanzania impacting heavily on company profits. They understand many companies in Tanzania, if not Africa, have been impacted in similar ways. But let’s look at it in a positive light and use this as learning. They believe once people understand that Tanzania is geographically peaceful, is a country full of stunning natural resources (unique landscapes and wildlife), and that it is a country that is naturally welcoming and warm. Tanzania is building an incredible future for itself on the world stage, VAT collection assists with those goals. They predict vast improvements in Tanzania’s infrastructure and economic development this year and years ahead.

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As tourism develops in Tanzania, they would like to see benefits filtering more through society in general. After all, the environment that we work in belongs to Tanzanians as a whole and the whole country should see the benefits. Donna is honoured to be married to a man who is proudly Tanzanian. Together they endeavour to develop the skills and experience of Tanzanians, making sure to provide jobs and opportunities in the country. They believe this is pivotal to maintaining sustainable tourism ideals in Tanzania. In terms of development of their own company, they have several projects on the horizon for Nasikia Camps – new properties, new locations. This is exciting news for them, and also for their Maasai Wanderings team of guides. Opening minds to new experiences and ideas can only benefit all of us. Donna believes that they offer a truly unique product within tourism in Tanzania: “As directors, we have our eye on the ball, listen to what our clients’ needs are and go out of our way to make sure that their safari experience exceeds all their expectations.” Donna and Nas are two dedicated and hard-working people – there is no remotely located board, no investors. It is their vision, their blood, sweat and tears. They utilise their local knowledge and international experience of efficiency to really deliver a product that some people only ever thought of as a wild dream. That’s what makes them happy; safaris should be accessible.

Contact: Shanaaz Solomons

Contact Email: shanaaz@tourismcorp.co.za

Company: The Roving Ambassador Ltd

London, United Kingdom

Web Address: www.therovingambassador.com