THE old adage “dynamite comes in small packages” sums up the story of little known Beneath Africa Travel and Tours, whose fortunes are fast growing to be the envy of big tour operators in the country.
Established in 2013 as Zeresh Trading Company T/A Beneath Africa, the Victoria Falls-based operator offers a wide range of activities in Victoria Falls, around Zimbabwe and in Botswana.
The company operates from number 483 Jakaranda Crescent in Victoria Falls and plans to open new premises at Sawanga Mall.
It stole the show at the recently held 2019 Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo where it scooped the 2019 Best First Time Exhibitor Stand award.
The company’s founder, Mr Ranjisi Nyakusengwa, who doubles as co-director and company secretary, said the award whose package includes a certificate from Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, is testimony of hard work and experience.
“This is my first ever award in life and it means a lot as it is a chance to tell people worldwide that Beneath Africa exists and can provide the service you need. Our motto is that everyone is up there, and we are saying rediscover Africa through us.
“It was my first time to exhibit and I had no idea of what was expected from me. I didn’t even think of becoming a nominee but after winning I realised that I deserved it because many people approached me and explained what it meant. I felt on top of the world and shed some tears,” said Mr Nyakusengwa.
Beneath Africa’s exhibition stand won because it was well furnished with information for clients.
It was designed by Messrs Brian Muvhuti and Clemence Nyakusengwa.
Mr Nyakusengwa, whose fairytale in tourism started at Flame of Africa which he joined in 1991, said the award is a huge challenge to him and the company
“Yes, I had goals but now everybody wants to know our business so we have to meet the standards even better. We want to be in the market.
He said the company will be rebranding including changing sets of uniforms for its staff.
Mr Nyakusengwa, his wife Ms Naume Ndoro and son Bruce are co-directors of the company.
They have three permanent guide drivers, a reservationist, professional hunter, freelance sales reps and a permanent accounting consultant.
Mr Nyakusengwa said they aim to be the best operator in the next five years.
Their products include road transfers from Victoria Falls town to airport, Hwange, Matopos National Park in Matabeleland South, Binga, Kariba and Kasane in Botswana. The company also arranges houseboat activities in Kariba and Chobe in Kasane. They do tours and camping around Zimbabwe, Chobe Day Trips, village tours, school educational trips and guided tours of the Rainforest.
Beneath Africa recently introduced Chobe Explorer, a new product which seeks to cater for those who cannot afford the houseboat experience.
“We have the Chobe Explorer which is a new product which is for those who cannot afford the houseboat in terms of time and money, so they go to Chobe just for a day and check out end of the day but having gotten the same experience as in the houseboat,” said Mr Nyakusengwa.
His company is also an agent for local tourism and works with a number of international agents and clients such as Flame of Africa, Photo Safaris, City Ride, Theron Africa Safaris, Azure Cruises, Safari 24, Amadeus Garden, Tom Pree Services, Travel Go and EU Mice from Singapore. Most of Beneath Africa’s clients are from Germany, UK, USA and Australia, with a sizeable number of locals.
Mr Nyakusengwa said he owes his success to Flame of Africa run by Mr Bret and wife Mrs Jacqueline McDonald where he started as a driver and rose to be general manager before starting his own company.
The McDonalds were the owners of Flame of Africa and Harare Safari Lodge near Lake Chivero.
Mr Nyakusengwa joined as a driver-cum- salesperson in 1993 and trained as a guide on the insistence of the McDonalds.
After training he was promoted to reservationist, front office manager, head of housekeeping, lodge manager and then general manager.
In 2008 the McDonalds bought Zambezi Queen in Chobe which was used as a floating hotel and Mr Nyakusengwa was appointed cruise director up to 2012.
He also worked as boat captain for the McDonald’s Lady Jacqueline boat on Lake Kariba.
In 2012 he was assigned to Flame of Africa’s Victoria Falls branch.
“The company folded and they asked me to retrench all staff and give them their packages. I was given mine in batches and I requested that they hand over their Zimbabwean clients when they wanted to give me a hefty package. I want to thank Bret and Jacque for the way they appreciated and groomed me. I want to express my sincere gratitude to them for helping us establish Beneath Africa Travel and Tours and all I’m doing is keep high up there the Flame of Africa’s standards as a way of showing them my appreciation,” he said.
Beneath Africa has a fleet of six transfer vehicles.
He talks about the huge opportunities in tourism, urging operators to be trustworthy.
“Clients get to know you before you even meet them and they come to you because of trust for a better service which you have to deliver. Don’t be a defender of mediocrity and mistakes or lie to clients that you can do a service or about things you don’t know. Rather assure them you will research if you don’t know.
Mr Nyakusengwa said as a small operator he faces stiff competition from established companies such as Shearwater Adventures, Wild Horizons Adventures, Wilderness Safaris and others who have a well established market base and operating space. — @ncubeleon