Since we started WalkingWomen last year we have been on a mission to build up a travel company that had been devastated by the Covid Pandemic. No one could travel and guides lost their livelihood and local partners lost their businesses. In the middle of it, we took over a travel company.
Because we are travellers and because WalkingWomen had been a lifeline for me and I didn’t want it to disappear. We could both see the huge potential. Sara and I are optimists – we could see travel would re-emerge and we could see the passion in the existing guides and partners of WalkingWomen. Quickly we saw that WalkingWomen isn’t just a company it is a community of women. The common thread is women who want adventures, challenges, and sometimes support and who are all driven to be active and embrace the outdoors. Who love the chance to walk and talk together. We have women who want to join holidays, women who want to guide holidays and women who have their own enterprises and want to connect and collaborate. We are clear that building and developing WalkingWomen will be achieved by working together with other like minded women.
We have walked with so many women this first year. It is through this that new guides have emerged, new contacts, a new support team and women who are helping with finance, promotion and much much more .
The amount of times I have heard “ I know someone who could help “.
We have increased from 12 UK women guides at the start of the year to 21 now. We have increased from 3 overseas local partners to working with 10 – all small companies run by women and with women guides who we want to support.
We seek out women who are running enterprises and all supporting women to have successful careers in travel and hospitality and are supported to make lifestyle choices to work in different ways. Covid has taught us all that life is too short to not follow your dreams . We all want to change an industry once dominated by men and offer women led experiences.
In this seasons newsletter we hear the stories of two incredible women and why they are our ideal WalkingWomen partners – do put us in touch if you know others…
Sheetal was introduced to us by a guest whilst walking on Sussex Songbirds. “ I have a friend who does something similar to WalkingWomen in India – would you like to meet” A new partnership was born and in February 2023 we will have our very first WalkingWomen and Rainbow Journeys hike in the Lower Himalayas of India. Thank you to Amtojh.
Where are you based ?
I am based in Kumaon Himalayas, in Uttarakhand state at an altitude of 1800m. I moved to the mountains pre-covid and it has proved to be a good decision – to be surrounded by Pine, Oak & Rhododendron forest with beautiful views of the Greater Himalayas and a lot of wildlife. I live in a small community with like-minded people and good internet connectivity, which helps me run my business away from city life.
Why did you start Rainbow Journeys?
I wanted to show off-the-beaten tracks of this incredible country-INDIA. I opened Rainbow journeys, which was initially called ‘Freedom to Be’ in 2015, offering exclusive All-women, offbeat treks & tours within India. I have spent many years working in adventure & leisure inbound tourism and I gained alot of experience which helped me put together unique travel experiences and opportunities for women travellers.
What is the best thing about running your company ?
Being able to show my country around is the greatest pleasure I get running Rainbow journeys. I love being outdoors and meeting new people. Organising these trips gives me a chance to connect with nature & meet some amazing women from different cultures and different walks of life.
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman?
I believe we live in a man’s world, where being a woman entrepreneur doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth the fight.
Are there many women guides in India – what is special about your team.
In India, we have had women tour leaders and guides in leisure tourism for many years now. But in the last 10 years, women trekking guides have started working in adventure tourism after completing their mountaineering courses and usually these are local women guiding trips in their particular region of expertise. Our team of guides comprise of freelance women guides from all over India who have had many years of experience in leading tours in their region.
What is your favourite hike?
There are a couple of them. Source of Ganges trek that takes you to Gangotri glacier snout, from where River Ganges originates. Bedni Bugyal trek, which takes you to a beautiful meadow at an altitude of 3500m. Both these treks are based in Garhwal Himalayas.
What is your dream for the future ?
At Rainbow journeys we organise both Leisure and Adventure tours. But in the coming years I would like to focus more on treks / hikes in unexplored areas. India is a huge country with a lot of opportunities to explore off-the-beaten-paths.
Michaela approached us. An enthusiastic email arrived in our inbox saying she had seen our website and would like to meet whilst having a few days visiting family in England. We were busy but the communication continued and soon we had a date. Over coffee it was clear Michaela had something special and we made the decision to introduce Tanzania to our holiday
programme. Safari’s are a little outside the usual WalkingWomen hiking holidays but we like to bring new amazing experiences to guests. In February we will visit to set things up and in summer we have a Tanzania Safari on offer..
Why Tanzania ?
I first came to Tanzania almost 14 years ago. I had just been offered an incredible job for an organisation who manage life changing volunteer programs in developing communities all over the world. My first assignment was to fly out to Tanzania. I’d never set foot in Africa before and it was such an adventure – the people I met in Tanzania stole my heart and from that first trip, Tanzania never left my thoughts.
Almost 10 years later and back in rainy England, I walked in to the office one morning and noticed my own bum print in the chair where I’d been sat at a desk for so long, Surprising even myself and taking a total leap of faith, I handed in my resignation, got on a plane and returned to Tanzania to lead a group of volunteers across the country. It was then that I met my now husband Alfani who was the chef for the group at that time.
After 3 months in Tanzania I returned to the UK, gave up my house, sold my furniture and belongings and came back to Tanzania to live and to start my own safari company and children’s foundation – with only $500 in my pocket and a dream. Everyone back home thought I was absolutely mad, but it’s now five years later and I’m still here and happy.
What do you love about your life in Tanzania ?
Well definitely the weather. Waking up to bright sunshine for 10 months of the year is something I’m thankful for every day. When I was a little girl I always dreamed of living in a country that had palm trees and a place where you could swim outside…. I pinch myself almost daily.
The nature that surrounds us here in Tanzania is spectacular. An African Safari is such a bucket list dream for so many and we get to do it as a part of our daily life. I adore staying in the camps, sitting around the campfire, falling asleep to the sounds of nature and I never tire of my son’s excitement every time he sees a monkey. The Elephants really do it for me though – so big and so graceful. Absolutely magic.
The slow and easy pace of life is a joy. We have a saying ‘There’s no hurry in Africa’ and it’s true. People are just content enjoying their life. I also love that Hakuna Matata is an actual phrase here. I thought once upon a time that it was just a slogan created for the Lion King movie but we say it all the time here. How can you be unhappy in a country whose National Phrase is No Worries? :
The food is delicious! I can grab a traditional meal of pilau, beans, nyama and vegetables for the equivalent of around $2.
I really love welcoming safari guests from all over the world and seeing their face light up as all their safari dreams come true. It’s such a blessing to be able to welcome so many incredible people here to help to bring their dreams to life for them. Its also resulted in us making incredible friends from all over the world since every one of our guests are welcomed like family.
Why did you set up Luna Safari – what was the biggest challenge as a woman setting up a business in Africa
Me and my husband Alfani set up Luna Safari with a dream of offering truly special wildlife and cultural experiences, whilst also supporting the local communities here. To this day Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries in the world and our hearts pulled us to help in any way we could. A percentage of the cost of every safari with us goes directly in to our Luna Foundation.
Tanzania is still a very macho society for the most part. Women are considered the homemakers while the men go out to work and wear the trousers. Being taken seriously as a business founder and director as a young, white blonde woman who is 5ft 2in from the UK was tricky but with time I feel that culture is slowly evolving here and the women are regaining a lot more of their power, which is incredible to be a part of.
What is your favourite animal
My favourite animal is the African Elephant. No matter how many times I’m amongst them, they never fail to impress me with their huge size and their slow graceful movements.
What is your dream for the future
My dream for the future is for Luna Safari to continue to grow and to be recognised for the highly heartfelt safari’s and beautifully personal experiences that we offer. And we plan to get as many Tanzanian girls in to education as we possibly can through our foundation in order to continue to empower the women of this beautiful and truly special country.