On Safari with Breakdown Safaris

By: Jane Tyrer

Going ‘on Safari’ is a phrase I have never warmed to; it sounded pretentious and smacked of being controlled by others: ‘experts’ or guides. And besides, it is not a phrase much used in my home countries of southern Africa. Here however, in Tanzania, many people I have met are either ‘on safari’, are safari company owners or safari guides, or are planning to establish a safari business. And it is BIG business in Tanzania. Thank goodness, too, from my perspective, for without safari revenue, the burgeoning Tanzanian population with its attendant cattle and goats and demand for charcoal, would quickly wipe out the wild places with their wonderful animal and plant life.

After several days on the road and ‘wild camping’, I have been resting (read: “indulging”) at the Selous River Camp just outside the magnificent Selous Game Reserve in Southwest Tanzania. Of all the camps I have stayed in during my forty years of living in southern Africa, I cannot recall any one that matches this little piece of heaven. And that is where I met Kathy and Fanuel.

In fact, we met on the camp’s evening boat trip on the ochre-coloured Rufiji River. In between sharing knowledge of the river’s history and wild-life, we became friends and they invited me to join them for supper that balmy evening. Over our three-course meal, eaten by candle light in the camp lapa, we shared life stories, and I was intrigued and excited by the birth and growth of their new safari business: Breakdown Safaris.

Fan is Tanzanian, born and raised in Mwanza, on the shores of Lake Victoria. He is a professional safari guide, well-versed in the natural history of the region and its wildlife, and his enthusiasm for his subject was infectious. Kathy, his wife, is American. In her ‘other life’ as she put it, she was a travel consultant and combined this with her life-time’s nursing experience to specialise in providing travel assistance for the elderly and people with disabilities. These skills, I think, would have combined to make her an adroit lady with logistics. (She was explaining her wrist-watch to me: it has several different faces so that she could manage medication even when crossing time zones.) Kathy is clearly a highly responsible and capable lady, although it was her warm personality which first struck me. She is undoubtedly the sort of lady I felt I could entrust my life to.

Fanuel is arresting to look at. Age? Difficult! Maybe early thirties? His well-groomed dreadlocks sweep back from his high brow to accentuate his finely chiselled facial features, and he has a smile to die for!

The story of their meeting and eventual marriage is the stuff of fairy-tales... Kathy had long wanted to visit Africa, and finally made this wish come true in January and February of 2012. This trip included a visit to Rifuji River Camp in the Selous Game Reserve. Here she met Fanuel, who was her guide on several game drives and boat safaris and particularly, one very special walking safari. Idealistically, they clicked, and together shared dreams of one day owning their own safari business. Who was it, I wonder, who first mooted, ‘well, why don’t we then?’!

From sharing their ideas and planning their implementation, love enhanced their relationship – and now... Well what a complementary partnership! They both want a low-impact business, looking at practical ways of both sharing their views of an interconnected planet and introducing their guests to the wonders of Tanzania: its people, its wild places, and its wildlife.

Sharing a meal and a bottle of wine with them both was a real pleasure and inspired me to write this short introduction to their new safari business: Breakdown Safaris.

Good luck, both of you!

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