There are few things in the world more intriguing that wildlife of all sorts, especially those we don’t see every day. Naturally, we want to get close and observe, but as a community of animal lovers, we look for ways to do this, ethically. Enter, Rafiki Eco-Safaris. Rafiki has come to the SEEtheWILD community as one of our newest partners and supporter of the KEEPitWILD Pledge.
We had the chance to ask Yakub Birungi, Founder of Rafiki Eco-Safaris, a few questions about the passion behind Rafiki, what makes an amazing safari, and a whole lot more.
What excites you about hosting visitors on a Rafiki Safari?
Providing a memorable experience to the visitors excites us. Uganda as a destination, for example, has incredibly diverse cultures, hospitable communities, picturesque landscapes, and a variety of wildlife, all which we are happy to share with the visitors on their maiden trip.
What makes for a great safari experience?
A great safari experience is one that is crafted to offer memorable experiences to the visitor. It may be a honeymoon, primate safari (meet a Mountain Gorilla face-to-face), nature and cultural safari, hiking or birding expedition that suits the visitor’s taste or excites the visitor and prompts them to make a return trip to the destination in the future.
What makes for a great safari operator?
A great safari operator is one who will satisfy the needs of the tourist on that once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Often that experience influences him or her to make a return trip to the destination, which in turn benefits the country they are visiting.
What unique experiences can guests look forward to on a Rafiki Safari?
A Rafiki Safari involves visits to communities (enjoy home stays or village stays), Heritage sites and Museums, Sanctuaries, National Parks and Hiking. Our trips can blend them all to fit into a particular itinerary so that the guest experience is well covered.
What environmental changes have you seen during your time running Rafiki Safaris?
Habitats that were previously good for birding have been affected. Swamps and marshlands which are popular for birding expeditions have especially seen an increased population near them or other investments such as, rice growing and residential construction.
What cultural or social changes have you seen in the local communities a traveler visits during their time with Rafiki Safaris?
Communities today have managed to harness their environment by seeking alternative income sources through the making of handicrafts, becoming part of the tour guiding team, setting up of homestays or village stays for accommodation, storytelling and traditional dances. This, in turn, delays the urge to degrade the environment and poach wild animals.
What are your greatest challenges as you lead your locally-owned company?
Tourists may sometimes come from different countries and cultures. Blending them together may not be easy if it’s their first time. However, along the way, most will interact easily with each other. Satisfying their different needs on an equal basis calls for a cool head.
If you weren’t leading a Safari operation what would you be doing?
I always visit possible touristic attractions like communities and eco-tourism destinations that can be part of the future trips on a Rafiki Safari and also for leisure to have the firsthand experience like a tourist too. I am also a financial professional, so I support small businesses part-time (tourism & non-tourism) with bookkeeping services.
If you could hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world for a vacation, where would you go?
Vancouver, British Columbia. It fascinated me during my school days-lower secondary (Senior 2). I was 15 years old at the time in 1991).We learned a lot about its mountains, forest cover (1970 and 1980’s history) and how the authorities back then did their best to conserve them.
What’s the future for Rafiki Safaris?
Rafiki Safaris looks forward to creating more tailor-made experiences with the individual in mind and creating once-in-a-lifetime memorable experiences. We will always have experienced, passionate staff that care for the visitor and work to bring people together. We will contribute to better conservation of the environment, preserve heritage and cultures in Uganda and the East African region, thus conserving for future generations.
Find out more about Rafiki Eco-Safaris by visiting them on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Also, find out how you can be a wildlife hero by taking the KEEPitWILD Pledge.
Sarah is an independent contractor with specialization in content writing and social media management for the travel industry. After many years as a travel agent, she switched gears to focus on promoting responsible travel through Holidays for Humanity. Sarah currently writes content for and manages social media for all Holidays for Humanity brands including SEEtheWILD, Trek Union and GoVoluntouring. When not working, Sarah can be found searching for her next travel destination or exploring Vancouver’s dog-friendly parks and trails with her dog, Otto.
You can read more of Sarah's personal travels on her blog www.sarahseizetheworld.com