We interviewed Kate Webb, who founded The Responsible Safari Company and is launching women’s expeditions in 2018. If you’re interested in joining The Travel Women Trips, fill out our survey and learn more here.
1. Tell us about the first time you traveled to Africa.
I was 22 and had just graduated. I had a good job in London and a wonderful new boyfriend (now my business partner and husband!) We were happy but had itchy feet. In need of a new adventure, something to awaken our souls, we looked for a new path to follow. So we decided to buy a ticket to Nairobi in Kenya and a return ticket, 12 months later, from Cape Town, South Africa. We had a year. A year that would involve 8 countries, trains, boats, kayaks, bicycles, planes, taxis and minibuses. This year firmly sewed a love for Africa, a bug for travel and experiences that still drive our business today.
We worked in Kenya at a safari lodge, sailed on the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar, hitched lifts down never ending dusty tracks, chatted to locals, learnt some Swahili and dreamt of running our own company while living a very simple life away from corporate London. We wanted to find a way to combine a successful business life with creating a company that we would be proud to own, enjoy running and could directly benefit the country’s people we were working with.
2. What is The Responsible Safari Company? Why did you start it?
I have answered part of this question above! The Responsible Safari Company is a social enterprise tour operator based in Blantyre, Malawi. We specialise in sustainable, educational, philanthropic and experiential group travel to Malawi. My husband was passionate about offering Africa as a destination. I really wanted to find a sustainable way for tourism to benefit local communities- RSC was a combination of both of our loves, passions, interests and experience – I think every business needs to have this foundation! We have just launched our new company, based in UK, Orbis Expeditions.
3. What makes your safari experiences responsible and different from other safaris?
The word ‘safari’ in Swahili means journey, so although a traditional wildlife safari is often included in your expedition with our company, it is often just a small element. Our expeditions in Malawi are highly tailored to the individual group. For example, we are in the process of putting together 3 teams of international women who are travelling to Malawi in 2018. Each expedition is slightly different as the participants are looking for different experiences. Each one involves an element of adventure, an immersive cultural experience, a safari and a splash of luxury! Our trips are designed to push you mentally and physically, awakening your senses, feeding your soul and inspiring you.
4. What drew you to Malawi?
We first arrived in Malawi on the back of a small pickup truck, hitching a lift across the border from Tanzania. We had just been on a 2-day train ride from Dar Es Salaam and were in serious need of a shower! Having done 7 months in East Africa crossing into Malawi I felt a shift, the ladies seemed to smile at me more, the men seemed to talk to me as much as my husband, there was less talk about football and more about how we were and where we had come from. There was a strange peace amongst the deafening bang bang bang of the rusty truck along the dirt road, I wanted to stay and I felt welcome.
5. What inspired you to focus on a women’s expedition?
Next year we are ten years old, my daughter is one year old. I have worked in Africa, very much in a man’s world, and wanted to put together an expedition that celebrated women from different cultures coming together, working together, sharing stories together, forming links that were based around business, not charity.
6. What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs?
I am inspired by all entrepreneurs, it is scary, risky and a leap of faith. For me taking each step at a time, being very good at juggling lots of areas and being with a supportive business partner and husband! Being a full time Mum to two under two-year olds while trying to keep working on the business is the most taxing thing I have tried to do- right now I am in a cafe typing whilst speaking to my husband about where my baby’s shoes are! 1hr later…still not found…
7. What do you think of when you think of a woman traveler?
I immediately think of someone strong and independent and self-reliant but some of the most interesting ladies that travel with us are very intelligent, really enjoy the challenges of being in a totally different culture, are willing to listen and adapt their preconceived views and get as much from being within a group of international women as from the experiences they have each day in Malawi. Does that make them strong and independent? Perhaps? Or just confident about sitting quietly, soaking up the experiences and being able to reflect and bring an element of these home and into their daily lives.
8. What was your favorite travel experience?
I have only really travelled in Africa and also lived for a few months in Italy so haven’t seen much of the world. I think my favourite was when we were 22 and just arrived in Africa. We had taken a minibus to north of Nairobi and found ourselves in a very rural area- just open landscape, no people, no cars, just our minibus- we had our walkmans (that was how long ago it was!) and we were sitting separate sides of the minibus but both listening to The Flower Duet ( an amazing classical piece). Every particle of my being was tingling- and we just looked at each other- and….yes the rest is history. Very cool!
9. Which place do you want to go next and why?
I want to go Greece and swim in the turquoise waters, I want to watch the kids running in the shallows and drink wine and eat calamari…
10. Who do you prefer traveling with?
I prefer traveling with my husband.
11. What is your favorite travel souvenir?
My favourite souvenir is a tiny painted picture that I was given on Valentine’s day on the beach in Kenya. It has come to every hotel, house and adventure i have been on.
Would you like to go on a Responsible Safari? Learn more about The Travel Women Trips here.