Sense of Africa, one of integrated tourism group Tourvest’s leading inbound tour operator brands, celebrates its 50th birthday this year.
The company, which was first called Oryx Safaris, was founded in 1968 by a Belgian Congolese expatriate and ran it as a small safari and day tour operation out of Swakopmund. The business was then acquired by South Africa’s Springbok Altas, which changed the name to Oryx Tours and extended the product range with tailor-made group tours as well as select self-drive itineraries.
Meanwhile, South African Railways had started its own tour operation to cater to local tourism demand, which was bought by private investors and renamed Trans Namibia Tours. Tourvest acquired this business in the Nineties and approached Avis Southern Africa, now the owner of Oryx Tours, to merge the two entities into what would become Namibia’s leading tour operator. Tourvest went on to purchase the remaining shares in the business, which still traded as Oryx Tours.
To provide fresh impetus and instill a new vision within the business, its name was changed to Sense of Africa and it became a fully-fledged destination management company, catering to all travel requirements of the international distribution chains.
Today, Sense of Africa is the undisputed leader in Namibia for inbound leisure travel in both group and independent traveler format. The business, now based in the capital Windhoek, has grown from strength to strength with 105 permanent employees and a further 80 freelance tour guides on its books.
As a testimony to its importance in the Southern African tourism industry, among the leaders that have helped shape its direction are well-known doyens Helmut zur Strassen, Udo Weck, Willie du Toit, Mannie Goldbeck, Dieter Glaue and Rob Nichols.
“With over 60 ready-made itineraries and the ability to create custom made tours for our clientele, Sense of Africa Namibia offers versatile itineraries, insight into little known tour and safari destinations and exclusive added value,” says Paul Brinkmann, chief operating officer.
“We are constantly reviewing what we offer and how we can improve it, either by looking at new products and experiences, or just by being innovative and using our knowledge and experience to make the tour or safari more fun and offer more value. Through this we have been able to create a portfolio of product that comprehensively portrays the natural beauty that is Namibia. Namibia has a timeless appeal for all those that live here and a yearning to share this awesome land with others,” he says.
Sense of Africa owns and operates a very comprehensive fleet of vehicles that range from 4-seater Toyota Fortuners, Quantums, custom-built 4WD Land Cruiser safari vehicles and Isuzu Overlanders to larger 44-seater coaches. “Our coaches are designed and custom built to suit the Namibian road conditions, both in their configuration as well as their construction. This all adds to the durability and reliability of our fleet, but also to the comfort for our guests while on safari. Our vehicles are fitted with air-conditioning, sliding windows or pop-up roof and an audio/microphone system for guests’ safari enjoyment. Combined with our own in-house, fully equipped workshop, we are able to service our own fleet and thereby staying true to our promise of offering the highest standard of touring vehicles to our guests,” says Brinkmann.
“The most important and significant part of the Sense of Africa brand is our people. From our travel consultants to our tour guides, we are a highly motivated and passionate team of skilled individuals who understand the industry and are committed to exceed our customers’ expectations. We also like to create a sense of family and belonging, ensuring our staff are passionate about Sense of Africa and tourism,” he says.
“The brand Sense of Africa has its roots deep in the African experience we offer to our guests. With a growing African footprint throughout the region, with offices in Botswana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, the team at Sense of Africa under the leadership of Paul Brinkmann promises to continue to grow from strength to strength – delivering tours that are more than just a journey for the next 50 years.”