Bringing tourists and the people of Botswana closer together is the goal of innovative tourism company Central Khalahari Wild Tours, which provides private cultural and safari tours throughout Botswana, on scheduled basis and when ever guests want.
Managing Director Dulang Matija explains what sets Central Khalahari Wild Tours apart from standard travel companies. He says, “The motivating factor for me is that instead of following the norm of just flying tourists into and out of the Okavango Delta and taking them on safaris in national parks and game reserves, we also provide visitors with opportunities for direct contacts with local communities and their culture, always avoiding exploiting locals as tourism attractions. We create an environment for true interaction and cultural exchange. We connect people to people.”
Central Khalahari Wild Tours takes pride in the fact that their guides are exceptional professionals that are committed to ensuring that guests enjoy their stay without compromising their safety. One of which is Dulang’s brother and partner, Stephen Matija’s love of people and nature has won the heart of many guests and one long time guest has even written a book “Safari with Steve” , available in Amazon, as a token of appreciation for his exceptional guiding skills and the time spend together doing what they both like the best.
Central Khalahari Wild Tours has taken it upon itself to building a long lasting relationship with some remote villages in Botswana and has started since inception with a village in northern Botswana. Every December, Dulang and Steven Matija and their guests visit the village of Somelo to chat and share whatever they have. This year December, Central Khalahari Wild Tours will have Christmas dinner with the people of Somelo.
Creating tailor-made tours to fit visitors’ needs and schedules is Central Khalahari Wild Tours’ specialty. The company organises private day trips and longer camping trips for individuals and groups. Overnight tours can accommodate up to nine guests. Central Khalahari Wild Tours transports guests in its own fleet of comfortable station wagons with trailers – instead of the open game-view vehicles; since they can be hot, dusty and uncomfortable over long distances.
Dulang Matija points out, “Most visitors to Botswana fly into Maun to experience the Okavango delta without experiencing all the culture and other wildlife the country has to offer. Central Khalahari Wild Tours, in contrast, offers full-board, tailor-made tours, ranging from a week to a few weeks, which include the Okavango Delta, the desert, wildlife safaris, trips to view flora or fauna, cultural experiences, visits to national parks, tastings of traditional foods and more.”
Dulang Matija says, “Most safari companies are centred around Okavango delta, almost ingoring other parts of the country with similar potential for tourist attractions, for example the sand dunes of the Khalahari. Our company’s tours try to cover most of these areas; for example the tour named “South to North Botswana” takes quests through different landscapes of the country.
Dulang Matija has taken a long-term view of his family-owned-and-operated tourism enterprise that focuses on private, more high-end traveller – groups of friends/ families. He says, “Rather than trying to gain quick profits, we offer highly competitive prices and are very serious about our tour operation. Central Khalahari Wild Tours is a transparent, loving company which is very open to people from other cultures. We are truly committed to our core principles, which are honesty, quality, personal values and family. We want guests to experience what our company has to offer and then to tell others about their positive experiences.”
Central Khalahari Wild Tours places a high priority on quality service and everyone on its staff is highly trained and dedicated. Most of the company’s clients are from the USA and Europe. Dulang Matija promotes his company worldwide and participates every year in a major tourism fair ITB Berlin, which he is confident will attract more customers to Central Khalahari Wild Tours this year.
Dulang Matija has ambitious goals for his company and is currently seeking investors and partners. He says, “I would like to open offices in Maun and Kasane and to offer drop-in services at our office in Gaborone. I would also like to develop a five-hectare property I own in Maun, which has an international airport and is the gateway to the Okavango Delta. I am seeking partners and/or investors with finances, skills and vision, who share my ideals. I want to create something new on the Maun property which brings people together, will attract both local and international visitors, and will be centred around the concept of play. I feel that playing is the best means for relaxation, frank communication, and learning from each other. In addition, I would like to find a partner who would be hands-on in Maun while I oversee our operations in Gaborone.” Dulang Matija is also trying to establish youth-training programmes to help local young people find jobs.
Commenting on one foreign group’s criticism of tourism in Botswana because it might exploit native Bushmen, Dulang Matija says, “tourism is the breadbasket of the country – if tourism is challenged, the bread is challenged. As tour operators we understand and appreciate that indigenous people need to be protected – that is why we want to be in touch with them and treat them humanly – not as tourist attractions.”
The statement from Survival International is unfortunate as it will hurt the very people they purport to advocate for. I sincerely wish that Survival International considers its position and the government to reach out to them so an amicable solution can be reached.