Discovering Tanzania Through Native Eyes
The Difference of African Ownership in Safaris
My name is Steven Ngowi. I am one of the few native-African owners of an African safari company. Most of the safari companies in East Africa are owned by individuals based in Europe and North America. I founded Ndifo Safari to help fulfill the multigenerational dream of my family to own and operate a truly African safari company and to share our deep knowledge of wildlife and local cultures with guests from around the world.
I was raised by my grandfather, Steven Ngowi, Sr., in the safari life. I fell in love with the Tanzanian and Kenyan wildlife that I encountered regularly throughout my upbringing. I learned from a very early age about the delicate balance of wildlife conservation and care for indigenous tribes closely sharing their daily existence with the wildlife. I have a deep connection with both.
After I reached adulthood, I began my career at some of the top travel companies in East Africa, and I learned so much from them. I am one of the few guides in East Africa to have achieved the walking guide qualification. This requires at least 18 months of specialized training in the use of firearms and over 120 hours of supervised experience in the field – with ongoing training throughout my career. Most guides do not have this type of training – less than 10%. Having a qualified safari walking guide adds something extra for our guests. This means they may choose to experience the feeling of walking among the animals outside the confines of a vehicle.
My blood contains the soil of East Africa, and no one from another continent could know it better than someone like me what my country has to offer and how to explore it ethically with maximum impact for the guest. I know this land like the back of my hand and can position my guest in a place to see the best wildlife and landscapes.
The word “ndifo” means “footprints” in Chagga, the native tongue of my grandfather and me. It’s about me following in his footsteps and achieving his dream and mine. We are the uniquely African safari company. See the footprints in our logo?
One of my favorite activities is to take guests to meet a tribe of Datooga, Hadzabe (Bushmen), or Maasai people and spend time with them, experiencing a day in their lives. This is an experience that you cannot have at a lodge or camp. To go out where these tribes live and hunt – to move among them for a few hours can be life changing for visitors and must be arranged by those with connections to their communities.
My guests have carved arrows with the bushmen and used those arrows to hunt with them and share the bounty of the kill. I have seen the Maasai give an impromptu wedding to an already married couple celebrating an anniversary. The Datooga tribe are the best arrowsmiths in the world. They collect unwanted metals and make jewelry and trinkets. My guests watch this if they want to. It’s always such a meaningful experience for my guests and for me. We all realize together that this is where we all came from.
These cultures face challenges and could be eradicated in the next two decades, so I am working with other Tanzanian professionals to keep guests visiting these tribes and taking interest in their lives. We are trying to help keep their culture alive. So if the client desires, we take time to stop by these villages and live among the people there for as long as they wish.
I have seen connections be made between people from the Western world and the people of these ancient cultures. Every experience is a transcendent one. Because of my deep connection to the land and the people of East Africa, I can provide a more authentic experience for my guests than an operator located on another continent with my deep rooted connections to these communities. These are my neighbors.
We also allow for a more local experience for the traveler who wants more than what is prepared at the lodge or camp. Many foreign-owned safari companies don’t like to take guests anywhere except the camp or lodge and the bush. They don’t always have the comfort of moving around all these cultures. Our soul is connected to the animals and people of this land. This is all that I know.
Because of our deep connection with this country, we want to always give back to our community. Ndifo Safari is committed to wildlife conservation, and we are just as committed to helping our fellow citizens have better lives. There are several projects we are working on to do just that. You can see some of what we’re working on here: ndifosafari.com/commitment
We discussed some of this during our visit at the United Nations in November 2022. Watch the video here: ndifosafari.com/un