Find out about the pioneer of canoe safaris in Tanzania, and why mobile bush camps are the best way to explore.
27 Nov 2018
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Are you looking for a more adventurous and active safari? We caught up with Jean Du Plessis, Director and Founder of Green Footprint Adventures and WAYO Africa in Tanzania. WAYO aims to take guests into remote bush lands on mobile safaris, as well as enabling them to meet local tribes in true cultural interactions. With WAYO it’s all about exploring outside the vehicle, in comfort, without having to spend a fortune.
Where did your passion for Africa and its wildlife come from?
I grew up on a farm in South Africa and my parents always took the family to the Kruger National Park for holidays - camping all over the park. The bush has always been close to my heart as I grew up in it but it was always something to do on holiday - I never thought I was going to end up making a career out of it.
I always thought ‘one day I need to go find a 'real job’. There was a moment, standing on the Grumeti airstrip in the Western Serengeti, while I was training rangers where I was trying to figure out what this ‘real job’ should be… and it hit me… this is it, it can be living and working in the bush!
How did WAYO come together?
After doing a few years of ranger training in the Western Serengeti where we were on foot every-day, I thought it was sad that tourists didn't have the opportunity to experience the national parks from outside a safari vehicle.
We started in Lake Manyara after the park was flooded by the 1998 Elino rains. I convinced the authorities to allow canoeing safaris in Manyara and from there we requested approval for walking safaris in the Serengeti. Once we had a few activities in place we knew we needed camps to start the activities from so the Green Camps were created.
So you pioneered canoeing safaris in Tanzania...tell us what it’s like to explore in this way.
Interesting, especially when one needs to habituate hippos who have never seen canoes! We had a few close calls in the early days but can happily report that they are all now used to us.
It’s always nice exploring new areas for new activities. In many ways that’s the best part of the job, to be the first person to go into an area and see if it’s feasible for guests.
What has been your favourite moment as a guide?
Firstly…. Guiding the first trek across the amazing Serengeti National Park. There was a moment after a week of hiking where I realised we had not seen another vehicle, road or even lights. It was just us in this stunning wilderness with miles and miles of Africa and herds of animals all around us.
This experience is closely followed by spending a night in the remote tree nest we have on the Masaai steppe. This nest overhangs a watering hole and at night it’s not uncommon to have over 500 Elephants coming to drink. Add the full moon and its magic!
Finally, very close behind these two experiences was spending my first night in our Manyara Endabash campsite - I had been waiting to set up a camp in this location for years.
What makes WAYO different?
The fact that we always spearhead change in the industry. Firstly, by introducing new and more interesting ways to safari such as walking, canoeing, cycling, canopy tour etc. Then our drive to safari and camp in more environmentally sound ways.
We were the first company to stop using plastic water bottles as we give guests reusable stainless-steel bottles and bring in our drinking water in large reusable containers. Our latest drive is to minimize the use of water in camps in showers and flush toilets.
We were also one of the first companies to do intensive guide training and our guides have always been some of the best in the industry.
Do you have a favourite place for safari in Tanzania?
The long treks over the Serengeti - in fact anywhere in the Serengeti - will always be a favourite. These treks are very unique and even though it is huge, with plenty of tourists, in core zones the majority of the park is still wilderness and it’s easy to disappear for a week or more!
Is there anywhere you have yet to explore in Tanzania?
I would love to explore the lake shore of Mahale National Park on a sea kayak and set up a multiple day kayak and hiking safari in this park.
Where will guests on your next WAYO trip be exploring?
Well, that's a minute! Thank you, Jean, your stories are a safari inspiration with adventure at every turn. To find out more about building Wayo Africa into your itinerary please contact us at Far and Wild.