Why Lynett Will Enjoy Taking You To Samburu

Lynett at Lake Nakuru National Park with (L to R) marketer Eunice, driver Bernard and intern Gabriel.

At the reception of Ashers Caravan Tour Company, I see the Magical Kenya handbook. The cover photo of the Lion King pulls me in. I peruse through for a few minutes; seeing more pictures of the big five, the wildebeest migration, the Tugen community and other picturesque landscapes in Kenya.

Ashers Caravan is run by Lynett Izima Omwenyo. The idea was inspired by her son Asher in 2007.  “He was only four months old when I coined the business name. It was a good first step… looking at his little toes and thinking of a future in business.” Due to post election violence during that year the business failed to take off.

When Lynett got her daughter Lisa later in 2010 she started mapping out the business plan. Her then workplace did not give maternity leave to single mothers and she felt her own venture would be more kind on such trivial matters.  She decided to resign in 2011 and got immersed in running the tour company. Her key agenda that first year was deciding the destinations she wanted to sell and packaging them.

Lynett Omwenyo with marketer Eunice Mishan

It was all systems go. Lynett registered the company and did her first gig organising a trip to Nakuru for a few friends. Her hometown Nakuru is in fact a top destination and she explains how in three days you can have a proper holiday. From a day’s game drive to Lake Nakuru National Park, a hike to Menengai crater, a trip to Lake Elementaita, a visit to the therapeutic hot springs, discovering the archaeological sites at Hell’s Gate and seeing lions walk at Soysambu Conservancy.

Making that first trip happen gave Lynett a boost of confidence. Albeit with no profits, she was ready for the plunge, only to experience a dry spell for four months where zero business came in. She got a lot of financial support from her mother and leveraged on networks in the business community.  That first year, she landed an NGO deal to take some clients to northern Kenya and needed to hire some land cruisers. Sportsmen's Safaris & Tours Ltd in Nairobi offered her support and she went on to develop good business relations with the proprietor of the tour company.

“Being a veteran in the tour business, the director of Sportsmen's Safaris was kind enough to guide me through the business’ dos and don’ts. Nowadays you don’t get so many people willing to help you out; most of them size you up and consider you as competition. 2016 and onwards I got clarity on what I wanted for the business; memorable unique experiences.”

On Holiday with Children

Lynett is an avid traveller. She started travelling when she was only a teenager and has been everywhere in Kenya and East Africa. Arusha, Zanzibar, Dar and Samburu are some of her favourite spots. The one thing she’s come to enjoy in recent times is travelling with her children. On their last trip to Lake Bogoria in December 2016 she mentions that her daughter complained that she would have enjoyed it better if the trip was not rushed had they spent the night at Bogoria. For Lynett it was a deliberate choice given the number of monitor lizards in Bogoria and how much they terrify kids. Such conversations give her deeper insights when she’s designing trips for families travelling with their children. “Adults don’t mind being on the road back to back but children need a break every so often,” she points out. The most enjoyable trip they’ve had together has been a cruise from Nakuru to Samburu and then further down to Sarova Salt Lick in Taita Hills. In 2016, she designed two popular packages for children; during the wildebeest migration to Maasai Mara and the Ashers Caravan Annual Camel Derby.

A Sense of Adventure, Gulliver’s travel style

Ashers Caravan targets clients who want to take a deserved break and go on a proper holiday; learn about the culture and the history of the places they visit. Such holistic holidays takes Lynett back to her times as a traveller; how much she enjoyed meeting new people, experiencing different cuisines, interacting and learning more about the world next door.

Her other special calibre of clients are lovebirds. She remembers a valentine surprise getaway she organised for a couple where the guy had an elaborate surprise proposal in mind. It was at Enashipai Resort by the lake and demystified that Kenyan guys aren’t romantic. “It was a joy when the guy called me to say they had a fantastic time and that she said YES!” Ashers Caravan also organises for trips travel outside the country. They go the whole nine yards from visa assistance, hotel bookings to organising the itinerary of the trip.

Lynett gives me insider information I maul over - on the off peak holiday seasons.  April till end of June she says have the best rates, peace, quiet and plenty of wildlife. When God blesses the country with rain a good four wheel vehicle would be advisable to navigate the wet terrain. January to March are peak seasons especially for the international markets who are experiencing winter and prefer to come enjoy ‘sun, sand and sea in Kenya.’ July to Sept  are also peak months where ‘summer bunnies’ on summer break come over and some get to enjoy the wildebeest migration which happens around the same time.

She ascertains that the wildebeest migration is a world wonder that everyone should see and vividly explains how the animals migrate from the Mara via the valley that flows into the Mara River and to the other side of Serengeti to enjoy the greener pastures.

Lynett Omwenyo  with driver Bernard Thuo

Prince Charles Loves Northern Kenya

Samburu is the one place Lynett enjoys sending people to. She calls it “A hidden gem, untouched, natural. You have elephants at your doorstep.” She adds that if you drive up to Lewa Conservancy which is keen on rhino conservation, you’d be able to see the black rhino. Samburu is alive with rich culture, the people are so friendly and the excursion affords you the beauty of seeing the changing landscapes, the Ewaso Hills and the beautiful sunset. “It’s also one of the British Royal Family’s favourite destinations. Larsens Camp within the Samburu Game Reserve is a must visit for those who love luxury travel.”

While driving up North to Samburu, Lynett recommends a stopover at Nyahururu to see the Thomsons falls and have a bite at the famous Trout Tree restaurant in Nanyuki. In Maralal she promises to take you to the Kenyatta House, a museum where the founding father of the nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was held captive by the British.

“You don’t need to be a financial analyst, who’s taking a year off Wall Street to go on safari,” Lynett insists. “All you need is a sense of adventure and expedition.” The Cape to Cairo expedition is top on Ashers Caravan list in the near future.

Lubricating the Business Engine

In2013 Lynett had it rough following the numerous travel advisories that came with the uncertainties following the elections. She lost a good chunk of her international business. It forced her to reflect on the customer base. “I had to rethink my strategy and it was not about changing my prices when a client points out that a competitor is offering a better deal.” Business is about improving the status quo and increasing the quality of services.

Ashers Caravan keeps abreast of changing trends, and recently she consulted her web designer to rebrand and have a better online presence. Emails, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are as important as word of mouth or walk-in clients where marketing is concerned.  2017 being an election year, Lynett is not fretful. She has put in place new systems to attract more local clients and keep the graph on the rise.

Lynett believes in training and building a small efficient team. She wants her employees to learn the business side of things so as to appreciate every client and treat them like royalty. Their business is keeping the lights on!

She has two fulltime employees in the marketing department, an intern and a pool of drivers she contracts part-time.  She has to be extra careful to find diligent drivers seeing that they are a key element of travel. In the past some drivers have gone AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave), causing mayhem and she’s careful not to have repeat offenders.

As a member of the Nakuru Business Association, she gets wind of good opportunities. She recently got a loan from the County Loans Board in Nakuru which gave the business a deserved boost. “The thing with loans is that you need to put up some security. My mother put up one of her title deeds for that one.” Lynett’s mother has been her chief advisor and financier; she helped the business stand on its own.

Lynett is working at getting her own tented camp in the Rift Valley. Some of the key lessons she’s learnt in the last six years are “the need to re-invest into the business, as the business owner paying myself a salary, acquiring assets over time and most important, never giving up.”

Lynett’s top five destinations in order of best of the best;

  1. Samburu
  2. Marsabit’s Lake Turkana Cultural Festival
  3. Taita hill’s Sarova Salt Lick
  4. The Mara
  5. Rusinga Island

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Lynett Omwenyo

 
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 Joan Kabugu

Joan Kabugu is a writer, published author, award winning filmmaker and blogger who launched Ecila productions in July 2013.

 

 

 

 


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