Operator Profile: Pamoja Safaris
Dreaming of a remote get-away? So are we these days, so let’s have you meet another Redeam contest winner, Pamoja Safaris!
Meet Pamoja Safaris
Pamoja Safaris is a custom, private safari and Kilimanjaro trekking provider based in Arusha, Tanzania. It’s U.S.-based sales office is in Detroit, Michigan.
Pamoja Safaris was founded in 2010 by two partners: Scott Brills, who’s based in the U.S., and his Tanzanian business partner, Joshua Lovuto. 2010 was Scott’s first time visiting Africa, and he traveled with his father to share another first: a safari. Father and son were a part of a large two-week-long group tour, all Americans, and Josh was one of the assistant guides. After a couple weeks of safari, Scott’s father went home while Scott continued onward to Zanzibar and Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the way he kept in contact with Josh, who assisted Scott in navigating the ins and outs of traveling within his country.
Near the end of the trip, after Scott had arrived back in Arusha, Josh invited him back to his home to meet his wife and family. Since Scott felt Josh was so obviously an amazing guide, he decided to ask Josh if had he ever thought about opening his own safari company. It wasn’t anything Scott had ever thought about either, but within a short amount of time the two men decided to work together to try and get a business off the ground. Scott would use his entrepreneurial and marketing skills to manage the business, while Josh would provide all the on-the-ground services and connections. If it didn’t work out for whatever reason, the two agreed “no harm, no foul”—it’d just be a bit of time and a small amount of money out of their pockets, a risk they were willing to take.
That risk paid off. Their story began over ten years ago, and they’d been growing the business every year (up until COVID-19 hit, of course).
Pamoja Safaris People and Customers
Full-time, it’s just Josh and Scott running and building the company. They are supported, however, by part-time and contractor guides, chefs, porters, and operations staff who also helped grow the company to where it is today.
Pamoja Safaris targets guest is in their 30s-40s – the type that always wanted to go on a safari, but thought it was beyond their means, at least until retirement. Using a distributed work force and the power of the Internet, the company can provide $10,000-quality safaris for as low as a third of the cost. They target travelers in a younger age range because it’s Scott’s personal mission to show off the amazing lands, people, and wildlife of Africa to those that are young enough to promote sustainable resource management going forward into the next few decades. The more people that have experienced it firsthand, the more power Scott believes the collective will be a force for conservation.
Despite their key target age range, the company certainly welcomes older clientele too. They’ve had safari guests in their 80s and climbers summitting Kilimanjaro well into their 60s! Families often bring their children on safari as well.
Most of their clientele thus far is from North America, although more recently they had been pushing into the European and Asian markets, as well as offering services locally in Africa.
Experiencing Pamoja Safaris
Tanzania may not have the name-brand recognition of Kenya or South Africa, but for those in the know, “Tanzania is by far the best country on the planet in which to go on a safari,” says Scott. Between the beautiful coasts of Zanzibar island, the sprawling plains of Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area (a giant collapsed volcano crater teeming with animals), the Great Migration that calls Tanzania home 9-10 months of the year, and the awesome Mount Kilimanjaro, there is something for everyone.
Pamoja Safaris offers private, custom, multi-day safari adventures all over Tanzania (including the lesser-explored southern area of Tanzania, along with the Chimpanzee reserves); Kilimanjaro trekking (from 6-8 days in length); and side trips to Zanzibar island, which people often take advantage of after a week of climbing Kilimanjaro or being on a safari. Scott and Josh want people to know that if there is something you want to do in Tanzania, they can make it happen!
And, while Pamoja Safaris does focus on Tanzania, they also do trips that include other neighboring countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Uganda, etc. in the itinerary. They use their own staff in Kenya and locally-based partners in the other countries to make these trips possible.
Scott believes his company is unique because:
- They have a unique partnership between Tanzania and the US, which allows them to know what guests want and to provide it in the best ways possible.
- They employ only the top 10% of guides, which have an average of 15 years of safari guiding experience. Since this guide stays with the guests for the entire trip, it’s extremely important that they be knowledgeable, fun, and speak English well.
- They pay keen attention to their vehicles, which are all finely maintained Toyota Land Cruisers. Since guests spend all day in the vehicle, an experience can be sorely impaired if that vehicle breaks down or is uncomfortable to ride in.
- Their lodging selections—from gorgeous hotels to luxury tented camps with all the amenities of home— lodgings have been carefully selected over the past decade to offer the best experience possible.
For over its ten-years of existence, the company’s Number One driver of guests has been word of mouth. It was slow to start in the beginning, but somewhere around 2014-2015 they started to gain momentum. Without a single exception, everyone that has been on a Pamoja Safari trip has ranked it as one of the best adventures they’ve ever had. The company maintains a website and social media channels but doesn’t depend upon them alone.
They have recently started doing pay-per-click ads, upping their SEO game, and partnering with third party listing sites and travel advisors. With their recent boost in capacity, along with falling tourism numbers because of COVID-19, they are open to anything that helps drive business our way!
Speaking of COVID…
Even though Tanzania has been open to tourism for citizens of the entire world since June 2020, COVID has brought sales down 90-95% or so. Even given that fact, Scott believes they are one of the lucky companies because they can afford to hibernate through the pandemic, while many of their competitors have gone out of business in the past year. The same things that allow the company to offer its adventures at a lower price, namely having low overhead, also allowed them to weather the worst of this epidemic.
They now have a few travelers looking into booking for later in 2021 as well as 2022, and the trip deposits have kept the business afloat in the meantime. Even so, the people Pamoja Safaris work with (guides, porters, etc.) are finding it tougher and tougher to survive without any tourism dollars coming in, and many have turned to other professionals in the meantime. For those that don’t have other skills, Scott and Josh have been collecting donations that will assist them in getting by until international visitors return.
Getting in Touch
Visit Pamoja Safari’s website or any of their social media channels:
Company website: https://www.pamojasafaris.com