Exeleon Magazine

Exploring Africa with Kirsty Gordon

Kirsty Gordon Anywhere in Africa

Founded by Kirsty Gordon, Anywhere in Africa Safaris is an independent, owner-run tour operator based in one of the most breath-taking cities in the world, Cape Town. The company plans bespoke, luxury travel packages to Southern Africa, East Africa, North Africa, and Indian Ocean Islands.

Read this exclusive interview with Kirsty Gordon and her company – Anywhere in Africa.

What according to you makes one a transformational leader?

I believe that as a transformational leader you need to give your employees the independence to share and make decisions to support new problem-solving solutions and ways to grow the company or help to make our clients feel super special.

How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

First and foremost, as a transformational leader in the travel industry you need to set a good example of trust and transparency, not only to your staff, but to your supplier, partners, and clients. You do this by being passionate, enthusiastic, and energetic while focusing on helping every member in the team to succeed and think out of the ‘travel box’.

An example: I have two incredible ladies who work for me in my social media and marketing team. They are young, energetic and have some fabulous ideas on how to grow my social media reach and improve our marketing. We have meetings to thrash out ideas, come up with ‘’out of the box’’ travel marketing suggestions, solutions for social media that are not working – but i always listen, encourage, trust in their expertise so that we can grow this part of the business in a positive and specialized manner.

Kirsty Gordon with Elephant

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader?

I was very lucky to grow up on the garden route in South Africa in a small town called George. My mum bought me a pony when I was about 7 years old, and this totally changed my life! I grew up riding horses, exploring the forests, mountains, and beaches on horseback with my friends.

My mum would drop me at the riding club at 8am in the morning on a Saturday and didn’t see me again till she picked me up at 6pm after I had helped feed the horses their evening meal. My life was carefree, with great friends, incredible family, and amazing outdoor locations. However, my mum struggled financially as a single parent as my dad had passed away when I was about 4 years old. Often it was financially difficult for my mum to pay for horse-riding show fees or send me to shows outside of George, which required transport, accommodation, and entry.

When I was about 14 years old, I remember overhearing my mum telling my grandmother that she would love to send me to a show in Port Elizabeth but just couldn’t afford it that month. So, this is when I decided to take control of the situation and I put up an advert at the riding club to say that i was making numnahs (which is a saddle blanket).

My mum had a sewing machine at home which I had learnt to use as I had to do needle work / home economics as school. Suddenly I had a few orders and then I decided to make ‘’chaps’’ which are made of suede/ soft leather to protect the riders’ legs. I made a full pair for myself and then orders started coming in. This is how I was then able to help my mum pay for some of my horse-riding costs. It was such a thrill to feel that I could contribute! Then I got into riding people’s difficult horses which they paid me for and then when I was 18 years old, I did my SANEF (South African Equestrian Federation) teaching level in order to teach professionally. Horse riding was a huge part of my life for many years and helped sustain me when I was between jobs or needed extra income.

What prompted your love affair with Africa and the wilderness of the world?

A friend of mine Carolyn Hartley was having her 21st birthday in Botswana at a camp owned by her parents (Hartley’s Safaris). I was invited to join her, and this was my first taste of a safari and what an incredible place to experience your first safari in the Okavango delta of Botswana. That was the start of my love for the African bush!

What is the approach followed by your company – Anywhere in Africa – to ensure the most authentic travel experiences for your clients?

I am very specific with which venues or ground handlers that I partner with and make sure that most of the venues I recommend for my clients, I have visited personally.

It is very important to me and Anywhere in Africa Safaris that we use and recommend venues that have the same ethos as we do. You, our guests are giving back to Africa by visiting, traveling, interacting with the staff, getting to know them as people not just as a place to stay and experience.

One of my philosophies is that we cannot change Africa, but we can change the circle that we create around us. So, by making sure that Anywhere in Africa Safaris works with the right venues, lodges, tour companies, ground handlers in all the areas of Africa, we help to create the right impact within our circle. We then need you, our clients, to visit Africa and help us make the circle bigger as you become an ambassador for the continent, to help, understand and share the changes and positive impacts that are being made to support community and conservation.

Kirsty Gordon with Masai Children Africa
Kirsty Gordon with Masai Children

Talk to us about your idea of giving back. Why is it an important subject for you?

A talkative bird will not build a nest’ sums up our approach to charity work and ‘giving back’. It speaks to our ethos of ‘deeds, not words’, which many of our traveler’s share. We’re often asked by our clients how they can directly benefit the communities or animals they’ve encountered on their journey. Besides making sure we use properties that give back to the community, conservation, and general well-being of their staff. We give a portion of each booking made by clients back to Elephant Havens which is an NGO in Maun that we support.

We also encourage clients to speak to us first if they want to give back to Africa as we have many smaller non-profit organizations that need help and are not supported by the bigger companies. Clients then know their money is going to support the right community, organization, school, conservation program or charity.

What does a day in the life of Kirsty Gordon look like?

I normally get to the office around 7:30 in the morning to have time to check emails and do some planning before we start at 8:30. I am then involved with what payments have to be made to suppliers, especially the USA payments as we have a time frame to get these actioned by 10am so that the suppliers will be paid the following day. Then invariably I have 1 zoom meeting per day or now that people are comfortable to interact, suppliers come to the office for product updates or to introduce me to new products.

Then working on clients traveling to make sure all is running smoothly, answering emails to clients to help plan their trips. Often in the afternoon having zoom meeting with any new American clients to discuss their wish lists, budgets, ideas they have for their possible trip (this is generally in the afternoon from about 2pm to 6pm due to time zone differences. Clients who have paid their final payments which are 2 months prior to their trip – we then need to prioritize payment suppliers, finalizing their itinerary set by step. Then between 5pm and 6pm, I head home either for a walk or run with my partner or then make dinner.

What are you most excited about in the future, both personally and professionally?

I am so excited to see that travel is getting back to normalcy and people are traveling to Africa! We have lovely bookings this year for – South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Mozambique, and Ethiopia!

This is how you become an ambassador of Africa – by traveling to this amazing continent – this forms such a positive spin on effect that helps people, communities, conservation which then assists in preventing poaching, helps builds economies, brings global opportunities, and much more!

I am excited for the future of Anywhere in Africa Safaris. Personally, I love people, I love Africa, and I love travel, so I am excited to see how Africa is calling!

Important Links:

Read Digital Version.

Visit Anywhere In Africa Website.

Instagram Page of Anywhere in Africa.

Web Version of the Magazine.

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