BLOG 1: Where Did it All Begin?

Kate and Dom Webb seem like any other young family settled in the picturesque South Hams.  They have a son and a daughter - Sam, 3 years old, and Emmie, 2 years - who all enjoy camping trips and messing about on the river together.  But between school runs and toddler naps, Dom and Kate run two businesses.  Both are centered around travel to one of the world’s poorest countries, 5000 miles away from Devon’s south coast.

Orbis Expeditions are the go-to ethical travel company for anyone looking to experience the ‘warm heart of Africa’.  Along with its Malawi-based operations company, The Responsible Safari Company (RSC) , Orbis organises and supports trips for independent travellers and group trips, including schools and businesses.  

Malawi is a unique example of how a developing country is facing global and local challenges.  Together, Dom and Kate’s businesses have helped Malawi stand up to these challenges, ranging from malnutrition to ecosystem destruction, touching thousands of lives (read more about the impacts here).

In this blog series of three, we explore the journey that Dom and Kate Webb have undertaken to successfully bring Orbis Expeditions and RSC into 2018, 10 years on from set-up.

So where did it all begin?

Between leaving school and studying at the University of Bristol, Dom had spent a gap year working in a rural Kenyan secondary school.  Having finished his degree, and training in London, Dom met Kate, who was studying Drama and Education.  Kate originally wanted to sail around the world, but Dom managed to persuade her to visit Nairobi first!  Arriving in Kenya, the couple eventually managed to gain work visas for 3 months.  Cheli and Peacock, one of Kenya’s most prestigious safari operators, offered the two a maternity cover job in a flagship lodge.

Dom and Kate then spent 9 months hitching lifts, caught buses and boats, rode mopeds and bicycles.  They arrived into Cape Town, 7 country borders later, on the back of a lorry!  Kate was hooked on life in Africa.

Dom and Kate LR2.GC

18 months on, Dom and Kate, aged about 24, had been approached to start a new ecolodge in the southern Ugandan bush.  Kate distance-studied for a Masters in International Development and Education, during which she researched the effects of tourism on local communities near African safari lodges. Dom was fully trained in hotel management, business studies and safari consultancy, and ready to make a new, braver move.   

Talking to their guests each evening, Kate and Dom could feel a growing desire for travel experiences combining a safari experience with charity and grass root initiative visits.

Sitting around the campfire one night, both knew they didn’t want to return to their old lives in London, and After a few gin and tonics, they decided on their next move.

An adventurous social enterprise for the more discerning traveller looking for a personalised, authentic experience - simultaneously employing and supporting local people.

They arrived in Malawi 3 months later.  Kate joined an international school as a teacher, and after 6 months of jumping through hoops (turns out setting up a company in Africa was a to harder than they had hoped), the Responsible Safari Company (RSC) received their first inquiry on Christmas Eve, 2008.  

Kate and Dom Tea Estates 

An ongoing commitment

Dom and Kate are committed to driving sustainable growth through tourism-generated income, empowering local communities to develop out of the poverty cycle.  They understand that partnering with local initiatives creates an immersive learning environment for all involved.

If you want to know more about Kate, Dom, or either of the two businesses, contact the team on info@orbis-expeditions.com.

The next part of our blog series of three will look at the challenges RSC encountered in their first few years of operating in one of the poorest countries in the world.

If you want to know more about Kate, Dom, or either of the two businesses, contact the team on info@orbis-expeditions.com.

 

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