Today, we are interviewing Dilo van Commenee. He along with Hessel van Balen own “1 2 Travel Africa“, a travel company that gives you the chance to experience the real Africa.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I am 30 years old and from the Netherlands. I have always had a passion for nature and wildlife as well as people.
How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?
We both studied Ecology & Wildlife and met on a study trip to Tanzania in 2013. There we fell in love with Africa, and when we got the opportunity later that year to start managing an Eco-Lodge with a private Game Reserve in South Africa, we packed our bags immediately! We didn't really know how to do this, but with common sense and a can-do mentality, we actually managed to grow the business. Besides the accommodation and safari activities, more and more people started asking us to assist them in creating their unique African holiday, so we registered 1 2 Travel Africa, to do so. After 6 years in South Africa, we decided it was time for a change, and we made a move to Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa.
Who are your role models?
Donne and Iain Gunn from Tourism Friendly are my role models, and I'm very lucky to call them dear friends as well. They helped us out so often and motivated us in many ways, they definitely made it possible to learn and grow in the tourism industry in South Africa. Sir David Attenborough has always been a great role model for many! He creates awareness on all kinds of conservation issues, which is the key to make our planet a better place.
What inspires you?
Nature is my greatest inspiration. It keeps amazing me how everything is connected and how delicate the balance in life is. Have you ever taken the time to look at the complexity of a beehive or the uniqueness of a zebra's stripes? The perfection of a flock of starlings in flight or the spectacular colors of an African sunset? When people travel with us, we aim to stop and breathe and be inspired by nature.
Please tell us about your travel company.
With “1 2 Travel Africa”, we wish to give people the opportunity to experience the real Africa. Not just the touristic highlights (although some are worth a visit!) but off the beaten track and genuine. We work with local entrepreneurs with fascinating stories and encourage our guests to ask questions and really have a conversation to get to know different cultures. Malawi also offers spectacular landscapes, including, of course, the world-famous Lake Malawi with its crystal clear waters and colorful fish. On top of that, we visit National Parks and Game Reserves, where you can see many conservation success stories with your own eyes.
What's your most memorable experience?
My most memorable experience happened at exactly the right time. It was back in South Africa, where we just had an insanely hectic week. Literally, everything had gone wrong; difficult guests with impossible requests, a guide broke his arm, the vehicle broke down, and dangerous bush fire. When things calmed down, I decided to take my favorite horse for a ride in the game reserve, which always helps me best to clear my mind. Soon I discovered a new-born giraffe. It was still wet, and at first, I didn't even see it in the tall grass. The mother was very calm and allowed me relatively close. I will never forget the feeling of utmost happiness when I witnessed the little one standing up for the first time. It gave me so much energy and motivation that nothing else bothered me anymore!
Which social media channels work best for promoting your work? What exactly do you do on the social media channel that makes it work for you?
We are lucky enough to take some stunning photos here in Africa, which looks great on Instagram. Though Facebook still works better as a marketing tool for us. People generally love to see the personal side of our company, they wish to know who they will be booking with.
What's your greatest fear?
Over-population is my greatest fear. People are putting too much pressure on the planet. Not only where they stay, but also when they travel. We act as responsibly and sustainably as we can and don't support any mass tourism, but many others don't share this opinion, and I'm afraid it will do irreversible damage to ecosystems and communities.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
If someone would've told me how challenging it can be to run a business in Africa, I might have considered alternatives. Although, honestly, I'm glad no one told me that. By the time I found out, it was too late. I wouldn't want it any other way!
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Listen to your gut feeling, stay down to earth, and don't be afraid to take a risk, as long as it feels the right thing to do.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
It's always about the balance in life. When bad things happen, good things will too. It's not always easy to see that, so then I just take a step back, enjoy the African skies and sounds of the bush and grab a cold beer with friends. That usually helps to regain focus and motivation!
Any message for our readers.
Never stop exploring! Our tagline is “Explore Your Horizon,” and we truly believe you should. Not only the physical horizon but also to push your limits and improve yourself and the world around you.