Simon Kabu needs little to no introduction. He is the founder and CEO of travel and tours company – Bonfire Adventures- which he founded with his wife, Sarah Kabu.
He talked to Standard about some of the best holiday deals on offer, tips for planning the perfect holiday, his favorite travel destination, and more.
You and your wife are quite the travellers. What is the best destination you’ve ever been to in Kenya?
Watamu and Diani are the best destinations we have experienced in Kenya. They are out of this world.
Kenyans don’t holiday much. Is it because they can’t afford it?
It is not because Kenyans can’t afford it. It is just that we have not yet understood the value of creating lasting memories.
Kenyans, and Africans in general, have always thought holidays are a mzungu thing; an expensive fad for rich people. But Bonfire Adventures made holidaying affordable. Now, you can do three days in the Mara for Sh13,000 as opposed to the previous Sh50,000.
In your experience, what is the least amount of cash a couple with their two kids need to have for a memorable three-day holiday?
With roughly Sh35,000 to 40,000, a family of two adults and two kids can be accommodated for three days in a four-star hotel on all inclusive meal plan (free meals and free drinks, both alcoholic and soft) plus SGR tickets and transfers.
For Maasai Mara, with Sh13,000 per person, you’ll have access to transport from Nairobi to the Mara and back, three days game drives, meals and accommodation.
What should a family consider when planning a holiday?
The age of the kids is important. Some destinations are not fit for children, while others are superb because they have activities for children. The composition of the family is also important. Some destinations are more romantic, while some hotels are adults-only so one must consider that. You must also factor in the weather.
Some places have harsh weather, like winter, which is not good for children. Equally, some excursions, like mountain climbing, are for adults only.
When is the best time of the year to book a trip?
You should book a trip as early as possible because the earlier you make a reservation, the better the rates you get. Look for travel agents who can allow you to pay for the trip in bits, like not having to pay in full, but just a commitment fee to make a reservation and pay the balance before travel.
Any health tips for people travelling with existing illnesses?
We advise our clients that health insurance is a must. If something happens to you when you are outside the country, the insurance will take care of evacuation in case of calamities, demise, sickness or any other misfortune.
Also, you need to have received the go-ahead from your doctor to travel, taking into consideration the weather and in your destination. If you have a chest problem for instance, you are better off avoiding winter destinations.
There are cases where couples on holiday quarrel and return when they are not on talking terms. How do you avoid this?
We encourage couples to discuss their holiday before they travel. Our tour and travel consultants are trained to understand what type of clients they are dealing with. In general, we have two types of couples.
The outgoing and adventurous are encouraged to travel to destinations that have activities to keep them engaged. Those who need to relate to each other and bond are best suited for destinations that are more relaxing, preferably a place with a quiet beach.
Many Kenyans say hotel food just sits in the stomach like a stone…
With hotel food, you need to take all courses in moderation so that you do not get bloated. If you do not take salads and fruits or overeat, expect stomach problems.
Do you see backpacking becoming part of our culture?
Not anytime soon. Kenyans are not backpackers. They prefer good hotels with a ‘wow’ effect as opposed to wazungu who prefer some backpacking, roughing it out and living in the wild.
In your experience, is Kenya as a tourist destination overpriced? Does it make sense to pay Sh5,000 for a room in a county hotel?
No, it’s not overpriced. There are hotels for everyone- from high-end to budget establishments.
Why should a Kenyan blow Sh500,000 on a holiday instead of buying a plot?
Most diseases are caused by or related to stress. When you go for a holiday, you reduce the stress. A holiday therefore makes you visit doctors less. Diseases are costly and hence when you go for a holiday, it’s an investment.
Also, during holidays, you network with other people business wise and socially, which is a big plus. Travelling also makes you enlightened. You get beautiful ideas that you can implement back home.
Which Kenyan community holidays most from your experience?
The middle-class, as they can afford to and they have the knowledge of where and when to travel.
How did the two of you get involved in the travel industry?
Before we even started dating (Sarah and I), we were in an online young professional group that organised an end-of-year team building getaway at Lukenya in Machakos County.
We did it so well, those who missed requested we organise another. We did that and they liked it. Sarah and I organised a third one to Naivasha and someone in the group asked whether we can do team building and we said, yes!
You got a gig just like that?
Oh yes! We did our first team building for a bank. When they asked what name they should the make the cheque out to, we were dumbfounded because all along, we thought they would pay us in cash!
We quickly searched for a business name and registered a company. The funny thing is we had to keep the cheque for over three months because we did not have a bank account! That’s how Bonfire Adventures was born.
What was your capital when you set up the business?
We started with Sh10,000, which we used to buy a desk from a relative in town.
Do you recall a time when you feared your biashara could collapse?
Yes. There was a time when the business was down due to negative travel advisories and insecurity. But we embarked on aggressive marketing, mainly targeting Kenyans who were not affected by travel advisories.