To Durban and back…the long way back

Leg 3- Durban – Day 1

 

We arrived in Durban in the wee hours of the morning and took an Uber to the hotel. A difference I noticed with South African uber drivers is they don’t call you but message you on the app.  On arrival at Durban manor and Conference Centre the hotel checked us in and in minutes we were in our room fast asleep. The room was quite nice with DSTV a very cozy bed, a reading space with a kettle and a lovely bathroom.  It was nice to sleep on an actual bed as much as I slept on the bus.

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Our Afia made it all the way to Durban from Nairobi…

The Loeries take place at the Durban Convention Centre, which according to google maps was around 1.2kms from our hotel. So, we decided to take a walk since it would be a good way to see more of Durban. Also, we had about 2 hours before our sessions at the Loeries so the walk would do us a bit of good. We left the hotel and following the map below we made our way to the Durban ICC. My first impressions of Durban was the fact that it was very clean, nice, sunny and very well organized from a pedestrian view. Being a Thursday morning, it struck me as a busy town but not too far from Nairobi City Centre though the drivers obey the traffic lights and there are no boda boda’s.

In 30 min time, we were at the Durban ICC which is right next to the Hilton Hotel Durban. We walked in got our registration sorted, got some merchandise including a funky Vodacom branded travel mug and a t-shirt. We then got to mingle, get free coffee from Vodacom, get a back massage at the JC Decaux Stand, get a photo done at the South African Tourism stand and take photos at the Dove photobooth.  Our 2 masterclasses were Shared Value by Vodacom, JC Decaux and Shared Value Africa and Advertising Leading Society by Dove & UN Women.

 

The Shared Value masterclass was an eye-opener as first it did a lot to demystify the differences between CSR, CSI, and Shared Value. Shared Value is when a company develops a product or a service to solve a consumer problem. There we some good examples of Vodacom providing school reading materials in South Africa but one of the best Examples was our very own Safaricom with m-pesa and all the m-pesa offshoots. JC Decaux an OOH company has created out of home advertising spaces that help solve a problem in the society like solar-powered public toilets or public bicycles in cities like Luxemburg. Shared Value Africa is currently working with African companies to help them understand how to integrate shared value into the different products and services they provide.

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After the masterclasses, we left the Durban ICC to go explore the Durban beachfront. Durban’s Golden Mile, also known as ‘the mile’, runs the length of the Durban beachfront in the city. It includes the promenade and starts roughly at South Beach and uShaka Marine World ending at the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World to the north. It includes Battery beach, Snake Park, Bay of Plenty, North Beach, Dairy, Wedge, South and Addington and the added safety assurance of shark nets and lifeguard patrols.

 

https://www.sa-venues.com/attractionskzn/durban-beachfront.php

The Promenade is what I believe the Mombasa county government should do at Mama Ngina drive in Mombasa. It has parks, paved spaces for walking, running, cycling and skating and piers that let you walk right into the ocean. With restaurants along the promenade, the eThekwini municipality has also made sure the promenade is safe, well lighted and clean. They also have some public pools which are very clean right next to the Durban Fun-world meaning that the beach has people up and about till late into the night. Next, to the promenade are grass lawns where different people come to play football and other team sports. We walked down the promenade from the old Botanical gardens all the way to the uShaka marine world and the Moyo Restaurant at the pier.

At the Moyo Restaurant, we tried the Bunny Chow which is a Durban dish. The Ushaka Lamb Bunny Chow constitutes of a half loaf with the inside part removed and replaced with curry and to go with it some Shisanyama. The food was super delicious, with the location and service top-notch. We then took a walk back to our hotel having walked a total of 8.4kms around Durban. Durban felt quite safe and it was nice to walk around and many different places.

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To Durban and back…the long way back

Leg 2- Dar es Salaam to Durban

The second leg of the journey began early in the morning around 6am as we were looking to beat the traffic to be at the Julius Nyerere international airport, Dar es Salaam. We had been advised by Air Tanzania that we needed to be at the airport 3 hours before our flight which was scheduled for 10.30. We ordered an Uber that took us across Dar es Salaam in morning traffic which was a bit busy. We got to the airport at a few minutes plus half past and checked in, got our bags tagged went through immigration and to the gate to await our plane to arrive. The whole process took about 30 mins, so we had 2 hours to wait in terminal 2. The airport has the new terminal, terminal 3 which was currently being used by international airlines like Kenya Airways. Air Tanzania had a few planes on the tarmac with their only 787 Dreamliner and the other A220 at different gates.

Our flight arrived from Zanzibar and it was duly prepped for our flight to Johannesburg, and we boarded on time. Air Tanzania is currently the only airline in Africa with the Airbus A220-300 on its fleet. After the safety demonstration, we were on our way to Johannesburg with a flight time of 3 hours. The Airbus A220 comes in a 3 3 seat configuration in Economy though the flight was half full. The service on board was quick and efficient with the option of a beef or chicken meal. They also offered refreshments on board with the only downside being there was no inflight entertainment. I hope this wasn’t the same case for their Dreamliner which was scheduled to do a flight to Mumbai.

 

Anyway, we landed on time at the O.R.Tambo International Airport and were off on our way to clear with immigration and pick our bags. At the airport, we changed money at a nice Forex bureau and the guy there said he loved our new currency notes. I nodded enthusiastically as I think they are nice and definitely more modern. We then proceeded to get a local Vodacom sim card and a Charging adapter as they use round socket plugs in SA… (who knew). We got online and looked for an uber to the bus station – Park station in Johannesburg CBD where we needed to buy tickets to our bus to Durban. We, however, found a taxi driver who agreed to match the uber price and drop us at Park Station even as he gave us a free tour of Johannesburg as we headed to the CBD. Johannesburg CBD was a tad bit disappointing with the old buildings, graffiti, and the dirty streets, and neighboring Hillbrow which has the notorious distinction of being the un-safest suburb in Johannesburg.

We got to Park station and our kind driver showed us where we could book tickets on the bus to Durban, a 500km journey. We booked a bus called Greyhound CityLiner which was to depart at 10pm. As it was 3pm we had 7 hours to kill in downtown Johannesburg. After a cup of coffee at the Nando’s, we decided to explore the neighboring streets just to see what they had in store. A few shoe stores, street markets, clothes stores, and restaurants later we stopped for dinner at a KFC and then went back to Park station to wait for our bus.

At 9pm we went to find our bus and it was a luxurious double axle Volvo bus with reclining seats, aircon, Wi-Fi and video screens. The journey ahead was going to take 6 hours with a pit stop for 20 min somewhere midway for a bathroom break and some food at a Mugg & Bean. The road to Durban is a 4-lane highway tolled so the bus stopped at different places to pay the road toll. We arrived at the bus station in Durban at 5 am and we got a cab to our hotel the Durban Manor and Conference Centre which we booked online on Agoda. They let us check in early in the morning and caught some sleep

A few pointers if you are traveling to SA

  1. Sim Card – Since roaming rates are daylight robbery, you can buy a sim card and a plan right at the airport from one of the 3 big mobile companies – MTN, Vodacom or Cell C. The staff are very friendly and will take you through the different packages. We took a package with 1GB data and 15min talk time since we felt we needed Data more. That cost us 249 ZAR which was around about 1700Kshs.
  2. Uber – In South Africa uber is a reliable way to get around and a cheaper way too. Uber drivers, however, have to contend with being shunned by metered taxi’s and thus their certain places they won’t take you. E.g They don’t go into park Station which is the bus station in Johannesburg & and if you take an uber there it will drop you across the street luggage and all. Also, in Sandton, they will advise where they will drop you and pick you up.
  3. Language – quite a lot of people we interacted with thought we were South African, and they started talking to us in Xhosa or Zulu before we indicated to them, we don’t understand and they switched to English, so don’t get surprised.
  4. Electrical adaptors – South Africa uses the cylindrical plug-in sockets thus if you don’t have one you will need to buy one. They are readily available, and we got ours at the mobile network store.

 

Interestingly the Air Tanzania plane that flew us to Tanzania got impounded after we landed due to a judgment passed by a court in Gauteng South Africa and was only released 2 weeks later. Please find the story as per the link below.

 

https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/Air-Tanzania-plane-impounded-in-South-Africa/1840340-5247354-5rbpml/index.html

https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/Why-South-African-Court-ordered-the-release-/1840340-5260394-13as83i/index.html

To Durban by Bus…and an Airbus.

Leg 1- Nairobi to Dar es Salaam

Over the last four years of my career in advertising and marketing, I have been thinking and planning to attend the Loeries in Durban South Africa. The Loeries is the premier advertising conference in East, Central, West and Southern Africa. Held in south Africa every August they showcase and reward different communication campaigns that run in Africa over the previous year. Over and above the campaigns they also have discussions on the sidelines of different topics of interest that are part of the direction advertising is moving towards.

This year I was like I should finally do it, go for the Loeries, I mean how hard could it be to get down to Durban? The Mrs. and I decided to give it a shot after all we are more of the travelling couple how hard could this be?

So Kenyan nationals need a visa to go to South Africa. You log into the VFS global website locally and download the requirements that you would need to apply for the visa. Once you have all the documentation you go to the VISA Centre at Parkfield Place, Westlands and make the application.

They begin by doing verification of your documents after which you make payment and submit the documentation. You get your Visa in six working days sometimes possibly earlier. Part of our submission was our itinerary which the VFS global team told us wasn’t the strangest they had seen as it was by both Bus & Airbus. This done we set out on our epic journey to Durban.

The journey was as follows:-

 

  • Bus from Nairobi to Dar-es-Salaam
  • Airbus -Air Tanzania From Dar-es-Salaam to Johannesburg
  • Bus from Johannesburg to Durban and back
  • Bus from Johannesburg to Lilongwe
  • Bus from Lilongwe to Dar es Salaam
  • Bus from Dar-es-Salaam back to Nairobi

You can do the trip from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam by bus, and it takes 14 hours and around Kshs 3,500/=. Quite a number of bus companies do the trip they include: –

 

  1. Dar Express
  2. Dar Lux
  3. Sai Baba Express
  4. Shabiby
  5. Modern Coast
  6. Tahmeed

 

For some of the buses you can book online others you have to go down to River Road to get your ticket. The bus leaves at 5.30am every morning, down Mombasa road, past Athi River through Kitengela heading for Namanga border post. Past Kajiado right around Bissil, a guy boarded the bus to help us change currency into Tshs. He was exchanging currency at the rate of 21Tshs for every Kshs, as the conductor also comes checking and confirming everyone passport and passes are in order and everyone has a yellow fever booklet. Tanzania requires anyone who is passing into their country to have had a yellow fever vaccination.

Arriving at the border, we all disembarked from the bus with all our luggage for the required full check with sniffer dogs and the scanner. Then we presented our yellow fever booklets and got stamped out of Kenya and right into Tanzania. The Namanga border post is now a one stop border post which means that the Kenyan and Tanzanian border personnel sit side by side making the process very seamless. The bus with 40 something passengers was done in less than an hour and we were off.

The route we were using was taking us from Namanga to Arusha, then Moshi, Korongwe and the Dar Es Salaam. After a stop to pick passengers in Arusha and Moshi we were on our way. Our choice of bus for this route was Dar Express, https://www.dar-express.co.tz/  who have been operating on this route for the longest time. The last time I took this journey 11 years ago it was Dar Express and the now defunct Scandinavian Express plying this route. The bus was a Scania double axle unit with the body from Marcopolo which made it super comfortable. Inside the chairs were comfortable and could recline with individual reading lights, screen entertainment and USB charging ports. They also serve refreshments along the way with a choice of water or soda.

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We stopped in Moshi for lunch and settled in for the long journey. Carry a good book or videos that you can watch on the way. Cellphone service is intermittent along the way and Safaricom will charge you an arm and a leg for roaming so possibly if you can buy a sim card at the border. Also, Safaricom stopped allowing you to top up with a Vodacom scratch card, not sure why, so to top up you can only do it via mpesa. We finally arrived in Dar -es -Salaam at 10pm and are dropped off at the Dar Express bus office where you can take a taxi, Uber or tuk-Tuk to your destination.

We spend a day taking the sights in Dar and as we were being hosted by a friend she took some time out to show us around Dar. Here are 3 of our highlights:-

3 places to try in Dar es Salaam

  1. Mediterrano hotel – Right by the beach is a good place to chill watch the tide come in and have sundowners. They have amazing lounge seats and a good beachfront view which can calm you after a long day at work. https://www.mediterraneotanzania.com/
  2. Hotel Slipway – The area around Hotel Slipway has been built up into a seaside promenade of sorts where you can sit and chill. Around the promenade are different restaurants, shops, jewelry stores, and an ice-cream parlor. https://www.hotelslipway.com/
  3. Cape Town Fish Market – Unlike the name, this is not an actual fish market more like an upscale sushi and hip pub set outside on gardens facing the ocean. Lovely spot to have drinks and whirl the night away. https://ctfm.co.tz/

 

 

Finding the right holiday home

I started travelling when i was young as a result of my dad and his travels while working for an NGO, This continued in campus where I got the chance to travel to certain places across the country i had never had the chance of visiting. After a few years of working and travelling, I got married and we started a family.

The two groups of friends I travel with were also at the same place. Starting families and we made a decision to continue travelling together. The dynamics are however different since children and nannies are now included in the mix. So now the objectives of the holiday are to spend time with the kids doing something they love. As both groups consist of more than 5 families I am always looking for accommodation for at least 20 people.

So how do you go around finding accommodation for a group this big?

First you decide where you want to go with the specific area in mind e.g if you want to go to Mombasa, then say Nyali or Shanzu if south Coast say Tiwi or Watamu. Before Airbnb became more common place these are some of the other places that offer accommodation for larger groups.

  1. Hotels – There some hotels who offer both hotel rooms and cottages or apartments. Apartments tend to be able to take more people and for families travelling together that very important as you want to stay together. Most apartments though are better on a self catering option which means you will have to get a chef and shop for food. Some hotels which offer this include Great Rift Valley Lodge and Hillpark Tiwi. For a chef it takes time to find the perfect one who works with the dynamics of you group. Due to doing this multiple times I have about 3 chef’s I use who understand how to cook for a diverse group of adults and children. Additionally Great Rift Valley Lodge offers parents the Explorers club for kids which organizes different activities for them that they can do in and around the lodge.

Hillpark Tiwi had a 4 bedroomed house which worked well for us for all the families and some couples and also as a place to have the chef to do the cooking. It also had the advantage of being beachfront which gave us a good breeze and a very good view day and night

  1. Holiday Homes – Holiday Homes are homes whose owners have put them out in the market as places one can hire it for a weekend or a whole week. Holiday homes are scattered across the country and thus are very hard to find or even know. That’s were Langata Links Holiday Homes Kenya http://www.langatalinkholidays.com, Discover Watamu https://www.discoverwatamu.com/, Kilifi Konnection https://kenyacoast.com/ and Kenya Holiday homes http://www.kenyaholidayhomes.com.  Now there is Booking.com and Airbnb, though I should say in Kenya it’s a bit hard to find one property that can accommodate all 20 people on Airbnb. I have dealt most with Holiday Homes Kenya by Langata Link, who had quite a good list of holiday homes in different parts of the country. Holiday Homes had a good listing showcasing the amenities locations and dates available. Downside was their listings did not include a different rate for kids as kids were considered adults even though their accommodation arrangements are different. Currently they have a new site langatalinkholidays.com with quite a number of different offerings.
  2. Airbnb – Airbnb is the new kid on the block with different solutions to fit any type of budget and also location. The menu helps you be able to choose location, budget and total number of people you would be looking to have. The system works well though it’s restricted to a debit or credit card payment. Certain cities like Nairobi and Mombasa tend to have more options though this is spreading out to other towns. The only downside is finding a house for a big group and maybe that is a problem only I face and also the fact that you can’t pay via mobile money.
  3. Other options include bookings.com and jumia travel which I have used albeit fleetingly. Jumia Travel worked well the last time I was looking for an affordable hotel in Nakuru town.

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So I’m a guy and sometimes all I’m looking for is a roof over our heads and not a luxury room with all the trappings and fittings or a queen. I also happen to have 3 boys which my wife is convinced makes packing & travelling a whole lot easier. I always look at travelling with family from what the acceptable minimums would be and build up from there. Here is my checklist when i am looking for a holiday home;-

  1. Location – How far from the town/city is it? At the Coast it’s always about how far from the beach is it? I have found properties on the 2nd or 3rd row tend to be better priced that properties beachfront. Also how easy is it to get around?
  2. Travel times – How long does it take to get here? I enjoy driving and can practically drive anywhere. I however need to factor in the travel times to the different places. E.g to drive to Mombasa i always find it easier to leave Nairobi at 4am as there will be less vehicle and human traffic all the way to Mtito Andei.
  3. Amenities;- When travelling with the kids I’m more open to a facility with a swimming pool and a recreational area than one without. Also in the coast i will always go with the house with a resident swimming pool.
  4. Room Facilities – Wifi, TV make a big difference. I have been to holiday homes with a complete library of books, videos and even board games. That was completely amazing and made our holiday so worth it.
  5. Packing – what do you need to pack? Does the place offer towels and blankets? What don’t they offer?
  6. Self Catering – usually with Self catering trips with my 2 groups since they are during the long holidays I have a longer period to plan and hence I engage the chef on the menu early so that we agree and know where to shop. To have a more sustainable budget ask your chef if there are any places in the neighbourhood where you can make purchases in wholesale.
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I hope this information has been helpful and if you need any help planning a holiday for a big group please drop me a line.

 

paul.karingithi@gmail.com

How I caught the travelling bug…

I love travelling. I love getting into the car and driving to a new town with no plan, no previous booking just to discover what new thing we can find there. Why?

Well, my dad used to work for an NGO back in the 80’s and he would drag us along with him on a number of his trips. His travels with us though were not too far away from the city with Nakuru and Meru being the farthest I remember traveling with him. As I grew up, I wanted to see more, experience more of Kenya from the wildlife, the beaches, the highlands, the mountains and the different national parks.

All this became possible when i joined Campus. Daystar University opened for me the possibility to travel to different places via being in different clubs like Doulos, Drama and Dance. It also did help that I was the bus procurement guy, getting different buses for different groups taking groups. I did my first ever trip to Mombasa when i joined Campus, then proceeded to go to Mombasa twice every year. Other trips included Eldoret and a long bus trip to Kampala.

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After Campus, with 2 groups of friends we started traveling together in April and December for the holidays. Always within the country and as our numbers have grown (kids) our needs have changed, but we have always been able to find a place where we can go for the holidays.

I will be blogging about how we go round finding our accommodation choices, places to travel to and choices of where to stay with or without the kids.

Let me know, what holds you back from travelling?

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A peanut butter storm…Crisis Management 101

In the last 2 days, a post has being doing the rounds online showing the Nuteez brand of Peanut butter, with a signed document which is supposed to be from a government department indicating that the Nuteez brand of peanut butter is not fit for human consumption due to a high aflatoxin level.

According to one of today’s local dailies, the batch tested showed that it had a high aflatoxin level, way above the allowable consumable level as per the local standards. It goes ahead to state that the Government has issued a circular for all other batches to be removed from the market and subjected to random sampling.

This is a nightmare for any client/any manufacturer who has products in the market. What are the chances that this could happen to them and what would be the right way to manage the crisis? Nuteez a locally manufactured brand by Jetlak industries has issued a statement saying they await official communication from the government and are currently investigating the purported claim.

So what would be a good way to deal with a crisis like the one affecting Nuteez & Jetlak industries?

5 steps to Good Crisis Communication

  1. Assess the Situation Calmly – What is the issue and how do we solve the situation at hand?
  2. Gather the Troops – Get all the brains together so as to come up with a collective response that works and that helps you commit to your stakeholders on certain timelines.
  3. Don’t Jump to Conclusions – Assess all the different sides to the story. In this case Nuteez needs to establish what the issues are and what the government has prescribed as the way forward. Also dont let feelings get the better of you, work with facts.
  4. Stop and Set – Make sure you take time to craft a response that addresses the concerns of everyone involved.
  5. Get the Facts – What’s the situation, what’s the exposure, who is news going to impact. You cannot build a plan until you have an accurate understanding of the issue.
  6. Assign One Person to Manage the Situation – Ultimately the company should only have one person speaking, so the communication is not disjointed.

Ultimately, companies have been able to endure a crisis and survive through it. My last post on KFC was one such crisis, that the company ultimately was able to overcome.

Thoughts?

2018 ads…the good, the very good and the ugly – Episode 2 KFC

So KFC in the UK last year changed their logistics supplier to DHL and Quick Service logistics, who had been supplying KFC in Europe since 2011. The change that happened on Valentines day was beset with a myriad of problems that by 18th February less only around 266 restaurants were getting their supplies.

The problem looked un-surmountable, a PR crisis of epic propositions that many brands would take a very long time to survive from. KFC in the UK though took the bull by the horns and created an amazing stand alone advertisement that ran in two national daily papers in the UK. The ad, an apology to all their customers in the UK who had to go along their day without their favorite chicken, was a bold one. They clearly stated the problem and looked to reassure all their consumers that they were resolving the issue.

The brilliance of this ad was not with what they said, but rather how they said it. A bold apology that won them loads and loads of publicity both online and offline. It was a textbook case of how to turn a crisis into an opportunity.