Welcome to our Story...
The beginnings of our partnership were surprising and serendipitous — a consequence of being in the right place at the right time, as well as knowing the appropriate civil servants who were attempting to arrange a short safari excursion to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe for a senior and glamorous member of the British Royal Family.
From this chance encounter nearly thirty years ago sprang forth a thriving enterprise that generates millions of dollars per year, provides countless jobs, and safeguards endangered species here in Africa- all while revealing the majesty and mysteries of our continent to many friends across the globe.
Discover the story of TMAC, and the journey of Sharing Africa with Pride since 1992.
It would not be an exaggeration to record that this Mana Pools experience, together with my Life Partner Len’s great love for the wilds, as being the two influences which turned me swiftly from City Boy to Wilderness Boy. I’m inherently a people person and there’s very little else on our planet that will bring out the best in people than the timeless abundance and healing power of nature. So, in 1992 we began moonlighting as safari guides, more out of the love of sharing Africa with family and friends than for any commercial consideration.
In 1995 however, an emotional and pivotal experience occurred, as happens to most of us at some point in our life. It was as Nelson Mandela walked onto the field at Ellis Park in Johannesburg for the final match of the Rugby World Cup between South Africa and New Zealand wearing a Springbok Jersey, that I resolved immediately, with tears freely flowing at the magnanimity of that extraordinary gesture, to live differently by making a career of sharing Africa.
The decision may have been emotional but it was timely as the safari industry, although in its infancy, was more readily finding its feet. The problem was the lack of service infrastructure to accommodate an affluent market willing to spend generously to experience such wonders but who still required the comfort, safety, and flexibility of sophisticated outfitters who were few in those days.
Our first serious commercial assignment took us completely in the opposite direction to that which we had intended. We arranged a post-Mediterranean safari for 72 guests to benefit the Asolo Theatre of Sarasota, Florida. It was a great success and during the fortnight spent with these dear people on the Cunard Sea Goddess, and in Botswana, and our native Zimbabwe, we developed many lasting and generous friendships which helped and have continued to develop our market significantly for over twenty years.
1996 – 2019
In the late nineties, I realized that we needed to niche ourselves with a service that would make us both unique, and enhance our offerings. With a lifetime passion for aviation, this was an easy decision and in 1999 we launched our “Flying Safaris” using a Beechcraft King Air 200 leased from our friend Kevin Stead in Zimbabwe. Our first clients were Robbie and MaryAnn Robinson from Sarasota, Florida, who subsequently booked nineteen adventures. Our first destination was the iconic Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, where we came to know Little Mombo’s ebullient manager Gregg Hughes, a partner of ours since 2006.
Many of my ex-colleagues from British Airways, especially friends in the Special Services Team at Heathrow, offered generous support. We were referred to several celebrities and captains of industry as a consequence, but the one couple who did more than anyone to open doors and provide that first platform is Jean Weidner Goldstein and her late husband Ken Weidner. Jean was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and trained under my mother Dorothy. She went on to be one of the most prominent Prima Ballerinas of the world (partnering Nureyev at the Metropolitan in New York in 1974) and is like a sister to me. Our success today is due, in no small measure, to Jean and Ken’s generosity.
Contrary to our Royal prelude in 1992, it was an inauspicious start to our new foray into the business world. Markets collapsed during the dot.com crash of 2000 and it was just as we were starting to see the light when that dreadful event of September 11, 2001, brought our business to almost a complete halt for eighteen months. One exception was the Lawyer and Nowicki party from Chicago, Illinois, who travelled with me in our winter of 2002. Both families returned multiple times and Monica Lawyer is now one of our Sales Ambassadors. After twenty adventures all over Africa, she knows more than most!
Once we recovered in 2003, it was a whole new world with market growth well beyond expectation right through the financial crisis of 2008/9 to the present. During that time, our partnership has mentored and been mentored by some of the leading lights in our industry. Our association with Wilderness Safaris is almost twenty five years old and together we have navigated many storms and rainbows. It is a source of comfort in times of trouble and a great joy in times of celebration.
We have further had the great blessing of touching many lives on all sides of the spectrum and have happy associations with clients, trade partners and employees and those who we have been able to support with further education or even starting businesses of their own.
An Unusual Present
As we consider the uncertainty of a challenging chapter during the current pandemic which the whole world is facing, I am grateful for a team who are all professional and superbly talented, but also magnificent human beings. You will meet them further into this blog, but they have all played pivotal roles in the creation and success of this extraordinary partnership and I’m truly grateful to them for all these years of love, loyalty and support.
On a personal note, I have had other blessings in life which have made everything different. The gift of being exposed to some of the greatest brains in the business world who have offered generous explanations and guidance around the camp fire (often into the early hours.) My enquiring mind is a product of love from three great mentors of my youth who built on the great values provided by my education and wonderful parents; teaching me ethics, to be serious about money, diversification, and the prudence required to make a success of your own business. So I honour Jurick Goldwasser, Willie Lobel and Avner Elkaim, all of whom made their own way from humble beginnings in Zimbabwe and are sadly no longer with us. We may have all emerged from an insignificant town in Africa but, gentlemen you did good and I hope you are proud of me. To my wonderful Life Partner of thirty two years and from where it all started, there’s a whole team, thousands of happy guests, and me who are all grateful. Well done to you.
And so as I sit over this Easter weekend, during another and perhaps the most difficult chapter of our business, and reflect on how our own business has evolved from Flying Safaris, through Privately Guided Safaris, Concierge Safaris, and now accommodating numerous client’s requests for another segment of our market- the Fully-Independent-Traveller, I take great comfort in the knowledge of the industry leadership we have achieved after all these years, the relationships we have treasured, and the full circle of life as we create honeymoons for clients who were kids when they were first on safari with us.
The upward spiral of life has never been more complete and we look forward to remaining a significant part of the industry which protects great areas of our planet as they are meant to be.