From cat­tle herder to tourism star

Vuk'uzenzele - - Front Page - Dale Hes

Once a cat­tle herder and now the manag­ing direc­tor of a tour com­pany, Khim­bini Hlong­wane bears ev­i­dence to what can be achieved through de­ter­mi­na­tion and pas­sion.

Hlong­wane is the founder of Vomba Tours & Sa­faris, a tour op­er­a­tor based just out­side the Kruger Na­tional Park in Mpumalanga. Estab­lished in 2015, the com­pany is a fi­nal­ist in the pres­ti­gious Lilizela Awards in the cat­e­gory of black-owned tourism en­ter­prises em­ploy­ing un­der 50 peo­ple.

Hlong­wane hails from a small vil­lage where he used to herd cat­tle and goats in the bush.

“This ex­posed me to wildlife from a young age and I was fas­ci­nated by the be­hav­iour of var­i­ous an­i­mals. It was re­ally fun yet chal­leng­ing be­cause ev­ery day we had to try to find food with­out be­com­ing food,” re­mem­bered Hlong­wane.

His love for wildlife saw him join­ing Iny­ati Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Re­serve as an an­i­mal tracker in 1994. Five years later, he be­came a fully-fledged game ranger at the lodge, guid­ing tourists on game drives and walks. Now, 24 years af­ter he en­tered the in­dus­try, Hlong­wane has achieved his dream of op­er­at­ing his own com­pany. He also re­ceived men­tor­ing as­sis­tance from the Small En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Agency.

Vomba of­fers sa­faris in the Kruger Na­tional Park, vil­lage tours and trips to Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route and the Mozam­bi­can cap­i­tal of Ma­puto.

Hlong­wane said his com­pany has im­proved the lives of his com­mu­nity mem­bers. “The peo­ple are proud to see what a com­pany from the mid­dle of nowhere is able to achieve, and it in­spires them,” he said.

Vomba pro­vides full-time em­ploy­ment to three lo­cals and part-time and free­lance work to an­other 12 peo­ple.

Fu­ture plans in­clude ed­u­ca­tional sa­fari drives into the Kruger Park, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal crafters, a tented camp and an en­larged ve­hi­cle fleet.

Hlong­wane gave credit to his staff who en­sure that his busi­ness is a suc­cess.

A MPUMALANGA-BASED sa­fari op­er­a­tor whose love for wildlife has led to start­ing his own en­ter­prise.

Khim­bini Hlong­wane is liv­ing his dream of own­ing a tour com­pany.

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