Turn-Up Travel: Of ‘Freedom & Fireflies’ In All Things Travel

 

  • – This is a story about two travel enthusiasts, a bromance and a passion turned into business –

Muthuri Kinyamu and Brian Gatimu are the co-founders of ‘Turn-Up Travel’, a creative tour agency whose mandate is ‘people first over everything’.

The two are like brothers in a pod.

We’re seated at a balcony over-looking the beautiful sunset at Metta Nairobi’s HQ, the convergence of Nairobi’s business market ideas. Muthuri is perched to my right, with Brian to my left. They come dressed in distinctive wear; Brian in casual t-shirt and jeans and Muthuri in an African-embroided white shirt that attracts the attention of passers-by.

But that’s not the only attention they’ve garnered over the past six months.

The duo has managed to create a buzz on social media from their unique travel agency, ‘Turn-Up Travel’. From trips on the Lunatic Express to exploring Turkana to creating a Nairobi Instagram tour, they seem to have done it all. An exquisite record to say the least, but that’s just the beginning.

“Traveling – It’s Freedom and Fireflies!” exclaims Muthuri.

The idea of a travel agency bore fruit in a room at Heritage’s Voyager Beach Resort in Mombasa. Muthuri was a part of #TeamTwendeMara, a group of four travel ambassadors chosen by the Kenya Tourism Board to showcase Kenya as the ultimate global travel destination.

As part of the travel itinerary was the #MombasaRaha trip to Voyager Beach Resort, hosted by Ndeithi Kariuki, also known as ‘Captain of the VBR Cruise Ship’. Brian happened to be one of the photographers in a girls-filled trip and as they were the only guys in the trip (Muthuri and he), it only made sense that they shared a room together.

Escapades from the trip; comprising of a sunset dhow at Moorings Floating Restaurant, a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion, the Chris Brown live concert, a tour through Fort Jesus and Mombasa Old Town, an all-inclusive VBR package and the perfect gang to experience the entire trip with from beginning to end, motivated them to get into the travel business and show people a good time. Hence the urban phrase, ‘Turn-Up’.

I sat with the two to learn more about their inspiration and journey, and the reasons as to why ‘turning down’ is not an existing phrase in their travel dictionary.

“Our first trip was with the Lunatic Express and we didn’t even know that this was the last trip with the old train. It was a great experience!” says Muthuri, “Imagine a 15 hour ride with about 30 people. You’ve got food from Kitchen and drinks from Famous Grouse. And even though we hadn’t met half of the people before, our goal was to make everyone feel at home.”

“You should be comfortable enough to come to our trips and not feel alienated,” adds Brian, “that’s what it’s about. We’re a family. It’s seen in the manner that we market our trips, that draws a particular crowd of people – who are naturally inclined to spontaneously make relationships.”

Turn-Up Travel has so far been able to organize quite a few intricate trips to tick off your bucket list. They’ve been to the Murera Springs Eco Lodge, Meru for a ‘Cabin In The Woods’ theme; Had a ‘Castle Crashers’ adventure at Le Chateau in Malindi; Took the Lunatic Express to Distant Relatives in Kilifi, Explored Turkana; Participated in ‘Photography In The Wild’ at the Nairobi National Park; Rode the SGR Madaraka Express to Voyager Beach Resort; Went for white water rafting in Sagana; a Watamu Reboot; and hosted the famous ‘Nairobae IG Tour and Pub Crawl’.


Water-rafting at Sagana


The gang at Watamu Reboot

Turkana, as they reveal, was hands-down the best trip that they’ve had so far, simply because it was Turkana. Each day was a new opportunity to be blown away, an 8-day journey to one of the most beautiful places in the country.

“Central Island in Turkana, I’ll never forget that place,” says a reminiscent Brian. “It’s clean, it’s pristine, and it’s different…”


Central Island, Turkana


Sunset sails, Turkana

“It’s like a crater lake,” interrupts Muthuri, “it’s some place you just hike up and (upon reaching the top and looking down below), suddenly realize wow  – here’s this lake with a clean beach that you didn’t see coming. Turkana is a hidden beauty.  I remember the trip to Central Island; I thought we were lost, almost telling the driver turudi (we go back). And then (much to our surprise), we see an amazing white beach and still water.”

“I saw that lake and felt ashamed for being so ignorant about my country,” uttered Brian. “Here’s a lake I used to see as a strip on the Northern edge of the map of Kenya that I had ignored, simply because I was so vain and shallow towards a place that I call my home. This is the narrative we’re looking to demystify across the whole continent. People love Kenya, but we want them to love Kenya so much so that they explore it whenever they have the chance.”

The ‘Nairobae IG Tour and Pub Crawl’ was another experience like no other in Nairobi. It was a documentation of Nairobi as the love of the city dwellers, hence the term ‘Nairobae’, depicted through lenses and tapes of videos and photographs.

The tour comprised of 40 people, where the dawn-to-dusk tour included a series of sunsets, breakfast at Nyama Mama, strolling down Nairobi’s architectural streets and boat rides through Uhuru Park to cocktails at Four Points by Sheraton, a beer and wine tour at Brew Bistro and lastly, the pub crawl from Budhaa Bar to Mwendwa’s in town, with Uber coming in as the main transport sponsor.


(L-R) Muthuri and Brian, with the ladies from Bars Kenya at Brew Bistro, Fortis Towers

Turn-Up trips are mainly catered to the millennials, aged 18 to 40 years. But the two have noticed that their clientele so far has been the median 28 to 34-year old who’s open to spending on experience. They’ve also got packages for younger guys who find significance in value-added trips, whose pockets may not allow for luxury trips.

The core-message to their trips is the ‘I was there factor’ for the Turn-Up family experience.


Brian, taking in the magnificence of the ocean, at Voyager Beach Resort

“Our trips are curated from ideas that people often think of but have no way of exercising them. A pub crawl sounds like a crazy one-time idea to many, so why not do it? It’s also about the person who looks for but lacks a fun crew to go boat riding at Uhuru-Park with; so we provide both – the squad and the experience,” laughs Muthuri.

One of the most interesting things about Turn-Up Travel is that the idea was initially intended to be just that, an idea to simply travel and have fun. Their intention was to mirror the #MombasaRaha concept. Turns out the two had no clue of the massive growth that they would have, leading to the creation of a travel agency.

“Wherever you go, take more from the experience and let go, that’s the whole point of our trips. As a travel agency, we want you to let loose, have fun, spread good vibes and be yourself,” says a passionate Brian.

“It’s Freedom and Fireflies,” adds Muthuri. “Watu hawajakuja kuota moto (people didn’t just come to idly assemble by the fireside). They want value for their money. We go an extra mile to chase your travel goals. We’re crazy about important details like your preference to white wine as opposed to red, special requirements and micro-moments. That’s what essentially makes our clients choose Turn-Up Travel as the only company that works for them.”


At the core of Turning-Up

The difference between Turn-Up Travel and other travel agencies is the ‘family-factor’. It’s in the way they make their passion contagious that precedes their professionalism, with word-of-mouth and social media as their marketing tools and of course, the guts to propose out-of-the-norm ideas.

It’s also a no-brainer really, that they’ve been able to work with renown companies in the industry such as: The Kenya Tourism Board, Turkana County, The Kenya Film Classification Board, The Kenya Railways, Uber, Tecno, Famous Grouse, Heritage Hotels, Four Points By Sheraton, Distant Relatives Kilifi, Brew Bistro, Nyama Mama, Metta and Urban Kichen, just to mention a few.

Be sure to catch them on and be a part of their next trip, the #MombasaIGTour, hosted by Mombasa-based BAKE Winner and Blogger, Jammy El Jabry. And for the luxury lovers, an upcoming trip to Lamu for the Lamu Festival.

 

 

 

 

Lose Yourself To The Alabaster White Smooth Sinking Sands In Diani

Our arrival itinerary at the world-renown Leopard Resort Beach & Spa was at about 3pm.

Right on time for the wedding; the guards informed us. Wedding? We wondered. Apparently there was a wedding going on at the hotel.

We’re here as guests – we informed them.

The thought of a beach wedding some few steps from where we would be staying for the weekend was enough to send excitement thrills up my spine. Yippee! That was the sound of the holiday mood kicking in.

Fast forward to our check in at the Dakarai Villa, an all en suite house with three lavish bedrooms and state of the art living room, adjacent to a gorgeous dining set overlooking your very own personalized infinity pool beyond the glass doors.

As one might imagine, the entire hotel is one world; Big. The feel of the ocean waves is magnificent and the entire place is so large that it’s impossible to do a complete tour in one sitting. Nonetheless, the food is great and the ambience is to live for.

Day II

The next day got us sightseeing the wonderful town that is Diani. There’s only one word that can describe Diani, Serenity. The people are friendly, the temperature is cool, the food is spectacular, the air is peaceful, the ambience is quiet and the place is as clean as a whistle!

I finally got to understand the fuss behind Diani white sands; the water is clear as day and the sands as white as milk. So at home is the place that it could be quite tempting to simply sit down, have a meal and an entire meditation about life and how you’ll be quitting your job soon just to sit by the beach all day looking into the horizon and literally do nothing for the rest of your life.

Day III

We were on a glass boat trip, where the locals took us a water tour to view the ocean bed and the jungle of life that lives underneath the ocean. My favorite part was sighting an actual star fish! It was so red and pretty that I just wanted to take it home with me. Then we anchored on a sandy island literally in the middle of the ocean. We swam till we couldn’t anymore, took loads of pics and swore that for real, there was a God or spiritual being up there because ain’t no way this wonderful feeling was man-made!

Then we headed out to a local famous restaurant by the ocean – Bidi Badu – and had some delish chicken biryani (you can’t go to the South Coast and miss on this) and a platter-full of fresh sea food; some lobsters, prawns, Nile perch and a bunch of other tasty finger-licking fishes.

Day IV

We were chilling by the hotel, where we got to talk to the hotel manager, who gave us insights about Leopard Beach Resort & Spa – of how it’s one of the most acclaimed beach hotels in Diani and of the numerous awards they’ve gotten.

5pm got us feeling nostalgic as we had to leave this place of a paradise an back to our old mundane ways of living back in the city… sigh. But one thing’s for sure – DIANI ROCKS!

I’m definitely coming back for a sundowner or four. To sip on some chilled white Sauvignon Blanc wine and laze by the Forty Thieves bar, legs up on a random tree branch by the beach, hat and yellow sun dress on and have a ball!

Images by: Dan Waiharo & Jean Wandimi

Of Kenya’s Rich Historical Culture, As Laid Out At The Nairobi National Museum

Quite the Intro…

A rich historical culture lives within these walls. Walls that hold carvings centuries of centuries old; Carvings that tell of a lifetime of a people, for their generations and the next; Carvings that are now the cultural heritage of the Kenyan people; Carvings whose children of the present awe upon in wonder, pondering how their great ancestors lived such strong lives – without all the modern age complexities that technology has come to bring.

They shrug and shake their heads in defeat, this present generation. Because deep down they realize that they have never been as great as their predecessors. Nor as strong. Their eyes well up in tears. Tears of wonder, of joy and of hope. Because this new generation of a people now understand that if their ancestors were that great; then they should have such greatness somewhere deep in them too. After all, blood is surely thicker than water.

Getting into the Museum

This is the feeling that one gets upon arrival at the Nairobi National Museum – situated along road Museum Hill Road. It’s the largest museum in Kenya and holds volumes of information about the 42 tribes that make the Kenyan heritage.

The first salutation upon arrival at the museum is a stone sculpture of what could be believed to be a dinosaur – representing the ages of years passed of evolution. A trip into the interior of the museum then greets you with a tree of African calabashes – ones that signify the foundation and continuity of African life.

The Cradle of Humankind & the King’s African Rifles


Without a doubt, the most interesting part of the museum itself is the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, with sculptures of human beings showcasing just how much we as the Homo sapiens have developed over centuries. A quick detour to the top right hand side of the museum then shows an in depth journey dedicated to the Kenyan History – of slavery, World War II, brave African soldiers serving the British army, and statues full of praise of the African community elders.

African jewelry and decor


The museum is full of delicately crafted African décor and traditional art craft, traditionally made by women as per the African culture, as well as boasts a rich legacy of the bush game that Kenya has to offer – especially when it comes to the big five animals: Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and the Rhino.

Of crawling creatures

Situated towards the lower bend of the Museum is the all-famous Snake Park, hosting about 15 different types of snakes. They are safely tucked behind strong compact glass holdings, meaning that they can cause no harm to people. It’s interesting to note that for some snakes such as the Puff Adder (pictured above) notoriously known as Africa’s most dangerous snake, can spit saliva up to a distance of 5 meters, and once they spit on your eyes, then you’re instantly blinded. Also be on the look out for lazying crocodiles and ever-mating tortoises.

Not forgetting the ever-green botanical garden

For the picnic lovers is the beautiful botanical garden, hosting at least 20 of the most exotic of plants. The botanical garden compliments the entire experience almost perfectly, as it creates a well-balanced ecosystem to the museum surroundings. It is also situated in the middle of a circular delicately-carved marble ground, which glitters under the sun and illuminates the green from the plants.

And Vogue Café

The Museum also hosts a small cozy café called ‘Vogue Café’, a perfect little spot to have a quick hot cup of coffee and a light snack, overlooking lash vegetation and offers a serene aura to your dining. It has an in-door sitting area for those that would want some peace and quiet while offering the option of dining by the patio with the scenic view while feeling the cool outdoor breeze.

The wind up

All in all, the Nairobi National Museum does a fantastic job at aiming to interpret Kenya’s rich heritage, offering a one-stop shop for domestic and international visitors alike to sample Kenya’s rich cultural roots. As a fortress that is at least 23 years old, the National Museum of Kenya celebrates great collections of a people’s true history – binding them in true blood, unity, peace and liberty.