Malawian travel influencer shows how African youth can explore Tanzania

Mervis with a Maasai at Manepi Kibaha. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • A Malawian travel influencer with thousands of social media followers, Mervis Maigwa, shares her travel experience in Tanzania, from trying different street foods in Dar city to the marvelous scene and creatures at Mikumi National Park

By Anganile Mwakyanjala

Dar es Salaam. Tourism has once again taken the top spot as Tanzania’s biggest foreign exchange earner, not a small feat coming on top against the mining sector, which has predominantly been what foreign investors come to Africa for.

In hindsight, President Samia’s intent to aggressively market Tanzania’s tourism has been evident with the recent tourism film made by the popular Chinese actor Jin Dong that will be shown across China and the famous Royal Tour that spearheaded the worldwide marketing initiative.

But today, we tell the untold story of the vast majority of African tourists who visit Tanzania. Their numbers keep growing as Africans begin to dare cross their borders to see the natural barite bestowed upon their neighbours.

A Malawian travel influencer with thousands of social media followers, Mervis Maigwa, shares her travel diary.

Mervis was raised by her parents, who are in the Malawi Police Force, so moving from place to place was the norm.

She would often relocate when her parents were assigned to a different part of the country, and she would have to make new friends and get used to a new school numerous times.

“As much as I would be sad to leave my home, I was privileged to explore new places,” she said. So she would have no choice but to quickly adapt to the new people she met. So did she when she decided to visit Tanzania. “What I treasure about travel is the art of communication with new people. As a traveller you should have good communication skills; you have to be humble and immersed in your new setting,” she advised.

Being with the new people one meets is advantageous as people are more willing to open themselves up for you, and as an African traveller, it is easy to interact with fellow Africans in any country without standing out as a tourist unless the language barrier gets in the way, she said.

Mervis, who has been a noticeable influencer promoting Malawi tourism, had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania.

It was a leap of faith and a courageous act to cross the border to a place she had never been. That was also the excitement travellers looked for.

“There was a group of Tanzanians who were coming to Malawi that I had to pick. So, I had to go to Dar es Salaam,” she said.

Mervis spent two days in Dar es Salaam. She would also visit Kigamboni, which is noticeably becoming a tourist attraction with its beaches and several spots where serene people spend their afternoons watching the sunset.

Mervis in Mikumi national park. PHOTO | COURTESY

Mervis went on a Dar es Salaam city tour, a popular activity for tourists who visit Dar. She went around trying out different street foods around the city.

“What I love about Tanzania is the food,” she joyfully remembered. Meat, plantains, jackfruits, coconuts, and oranges sold by the roadside were delicious treats she had in the vibrant, sunny city.

Mervis found Tanzanians to be very welcoming, though the language barrier was a small hindrance.

She would find that most people spoke Kiswahili while she only spoke English.

Thankfully,  she met a fellow Malawian who spoke fluent Kiswahili and helped her do shopping in Kariakoo Market for things to take back home for her family and friends.

Kiswahili is seemingly an easy language to master; there are at least a few words that can make interaction with the locals easier, and Mervis was quick to learn.

“I learned to ask Shilingi ngapi? Kiswahili, for how much? Asante sana as thank you and karibuni when welcoming someone,” she went through her few Kiswahili words.

Mervis would visit Mikumi National Park, which she found to be astonishing.

She would hear stories from fellow Malawians of a national park that you can see animals while you are in the bus; the road cuts through the national park, and she would only believe it upon seeing it with her own eyes.

“It was exciting seeing the big fives in large numbers in Mikumi. The safari cars are very comfortable, and the guides are very good at their jobs,” she said.

This was the first time she came very close to lions and a herd of elephants as the sun was setting. It was a serene moment that she will always remember.

It was always engrained in many people’s minds that travel enthusiasts were from Europe, so Mervis and other young African travellers are pioneering a passionate activity that, with persistence, will become the norm.

“I think it’s really good if other Malawians see me travel; they will also know that they too can do it,” she said.

There is no denying that most Africans still think the luxury of travel is for the rich or the expatriates, but budget travel is possible and has been practiced for a long time.

What is most needed is the passion to explore, and African travel influencers are doing just that.

This is a big changer, as many African travel influencers are visiting Tanzania and telling their stories from their African perspective with the help of social media.

‘’It shouldn’t take people from outside Africa to tell stories about the beauty of Africa,” she said.

“We have to be at the forefront of telling good things about Africa,” she mentioned.

Mervis’s Facebook page, “Travel with Mervis,” has grown to thousands of followers, but that was not the case a few years ago.

Even her closest friends and family were doubtful of her venture into travel blogging, questioning what she was trying to achieve.

It’s only now that they get to see the vision. Attracting the audience as an African travel influence was not easy.

In many cases, when the rich Africans travel, it’s always outside the continent, posing next to the Eiffel Tower or in the Dubai deserts, but the African Travel influencers are now encouraging Africans to travel to their neighbors and witness the natural beauty that is just a stone’s throw away.

The bragging rights and social media likes young Africans get by posting their pictures at the New York Times Square or in London are so appealing, so should be a picture posted from Serengeti or Kilimanjaro, and African travel influencers are making it cool to do so.

Do Tanzanian tourism stakeholders market enough to African tourists? If not, I think more should be done.

“We Africans have to exhaust all available resources to attract fellow Africans to visit African countries,” she insisted.

Strategies aimed at attracting Africans should be tailor-made and implemented.

Another marvelous place Mervis visited was the Isimila Stone Age site in the Southern Highlands of Iringa.

Unearthed by archaeologists in the late 1950s, this is one of the most significant Stone Age finds ever identified.

Here, Mervis walked to see the main pillars and also visited a small museum. The landscape is still intact; it is something that looks out of this world, and it is.