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Melvin Mapetla

I believe in the transformative power of travel, seeing it as a journey that unveils a world of unforgettable moments. In my role as General Manager at Truly Swahili, we focus on creating meticulously crafted journeys, infused with both precision and passion. We aim to offer more than mere trips, but experiences that become treasured, lifelong memories. Our goal is to share the essence of East Africa from our unique perspective, connecting travelers with the rich tapestry of our homeland's stories, cultures, and landscapes. Travel, to us, is an extraordinary gateway, a commitment to excellence, and an opportunity to share our world's wonders with the world.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"I specialize in East Africa for wildlife safari, private tours, history & culture, adventure & trekking, beach & relaxation, FIT travel, group travel, VIP clients, luxury safaris, events, MICE and complex itineraries."

How did you get involved in travel?

"My journey into the world of travel began not as a choice, but as an innate calling. From a young age, I was fascinated by the diverse tapestry of human life – our differences that mark us and the similarities that bind us. There was a world out there, rich in places, cultures, and flavors, and I was irresistibly drawn to experience it.

This yearning led me on a global odyssey, through various roles in the travel industry, each stop a new chapter of learning and discovery. But in this journey of exploring distant lands, a realization dawned upon me – the most profound stories were those of the people and how they shared their world with me. My journey into travel was profoundly shaped by the experiences shared with friends from around the world. Gloria, an American friend from Ghana, introduced me to the bustling streets of New York, from Times Square to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Each step through these vibrant neighborhoods unveiled the city's energetic rhythm and the rich mosaic of its urban landscape, showcasing an array of street foods and the city's fast-paced lifestyle. In Dubai, Musa, a friend, gave me a vibrant tour, offering a glimpse into the Emirati way of life's evolution from traditional Bedouin roots to the towering skyscrapers and luxurious lifestyle of modern Dubai, a city where ancient traditions and futuristic ambitions coexist harmoniously. And in Lagos, Miss B, a Nigerian colleague, took me on an unforgettable culinary adventure through the world of spicy 'pepe' dishes, where each meal was a vibrant symphony of local spices, their rich colors and bold flavors telling the story of Nigeria's diverse and dynamic culture. Each of these individuals shared a piece of their identity with me, creating a mosaic of beautiful experiences. I was sold!

Amidst my travels, a powerful sentiment tugged at my heart – the desire to also showcase the beauty of my own roots, my East Africa. It was a homecoming, a journey to reconnect with the land that shaped me. As I reacquainted myself with the vibrant cultures, the pulsating life in the streets, the warm smiles of my people, I found my true calling.

Now, I stand as a bridge between the world and the wonders of East Africa. It’s more than just travel; it’s about sharing a piece of my soul, the essence of my homeland. I am here to offer not just a journey, but an immersion into the true spirit of Swahili life. Through my eyes and experiences, I invite others to feel the heartbeat of this land, to understand why I was so passionately drawn to bring its stories to the world."

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"Our Mombasa misadventure was something straight out of a travel comedy show. Picture this: a group of friends, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, dreaming of lounging on sun-kissed beaches and soaking up the rich Swahili culture. Our grand plan? To wing our accommodation – a bold move from the ancient, pre-review era.

So, we stumbled upon this "charming" hotel online. The pictures screamed paradise – think 'Heaven in Mombasa'. Bags packed, we set off, ready for our budget-friendly, top-tier hotel experience. You could practically hear the triumphant music playing as we imagined the envious faces of our not-so-adventurous friends.

But reality hit us like a slapstick comedy pie to the face. As we tumbled out of our marathon bus ride, we laid eyes on this... let's call it 'vintage' hotel. "Phew, glad that's not ours!" we chuckled, pointing at the dilapidated building. Oh, the irony! That crumbling relic was our very own booked paradise – a live-action lesson in the wonders of Photoshop. It was like the hotel had swiped right on a beauty filter and catfished us!

I remember thinking, "Is this even legal? Where's the travel police when you need them?" As we stood there, bewildered, we realized our 'great steal' was more of a 'great joke'. And oh, the neighborhood – it was as if we'd landed on the one spot in Mombasa that had missed the memo on fun activities. There is a phrase is Swahili "Wueh!" which most Swahili people exclaim when they feel defeated. For us it was Wueh!! indeed.

Back to square one, with no other choice, we huddled together to redraw our entire trip. Stranded but not defeated, and with the collective enthusiasm of travel junkies, we crafted a new adventure. This misstep became a masterclass in the value of local knowledge – and the power of a good laugh. In the end, our debacle turned into an epic tale of friendship, resilience, and the hilarity of travel gone awry. Who needs a perfect holiday when you've got a story for the ages, right?"

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Recent trip reviews for Melvin

Brilliant trip to Uganda and Tanzania!
Tanzania | Jun 16 - Jun 26, 2024

Simone
Simone B.
Brooklyn, NY | Reviewed on Jul 07, 2024
Brilliant trip to Uganda and Tanzania! Melvin and Irene did a wonderful job organizing everything for us in both countries and personally greeted us which we appreciated. Melvin was our point of contact in the lead up and was always very responsive and helpful. We were very pleased with the final itinerary and how easy it was to get this trip planned. Fantastic guides and drivers in both countries. They were very informative, organized, got us where we needed to be safely, and were a lot of... Read more

Brilliant trip to Uganda and Tanzania! Melvin and Irene did a wonderful job organizing everything for us in both countries and personally greeted us which we appreciated. Melvin was our point of contact in the lead up and was always very responsive and helpful. We were very pleased with the final itinerary and how easy it was to get this trip planned. Fantastic guides and drivers in both countries. They were very informative, organized, got us where we needed to be safely, and were a lot of fun! Beautiful accommodation in every location. Will organize future trips with Truly Swahili and can't recommend them enough. Memories to last a life time!

Local specialist: Melvin Mapetla
Melvin
Melvin Mapetla
Local specialist in East Africa | Replied on Jul 07, 2024

Thank you so much for your wonderful review! It was a pleasure planning and hosting your trip to Uganda and Tanzania. We're thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the itinerary, the guides, drivers, and the accommodations. The team will be delighted to hear your kind words. We look forward to welcoming you back for another adventure with Truly Swahili. Memories like these are what we strive to create!

Family trip to Tanzania wilderness and city life
Tanzania | Mar 24 - Apr 1, 2024

Jamshid
Jamshid K.
Los Angeles, CA | Reviewed on Apr 08, 2024
This was our family's first trip to Africa. Were naturally unfamiliar with the territory and a bit apprehensive about planning a trip. We spent five days wildlife viewing in Serengeti and Ngorongoro, and two days in the city of Arusha. Our local travel organizer Melvin M. and our local safari guide Walter O. were both extremely helpful and kind beyond our expectations. Melvin was professional and very responsive. Walter and assistant guide Kaka M. were very well informed about Tanzania's... Read more

This was our family's first trip to Africa. Were naturally unfamiliar with the territory and a bit apprehensive about planning a trip. We spent five days wildlife viewing in Serengeti and Ngorongoro, and two days in the city of Arusha.

Our local travel organizer Melvin M. and our local safari guide Walter O. were both extremely helpful and kind beyond our expectations. Melvin was professional and very responsive. Walter and assistant guide Kaka M. were very well informed about Tanzania's natural world and helped us get the most of our time, putting in extraordinary effort to help us experience the best of this wonderful part of the world.

As parents were were protective traveling with our teenage kids. The team made us feel safe and welcome both in the city and in the wild. We will remember their kindness and good company for a long time to come.

Hotel Reviews
Gold Crest Hotel - Arusha
Arusha

The hotel is well located and has a nice building. However the rooms are not very well maintained. We found a handful of things broken or not well cleaned.

Authenticity & Character
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Ngorongoro Farm House
Arusha
Authenticity & Character
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Serengeti Serena Lodge
Serengeti
Authenticity & Character
Location
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Local specialist: Melvin Mapetla
Melvin
Melvin Mapetla
Local specialist in East Africa | Replied on Apr 08, 2024

We're truly delighted to hear that your journey with us was a memorable one! As this is always what we aim for. It was our absolute pleasure to meticulously plan and execute every aspect of your trip, ensuring it was as seamless and enjoyable as possible. The anticipation of welcoming you back for another adventure fills us with great excitement. Asante for your trust and Karibu once more into the fold of unforgettable experiences we're eager to offer!