Kenyan Diaspora rakes in Sh306,000 from sporty safari
A Kenyan living in the US is cashing in from the country’s athletics prowess by designing sports safari packages which blend the traditional beach and bush safari with a running experience in the Rift Valley highlands.
Wilson Kiriungi, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is the brain behind Run with Kenyans – a company he founded in 2011 to bring both professional and recreational runners to Kenya for a sporty safari.
The idea to develop athletics safari packages was born out of Mr Kiriungi’s experience abroad where he noticed that many Americans regarded Kenya as the ‘Mecca of long distance running’ and cherished an opportunity to learn the secrets of its athletes.
As a resident of Boston, the Kenyan entrepreneur had watched his country mates take multiple gold medals in the Boston Marathon — and the near fanatical following Kenya enjoyed in what is billed as the world biggest major race.
“My interactions with the Boston Marathon fans showed that most of the diehard fans were willing to spend to follow their champions who were mostly Kenyans,” said the 35-year-old entrepreneur.
“Running is the only sport where you mix the champions and fans in a truly participatory way, providing a great experience for both,” said the man who emigrated to the US in 2001.
MYSTERY OF KENYAN WIN
Mr Kiriungi went on to organise his first running safari in 2012, bringing to Kenya a group of 25 tourists to experience the athletics heritage of East Africa’s biggest sporting holiday destination.
He also had another group last year and plans to bring about 40 holidaymakers for a safari to Kenya this year.
The 10-day marathon safari costs $3,600 (Sh306,000) and participants are taken through a comprehensive programme that involves a visit to an athletics training camp, homestay with local athletes and safari tour to Kenya’s game parks and reserves.
The guests are usually taken to the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten — arguably the home to Kenyan athletics champions — where they get to practise side by side with seasoned athletes who hold world records and major titles.
“There is a mystery as to why Kenyans are great on the track. The tour also provides insights on winning athletes. Some say it’s due to the barefoot running others say it’s the diet,” says Mr Kiriungi.-nation.co.ke