-This is the story of adventure-seekers, 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 they’re just beginning.
The idea of a travel agency bore fruit in a room at Heritage’s Voyager Beach Resort in Mombasa. Muthuri and I were 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 the 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 show 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’.
Turkana, as they reveal, was hands-down the best trip that they’ve had so far, simply because it was Turkana. Every 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…”
“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 de-mystify 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.
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.
“Our trips are curated from ideas that people often think of but have no way of exercising them. A pub crawl looks 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 lose, 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.”
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 Kitchen, 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.