At Sense of Africa, each team player makes the brand their own. Managing Director Paul Brinkmann believes this is what sets Sense of Africa apart from other tour operators. The heart of the company, its people, beats with passion, energy, and inspiration. When chatting with Paul and Kira Brinkmann (Sales & Marketing Director), it is clear that Sense, as they affectionately call it, is creative, outgoing and innovative. Being go-getters they are willing to bite off more than they can chew and then chew like hell, with the assurance that the teammates have each other’s back.
With 50 years’ worth of experience, Sense of Africa has acquired a reputation for quality tailor-made tours to meet each traveller’s needs. “We try and follow a philosophy of under-promising and over-delivering.” Booking a tour through Namibia with Sense of Africa promises to be so much more than just a journey. Paul believes that being mainstream is okay as Namibia by definition is unique and adventurous. You do not need to be exclusive to provide an extraordinary experience and Sense aims at providing ordinary people with an extraordinary experience whilst travelling with Sense of Africa.
Paul compares Namibia to an Ice Queen. “She is extraordinarily beautiful but she does not necessarily appeal to everyone. She is neither cheap, nor is she easy, but she has something mystical about her. This is what Namibia is – hauntingly beautiful, surreal, soulful, liberating.”
Fifteen years ago Paul quit his job as a lawyer to become part of this passionate brand. He had the urge to create. “As a lawyer, you are much like the pen used to sign the contract – you get used and when the job is done, you get paid and it is over,” Paul explains. By contrast, his position at Sense allows him to make people’s dreams come true.
The company had its humble beginnings in 1962 when Belgian Congolese Jacques Dumont sat in his office in Swakopmund waiting for people who wanted to do tours or short excursions. Back then the business was called Oryx Safaris. Even at the airport when guests arrived, all staff would be present creating a funnel as a welcoming committee for their visitors.
Avis bought the company and turned it into Oryx Tours. When it joined forces with Trans Namibia Tours, a division of Tourvest, the merged company continued under the name Oryx Tours. Oryx, however, was known as a coach operator and the business wanted to focus on tour operating. So they decided to recreate their brand and turn it into something sexy and vibrant. Thus, the re-energised Sense of Africa was born in 1999 – a destination management company. The name officially changed and the owners had one main goal in mind: exceeding guests’ expectations. Sense of Africa has seen the biggest spike in growth from 2006 to 2010 and is constantly moving forward. With cutting-edge IT and their Business-to-Business System, the company ensures that it is keeping up with the times and staying relevant by knowing the product.
Sense of Africa does not only promote Namibia but also contributes to projects within the borders of the country it loves. Being strong supporters of conservancies, they walked away with the Inaugural Sustainability Award. The company also gets a lot of support from tour operators who donate money for each booking made.
For its 50th birthday celebrations, Sense of Africa wants to recognise its partners. A tour through Namibia will be organised for agents and they will visit the properties that they promote. There will also be a glamorous gala event in Swakopmund. Of course, some internal champagne popping will also be taking place.
Due to expansion over the years, it is no longer possible to line up as a guard of honour at the airport and shake each guest’s hand upon arrival, but Sense of Africa still prides itself on being big enough to matter, but small enough to care.