Velile Ndlumbini of Imonti Tours knows that a good tour guide can change the way a person experiences a destination.
Velile grew up with a taste for travel, journeying around the Transkei often with his family. After studying tourism at school, completing a course in tourist guiding in 1998 and then freelancing as a guide in East London, Velile worked towards establishing his own company.
Founded in 2002, Imonti Tours began operating in 2003 and has, in addition to Velile himself, several experienced, professional and accredited tourist guides who are as committed to their province subjects – culture, arts, history – as they are to their tours.
Velile has a strong passion for the Eastern Cape and its rich history and this is certainly a major contributing factor when you look at his vast experience in the tourism industry and as a tourist guide. He does, however, constantly strive to improve his skills and travels overseas every year to attend workshops and give presentations in three different European countries (Switzerland, Germany and Austria). It is through these workshops that Velile has learnt (and indeed, is continuing to learn) about different nationalities, their behaviour as a people and what they expect from a tour when in a foreign country. Velile is fully aware that tour guides are one of the key front-line players in the tourism industry and wants to not only meet visitors’ expectations, but also to exceed them.
South Africa is a destination that is on the bucket list of people from many different countries around the world and, for those that have already been to this beautiful land, chances are they have left behind a piece of their heart. And for those who have visited the Eastern Cape before, the likelihood is that they haven’t just been here once, but several times. It may be a destination that people initially only associate with the late, great Nelson Mandela but once tourists experience a trip with Imonti Tours, they quickly realise that this beautiful province holds more than they ever dreamed of. Not only does the Eastern Cape have a rich political and cultural history but it also has some of the most breathtaking natural beauty which is second to none.
Included in the many tours led by Velile or one of his trained guides is a Township Tour which takes tourists to both Duncan Village and Mdantsane. Although it is natural that every tourist’s experience is different, there is no doubt that these tours evoke many emotions. Visitors are given a glimpse into the daily life of a South African Township and are taken to kindergartens, orphanages and, if the tour is on a Sunday, church services. Visitors can also enjoy homemade vet kok and ginger beer with the locals. Velile’s involvement in the Townships extends to collecting clothes and other items prior to tours for distribution to the various organisations in need.
Nelson Mandela is, of course, a global icon and in the year since his passing, the focus has been very much on Madiba all over the world. This Nelson Mandela Early Childhood Tour tour takes visitors to Mthatha, following in the great Madiba’s footsteps. Visits to Qunu Village where he grew up and the village of Mghekezweni where he spent the majority of his adult years are definite highlights and experiences that are not only educational but interactive too with the opportunity to spend the night.
Other tours that can be enjoyed with Imonti include an East London City tour, where visitors are taken on an exploration of our beautiful city and its various historical sites; The Pride of Amatole Heritage Tour, visiting, among other historical landmarks, the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance and then on to Alice, a city where many great African leaders received their education; and the Cultural Tour which is an absolute must to experience the daily life of the Xhosa people.
No tour is the same as the next, even if you go on one in particular several times (as some visitors have in the past!); each experience will be different, and Velile strives to ensure that through participation, visitors will really feel part of things, be it preparing and eating a traditional meal with the Xhosa people or having drinks with the locals at a Township Shebeen.
Velile shares with us how the unlikeliest of friendships have been made through his tours, from tourists’ interaction with the locals. He tells us that on one particular trip to a Shebeen one Sunday in December, it was discovered that an Mdantsane man could fluently speak the language of each and every tourist in the group. The local man shared his story (in the respective language) with the guests and the tour ended up finishing two hours later than planned, due to this wonderful discovery.
Velile has many similar stories of friendships forged on his tours and shares with us the enjoyment he gets out of seeing his guests experiencing something so special, something they will take home with them and never forget. Indeed, it is these experiences that visitors relate to others back home and why Velile of Imonti Tours has the great recognition that he so deserves.
Any journey is only as good as the guide and, it has to be said, Velile is one of the Eastern Cape’s best.
Source: Show Me