“Follow your bliss,” advised the writer Joseph Campbell. For Kent Redding ’86, following his bliss has led to a love affair with Africa. Kent is the owner of Africa Adventure Consultants Inc., (www.adventuresinafrica.com) a Denver, Colo.-based firm that arranges trips to the southern and eastern portions of the Dark Continent. Whether you are going on a group tour or on a honeymoon, on a classic safari or on a several day hike with a Masai guide, or whether you want to spend your nights in a domed tent or in a five-star camping lodge, Kent can help tailor an unforgettable trip for you.
After receiving a degree from Trinity in sociology, Kent lived and worked in both Europe and the Middle East for about a year and a half. He returned to the States and became a reporter for a couple of different newspapers in San Diego. In the early 90s, he returned to his hometown of Denver and worked for a large computer distribution company.
Then in 1997, Kent and his future wife Kelly McElroy made a journey that would change their lives. “We went on a safari and totally fell in love with Africa and Tanzania in particular,” said Kent. “We were very inspired by the people, the nature, and the wildlife.”
Then fate and opportunity paid Kent a visit. At about the time he was planning his trip to Africa, a rival firm bought Kent’s company. When he returned to Denver, the company offered him a choice of either taking a severance package or a job relocation. Kent said the decision wasn’t even close. He took the severance package and eventually returned to Africa with his wife. He wound up as a camp manager for a safari camp in Tarangire Park in Tanzania. “I oversaw the staff that was running the camp,” explained Kent. His wife would find work as a teacher and later become an accountant for a company that offered expeditions of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain.
Kent began to learn his new trade as a safari guide. “Basically it’s a 24 hour job. You have to be an entertainer, an encyclopedia of knowledge, a driver, a medic, and a negotiator. You are responsible not only for the visitor’s fun but also for their safety,” he said. Since there are virtually no schools to learn how to become a safari guide, Kent did an enormous amount of self study. He read books ranging from the history of Africa to animal behavior. He studied maps to learn not only the roads in Africa but also wildlife migration patterns. He became an apprentice of sorts to the owner of the Tarangire camp, a man Kent describes as a very experienced and well-known guide. Later, Kent would become a partner with another safari outfit and work as a guide for about three years.
There came a time, however, when Kent and his wife reached a crossroads. “We came to the point in mid-2001 that we decided we would either need to make Tanzania our home or we would need to move back to the United States.” They decided to move back to Denver.
In January of 2002, Kent established Africa Adventure Consultants. It wasn’t the best time to get into the tourism business. Just months after 9-11, international tourism was in dire straits. “But we believe in the benefits of tourism to Africa. Not only for the people from the U.S. and other countries that come to visit, but also for the people of Africa,” said Kent. “Tourism is one of the only businesses that these countries have.” Kent persevered and now tourism in Africa is reaching record levels.
In addition to bringing tourists to Africa, Kent offers support and aid where he can. “For everyone who goes on safari, we make a donation to the non-profit of their choice,” he said. He also feels very strongly about supporting wildlife related causes and both Kent and his wife have sponsored a few students in Tanzanian Schools. His support has been appreciated, and in 2004, the Tanzania Tourist Board gave its first Humanitarian Award to Kent and Africa Adventure Consultants.
Kent doesn’t lead many trips into Africa anymore now that he has a young family. Instead, he spends his time working with partner companies in the various countries that supply local guides to take tourists on safari. But he is planning to visit Africa soon. Asked what he would tell someone who’s never been, he answers that Africa has an extremely rich culture and very welcoming people. “Africa will surprise you. It will exceed your expectations. It will blow your mind.”