Robin Mountain is the Owner and CEO of Ntaba African Safaris. Along with his wife Stella, Ntaba African Safaris works tirelessly to provide itineraries that go above and beyond the expectation of their clients. Robin has not only traveled extensively through Africa, but even summited Mount Kilimanjaro three times! Qualified and registered National South African Guide is another title Robin wears, and he personally accompanies the majority of the tours Ntaba African Safaris hosts. With a degree in Animal Science and a wealth of knowledge on wild animals and bird life, Robin Mountain knows Africa, from culture to languages to animals.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Was there anything specific about traveling, or your personal travels, that inspired you to work in travel? How did you break into the industry?
Robin Mountain (RM): Having traveled extensively through Southern Africa with my family & moving internationally from South Africa to America, it became a passion to share our home & our love of travel with others.
The first trip I ever really led was to South Africa with 2 of my children & a group of beekeepers that I met through my work in animal husbandry here in the states. They wanted to travel & I wanted to show them my home. After that, I was hooked
TRO: As owner and CEO of Ntaba African Safaris you must have to juggle many different responsibilities. What details can you give us about the day to day of your position within Ntaba African Safaris? Is each day completely different from the last?
RM: Each day is always different from the one before it! I love leading Team Ntaba. We all juggle our tasks very well & are able to share responsibilities between us. I lead most of our clients on their trips myself. As our company grows, so does our team, but our motto stands- We don’t send you to Africa, We take you there! But, I won’t come on your honeymoon!
When I’m not in Africa leading groups, I can either be found in the office fielding calls, emails, visitors, etc. or doing whatever my team says needs to be done! Stella & I also attend travel shows all over the country & internationally as well, introducing Ntaba to agents & individuals. I never get tired of meeting people along the way wherever I am & recounting mine & my clients adventures!
TRO: You and your wife, Stella, personally accompany the majority of the scheduled tours Ntaba African Safaris offers, for you are both certified South African Tourist National Guides. Can you tell us about the process of getting certified?
RM: I took classes & obtained my certificate through the South African Tourism Board at a private school, making me a qualified & registered guide. Stella & myself are also South Africa Fundi Tourism Experts. We have learned so much & continue to do so.
TRO: Both Stella and yourself are passionate about what you do, and take great care in planning each of Ntaba African Safaris tours. Is there any insight about the process of selection activities and destinations for your tours you can give us?
RM: Stella is the “Master of Itineraries” around here & we work with clients on what their interests are to determine what they will most enjoy during their first trip with us. We like to learn how many travelers there will be together, when they would like to travel, & if there is any special event they will be celebrating on the trip.
We center most trips around the wildlife! Just about everyone is hopeful to meet their favorite animal in its natural habitat, so we make sure we spend a large chunk of time in the bush together observing, learning, & experiencing nature first hand. After we get the basic info from you, we go to work picking the best venues & activities for your trip, making sure that your trip flows well & is all about experiencing Africa, not just traveling.
TRO: You were born and raised in South Africa, moving to Kentucky in 2003 before establishing Ntaba African Safaris a few years later in 2005. How have your experiences living in South Africa helped shape the tours you plan?
RM: We take our travelers home! We have a strong network of both working & personal relationships throughout all the places we go. I often hear, “Hey, Mr. Ntaba!” shouted to me as I’m leading a group. We plan our trips based on what we know is good. We’ve seen the good, bad, & the not so good, so when we plan something for someone we know exactly what will work.
My mom will even join us for tea one afternoon in Cape Town if she is available! We take what people see as a huge trip to undertake & make it quaint & personal to fit our clients desires. After traveling back & forth for years, we have practice in what works & is enjoyable.
TRO: You have an extensive knowledge of African Cultures, wildlife, and bird life from your travels. Is there any area specifically in which you seek to gain more knowledge, whether personally or for Ntaba African Safaris?
RM: I’m an avid birder. Personally, that’s what I love to spot when on safari. I’ll call them out by name if I can, & I’m always learning new ones. I’m also very interested in East African cultures & learning more about them. Rwanda, Tanzania, etc. Their life is so vastly different than how we live in America & it’s absolutely fascinating. Having been to all of these places only sparks my interest even more. I will never stop discovering as long as I’m in this business!
TRO: Having trekked through the jungles of Uganda and Rwanda with gorillas and chimpanzees, you have gotten to see some beautiful sights and animals. Is there any particular destination you have traveled to that you would consider your favorite? If so, where?
RM: Tanzania. The diversity there is captivating. It borders about 6-7 other countries as well as the Indian Ocean, so there are so many opportunities to be had! I’m still discovering more & more destinations in & out of Tanzania to introduce people to. As you could imagine, it’s incredibly difficult to narrow down a favorite because as soon as you pick one, you start thinking of all the places & things you’ve seen & remembering how magical each one is. Tanzania is definitely the one stuck in my head these days though…and the Gorillas. 😉
TRO: Being able to speak English as well as Afrikaans, German, Zulu, and an array of other languages local to South Africa is both impressive, and important to what Ntaba African Safaris does. Is there any language you wish to learn that you do not already know?
RM: Speaking the languages that we do is incredibly useful, not only personally, but I have been able to help others outside of the groups I lead that are having trouble with language barriers as they struggle to travel on their own. I’d like to learn to speak Swahili. It is spoken in East Africa, which you can tell I’m partial to at the moment. I’d also like to learn French at some point, just for fun.
TRO: What can we expect to see from Ntaba African Safaris this year?
RM: Ethiopia! Stella & I will be traveling there this November to discover it ourselves before we open it up to our clients. We make sure to scope things out ourselves before we take anyone else there. Family travel is also becoming increasingly important to Ntaba. Over the years we have had loads of families travel with us. Multigenerational groups from the kids to Grandparents. Africa & being on safari is so special to experience as a family unit. Memories & photos from these times are something that our clients cherish always. Also, family travel is special to us too because we get to be alongside you & watch your world open up like it never has before. To witness that is a privilege. Many of our clients have become friends & we accept that as a gift.
Another thing that is coming out of Ntaba is Accessible Travel for those with ‘disabilities’. We have people reach out to us that have been turned down by other travel companies because of the company’s inability to accommodate them. We don’t want anyone turned away from their dream of seeing the world & we don’t see it as hassle to make special accommodations for anyone to do so. In fact, my assistant just brought her mom along on one of our groups last year. Her mom is legally blind & profoundly hard of hearing, and boy you should have seen her in Africa! Nothing is stopping her, or us, from traveling anywhere!
Ntaba African Safaris is also adamant about philanthropy as well. As we grow as a company we are more & more involved in humanity based charities throughout Africa. We are a large contributor to Zabra- A Free Bra Initiative, and most of our clients will get involved by taking a suitcase full of baby clothing, bras, & panties to South Africa where they are given to local shelters & orphanages. Some of these women have never owned such luxuries, which is hard to imagine to us in the States.
One of our newest partnerships is in Rwanda with Acts for Rwanda. Stella & I have even ‘adopted’ one of the young boys there to sponsor his schooling, & provide him with other basic needs. I met him last year & will see him again soon. I have received letters & seen pictures of him & I am so excited to see his progress!
We often say in the Ntaba office that if you’re bored, you’re doing something wrong! This place is always hopping & adapting. You may even see Ntaba touring outside of Africa one of these days…