From eco-warrior to tour operator

SIPHIWE Rakgabale (38), an eco-warrior and nature lover, is now the successful owner of Tri-Eco Tours in Durban.

He is also the youth branch of WESSA in Durban and the coordinator of Litterbooms and Green Corridors cleanups. Rakgabale was one of the first nature and cultural guides mentored, trained and employed under Green Corridors’ sustainability program to empower young people in the environment and tourism industry, with a view to enabling them to start their own business in this sector.

He was born in Pinetown and raised in Soweto. He found his way back to KwaZulu-Natal as a young adult to reconnect with his family. He ended up working in a retail store on West Street in Durban, working in various departments over the years.

“I loved my job and I did well,” he said.
“But something was missing and I felt dissatisfied and very frustrated. During my lunch breaks, I would go for a walk on the beach and I loved listening to the birds, seeing the trees, the blue sky. This is where I felt at peace.

As he grew closer to nature, Rakgabale began volunteering at Beachwood Mangrove cleanups where he met former Green Corridors leader Gary Cullen and others at the Umgeni Estuary Conservancy, including Margaret Burger from WESSA.

He planted trees and cleared trails for hiking with Burger, and also enjoyed bird watching in the Umgeni Estuary Reserve. He then joined Green Corridors when the Green Hub (near Blue Lagoon) was formed ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Rakgabale’s love for nature and his passion for the environment were evident. He was among the first people employed by Green Corridors and worked as an ambassador to businesses for help.

His enthusiasm and interest led him to train as a tourist and nature guide at the Wilderness Leadership School. After working for Green Corridors for seven years.

He left to take up a sought-after position in retail, but soon realized that his heart lay in the natural environment. In 2017 he established Tri-Eco Tours, a partnership with Bike and Saddle operating out of the offices of Green Corridors, offering bike tours around Durban.

In 2020 Rakgabale started offering bike rental, guided canoeing and bike tours for individuals and groups as well as school groups. Hit hard by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, his business all but shut down that year.

“There were no inquiries, no leads, no reservations and no one to take on walks, rides and trails. It was difficult for all of us in tourism during the hard lockdown,” he said.

“I used this time to invest in my business and my personal life. I rebuilt my website, did some maintenance work on my house and focused on beach cleanups and Green Corridors waste management,” he added.

Now that the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, Rakgabale tours are now fully operational with the necessary protocols in place.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have been given to really spread my wings in this sector of envirotourism. I care deeply about our planet and am so happy to now be able to run my own business and create a sustainable life through everything I love.

To book a city bike tour call 031 322 6026 or Whatsapp 078 7264 890.

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