“Rafiki” means friend in Swahili!
Did you know that each Thomson Family Adventure—with eight or more guests—is accompanied by a rafiki*? Our rafikis work with our guides; their main purpose is to enhance the overall trip experience, and especially to engage the children in their new surroundings. We used to call these companions “mentors,” but the job title didn’t convey the rich benefits of this staff member. We settled on rafiki as an acknowledgement of our flagship destination, Tanzania—and so you would ask “what’s a rafiki!”
Depending on the trip, the rafiki may be local to the destination, or may be American. While the job description may vary with each trip, there are some constants to the work. In essence, a rafiki is the “fun person” on board who provides lots of opportunities for recreational and bonding activities, especially among the children. A rafiki comes prepared as a resource, always offering a fun activity or great information.
A rafiki’s job is:
• To provide kid-friendly enrichment activities for up to an hour each day, enhancing the overall trip experience
• To provide organized fun for kids that helps them get to know each other
• To provide things for kids to do during delays, flights and long bus trips
• To give parents the chance to relax and enjoy a stress-free trip because their kids are engaged in interesting activities that help them appreciate other cultures.
A rafiki is not:
• A babysitter. While there are times when the rafiki will supervise the children, he or she is not there to discipline or take over parental duties.
• A tour guide. The local guide is the trip’s expert on the country visited. Any questions about the itinerary or the country should be directed to the guide. This includes food and lodging issues, concerns about excursions, and questions about local culture or native flora and fauna.
Here’s what past travelers had to say about their rafiki friend:
“The guides and rafiki were exceptionally wonderful and very kind! They answered all our endless questions… This is the best trip I’ve had”
–Jennifer Wineman: 12/22/14
“Our favorite part of the trip was the animals and hanging out with the rafiki and other kids. We were glad to have the rafiki along as he was willing to discuss political and social issues.”
“Hooking us up with two other families with kids the same age may have been the highlight of the trip. They all bonded well, facilitated by the rafiki. This was appreciated and the rafiki was really good at this work.
“The rafiki was wonderful. He was smart, informative, warm, and great with all ages. He was committed to ensuring a great experience for us all. He was fun to be around, funny, adventurous, attentive, and patient, all with a good sense of humor.”
–Lori Rafkin: 12/21/12
“Our rafiki made our trip perfect and so easy. She was smart, helpful, energetic, and highly knowledgeable. Do not underestimate the rafiki as a big part of the trip’s success!”
“Our rafiki kept the kids happy and taught them a lot in a very fun way. She was great.”
“Our rafiki very much enhanced our overall travel experience with activities and games. He became part of our family.”
–Doug Listman: 12/21/11
“The rafiki was good and especially helpful with the kids.”
–Jeff & Shari Grimes: 06/16/12
“Our rafiki was great with the kids, enthusiastic, and energetic.”
“The rafiki initiated and anticipated… a great help and enhancement to the trip. She was really a pleasant surprise, how having a rafiki made a better vacation both for the kids and adults.”
–Barb Barney: 07/05/14
“It was a wonderful trip. The guides and rafiki made it especially nice. Would highly recommend the trip and hope others got the same guides and rafiki.”
–Linda & Leland Foster: 07/13/14
“The rafiki was the nicest and smartest person in the entire world. She was so nice and I am sad to say goodbye to her. She (and the other family) made the trip.”
–Trip Gorman: 12/26/14
“Our guide, rafiki, and photographer went above and beyond to help the children bond with each other and make the activities fun. They enabled the adults to have a great time also.”
– Whitman: 03/15/14
*NOTE: There are no rafikis on our Trips with Teens and 20-Somethings, and certain custom and private trips.