Authentic Tanzanian culture highlighted in Tanzanian Travel Evolution by Justa Lujawangana

The Essence of Tanzanian Travel through Curious on Tanzania of Justa Lujwangana

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:
In this captivating episode of TravelPreneur, we get into the Tanzanian Travel Evolution, with Justa Lujwangan, founder of Curious on Tanzania, exploring the transformative journey that travel experiences in Tanzania have undergone, thanks to innovative leaders in the tourism sector. We discuss how the traditional safari and beach holidays have expanded to include immersive cultural experiences and community development efforts. This evolution represents a shift towards more sustainable and authentic travel opportunities that offer a deeper understanding of Tanzania’s rich heritage and natural beauty.

Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners will gain invaluable insights into how travel and tourism can be leveraged to foster community development and cultural preservation. The episode provides practical advice for travelers seeking authentic experiences, as well as for entrepreneurs looking to make a positive impact in the tourism industry. Discover the importance of sustainable practices, community involvement, and the benefits of presenting travelers with a multifaceted view of Tanzania beyond its wildlife and pristine beaches.

About Our Guest:
Justa Lujawangana, the founder of Curious on Tanzania, is at the forefront of the Tanzanian Travel Evolution. Her unique approach to travel in Tanzania showcases the country’s diverse culture, landscape, and people in a way that transcends the conventional tourism model. Justa’s passion for her homeland and her commitment to introducing travelers to the real Tanzania have made her a key figure in transforming the Tanzanian travel scene.

Topics Covered:
The enlightening conversation covers a wide array of topics within the Tanzanian Travel Evolution, including the integration of cultural tourism, eco-friendly practices, and innovative travel experiences that go beyond the traditional safari. We discuss the impact of tourism on local communities, how to create authentic and memorable travel experiences, and the future of tourism in Tanzania. Join us as we explore how Curious on Tanzania is pioneering a new way of travel that enriches both the traveler and the local Tanzanian communities.

Our Guest: Justa Lujwangana- Shaping the Future of Tanzanian Tourism

Justa Lujawangana is the visionary founder of Curious on Tanzania, an innovative travel company that has become a catalyst for the Tanzanian Travel Evolution. Born and raised in Tanzania, Justa’s early life was deeply rooted in the rich tapestry of Tanzanian culture. Her journey took a pivotal turn when she moved to the United States at the age of 12. This transition exposed her to a blend of cultures, shaping her unique perspective on identity and belonging. Despite her time abroad, Justa’s connection to her homeland remained unbreakable, and it was this bond that eventually led her to venture back and re-discover Tanzania through a new lens.

Upon her return, Justa was struck by the beauty and diversity of Tanzania, from its world-renowned safaris and pristine beaches of Zanzibar to the vibrant local cultures that had always been a part of her heritage. This rediscovery ignited a passion in her to share Tanzania’s wonders with the world in a way that transcended conventional tourism. Leveraging her insights gained from living in both Tanzania and the US, Justa founded Curious on Tanzania, aiming to offer travelers an authentic and immersive experience of her beloved country. Her approach was not just about showcasing Tanzania’s natural beauty but also about revealing the warmth and richness of its communities and cultures.

Under Justa’s leadership, Curious on Tanzania has grown into a pioneering force in the travel industry, embodying the essence of the Tanzanian Travel Evolution. Her innovative initiatives focus on sustainable tourism and community involvement, ensuring that visitors not only witness the beauty of Tanzania but also contribute positively to its preservation and growth. Justa’s work extends beyond organizing tours; she actively engages with local communities to incorporate their knowledge and skills into the travel experience, thus fostering economic development and cultural exchange. With her at the helm, Curious on Tanzania has set a new standard for what travel can and should be—a journey that respects and enriches both the traveler and the host community.

Episode Transcript

Justa Lujawangana: Present your truth and who you are, everything else will come to you. The majority of my team, they are who they are. Just how I am, who I am, Tanzanian. I’ve lived in the US and I don’t hide that I’m Tanzanian who has lived in the US. I do have the mannerisms that I picked up from the US, but also I do have the mannerisms that I picked up from my country. When I’m showcasing something, I will pick both perspectives. And now we’re able to tell I’m presenting you in this manner because this is my truth and this is what I know.

Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist, Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on TravelPreneur. Welcome to the TravelPreneur podcast, where we explore innovative travel ideas and experiences. I’m your host, Meghan McSwain. Today we have the pleasure of talking with Justa Lujawangana, the inspiring founder of Curious on Tanzania. Join us as we delve into her journey of showcasing the beauty of Tanzania and creating transformative travel experiences. Hello, Justa. Welcome to the show.

Justa Lujawangana: Thank you, thank you so much for having me.

Megha McSwain: Can you share how Curious on Tanzania offers a unique perspective on travel, different from your typical touristic kind of experience?

Justa Lujawangana: It probably will have to start from my journey. As a Tanzanian, I was born and raised in Tanzania. I went to school in Uganda. I also ended up in the US at the age of 12. So from 12 to almost 18 I was missing my home country. I didn’t visit it of course, because I was busy in school, but when I had the opportunity to go back and visit, it was almost you’re seeing it from a different perspective. I was like, oh my God, this is amazing. This is beautiful. I came back, started sharing with my friends, and then I was like, okay. My friends were like, no, what else? They were not ready for it. Then I simmered down, went to college, and then my uncle, who is in the travel industry, came back again and was like, you need to look at Tanzania again. From there I went back to Tanzania and did the safaris because before when I was going back home, it was just visiting home, just a typical Tanzanian experience. But then when I was exposed to the safaris, how tourists see it, the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar, the animals, Monkwearmouth-Jarrow, and just all the tourist stuff. I was like, oh my God, I need to tell all my friends about it. I came back and shared it with my friends. They were like, no, we don’t want to see just animals. what else? They kept on saying, what else, what else, what else? And then I had to keep on digging. Coming from a place where, yes, it’s my home country, but on the other flip side, it’s I’ve been in the US for so long that I know more of the US compared to knowing my country, but they expect me to be an expert. So what I do is either tell them a lie or I become the expert in the area. I chose, of course, to figure out a way how to become an expert in that area. Out of my curiosities, and knowing my friends and everybody else who’s also interested in wanting to know more about the country and just listening to people and what their interests are, what they want to find out about the country. That’s what makes us special because my one curiosity is to just listen to people and understand what are they most curious about, and what they want to know more about that particular country. We started from there. We worked to figure out, okay, what are you looking for? What do you want? Then I come in, okay, we have this, that, that, let’s put it together, let’s come to the country, let’s explore, let’s have fun, let’s enjoy the nightlife, let’s enjoy the Monkwearmouth–Jarrow, middle of the day. So it’s all that fun stuff, immersed in it, out of my own curiosities, in just wanting to show people the best of both worlds. Between being a local Tanzanian and also being on the tourist side. So I’m combining those two, which gives you an experiential experience that you’ll be able to come on.

Megha McSwain: You have a lot of experience with traveling back there and also being from there for the first 12 years of your life. But now with this company that you have, in what ways do you ensure that your tours authentically represent Tanzanian culture and heritage? Do you have experts on the ground there? I’m sure you’ve made contacts over the years, people you work with.

Justa Lujawangana: Definitely, so currently I’m in New York, but I’ll be leaving on Monday, to go back to Tanzania. I ended up making it my goal because I’m one of my goals was to go back home and find a way to contribute to my local economy. There are a lot of NGO organizations in the country, there are a lot of other entities. But I wanted to do something where it’s a social good or a business that also has a social good aspect to it, not just and then making sure that the people who are involved, it’s not I’m just helping them. But there’s a saying that “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s the kind of system that I follow where I’m in the country almost 70% of the time. While I’m there, I go through different experiences, and if I feel this would be a cool experience to add to our itineraries, I would give some advice when it comes to safety and security. It’s just how we make it where it’s a product that somebody could come and experience over and over again. When I’m in the country, I assist people who don’t think they belong in the tourism industry, but then how do you help in terms of you have something, you have an experience? I think this would be good if I could share this experience with this community.

Justa Lujawangana: At the end of the day, you get returns or you get money and you’re able to support your family and the person is able to experience it and learn more about the culture. That’s how I work with different members. We do have tour guides. We have almost a work between 30 people. We work together, people who are more permanent and then other people who come in and out. When it came to goodie bags, there was a time when I used to ship goodie bags from the outside. Then I noticed there’s this woman, Taylor, who always makes my clothes for me, her name is Aisha. We sat down one day and I was like, wait, you could make the goodie bags. Can you make it out of the African print? Then we’re going to put everybody’s name or labels. Can we add a journal in there and the cover of the journal, let it look like the cloth that’s on the bag? We ended up putting together that goodie bag. That goodie bag is now given to all of our clients that come in. So that’s how I work with different people in that manner. When I see talent, I don’t let it go. I just found ways of how we could be able to incorporate and showcase their part of what Tanzania is to them, to the world.

Megha McSwain: Can you recount an unforgettable experience that truly embodies the essence of Curious on Tanzania? Maybe someone that you worked with or a client, or maybe a story you can share?

Justa Lujawangana: So we recently hosted the fraternity there, called the cruise, it was them and their wives. So they came 17 of them all together. They came to the middle of the Serengeti, and while they were in the middle of the Serengeti, the cruise had a routine that they do within the fraternity in the middle of the Serengeti, they started doing that routine. These are people who are in their 50s while they are doing it, jumping and stepping and everything. I have it actually on my Instagram and when they were doing it, I just saw this excitement on them and they were all smiling and just remembering their days when they were in college and just how much they were having fun. But then they also reflected, they were like, wait, are we in the middle of the Serengeti? Who does this in the middle of the Serengeti? Those experiences from the client, when they literally bring them back in time, and then the present time, and then they can’t believe where they are and they’re thankful for where they are. But they brought their personality. They brought who they are, wherever they are, and just realize, are we in the middle of Serengeti? Are we in the middle of the eighth wonder of the world?

Megha McSwain: You have to stop and soak in that moment because it’s that incredible. I know exactly what you mean. This episode is brought to you by travel businesses have unique needs when it comes to credit card processing, from large average ticket sizes and tolerance for higher chargeback ratios to simple integrations with the most popular shopping cart systems, the travel industry specialists at have you covered. Unfortunately, many of the most popular credit card processors initially accept travel businesses, but without warning, freeze their merchant accounts and the thousands of dollars in them. Because these service providers don’t understand or support the unique needs of the travel industry business. Don’t get stuck with one of the big guys who will freeze you out without a moment’s notice. Instead, work with a travel industry specialist who will support your business every step of the way. Visit to get a free quote today. So facing the challenge of integrating tourism with community development, how does Curious on Tanzania contribute to the social tourism economy? Are there certain restaurants that you work with or community efforts? You’re working with vendors that you know of, but on a larger scale, hotels, and things like that, how do you contribute to that social tourism economy?

Justa Lujawangana: Let me say that the tourism industry is pretty much dominated by the outside world, I would say. This is just my statistics. I should say probably only 30% of the tourism dollar will end up in the country. For example, in Tanzania, a lot of the companies from the lodges all the way to others to the services, it’s probably owned by a foreign company. This is just for my little knowledge. It’s not saying that it’s statistically proven. It’s almost less than 30% of the money goes on the ground. So what we try to do is because I’m also Tanzanian myself and I live 70% of the time in Tanzania, we try our best to find ways of how we could work with, our local distributors. For example, in the Dar es Salaam, we work with Chef Fred and Chef Fred owns this amazing restaurant which is called Africando. When it comes to food experiences, that’s the best place to go. It’s almost in the middle of the urban area. Let me say, that if you’re staying in a five-star hotel and you end up going in the middle of Dar es Salaam, it’s called Mwananyamala. You look around, the homes are antique homes, I would say, not old, but it’s dirt roads. But when you get there and you taste the food, you’re like, oh my God, this is a good meal. But the chef will always be there, the chef is there to be able to show you the passion of his food and what it’s all about, tell you his story. That’s how we contribute, and we try our best to find ways to where experts are and connect them to the travelers who are coming in. Then again, it’s because we are called Curious on Tanzania for a reason. It’s whatever you’re curious on the country itself, you let us know and we guide you to the people who would fulfill your curiosities when it comes to these local experiences, sometimes even a smaller company will be able to direct people in a better way. Whenever they have clients who are looking for that local, authentic experience, we are able to guide them and help them. That’s another way how the bigger companies could be able to still contribute by using a small company to be able to impact the local economy in that sense, a direct impact.

Megha McSwain: How do you maintain the balance between showcasing Tanzanian culture and food and all of that local goodness, and ensuring it remains unaltered by tourism, too, all the hustle and bustle of just tourists?

Justa Lujawangana: I don’t know if there’s local control, but when it comes to my team and me, all I tell them is to present your truth and who you are and then everything else will come to you. The majority of my team, they are who they are, just how I am, who I am, Tanzanian. I’ve lived in the US and I don’t hide that I’m Tanzanian who has lived in the US. I do have my mannerisms that I picked up from the US, but also I do have my mannerisms that I picked up from my country. When I’m showcasing something, I will pick both perspectives. Now we’re able to tell I’m presenting you in this manner because this is my truth and this is what I know. Then when it comes to also preserving the culture, that’s the same steps that we take we do, of course, learn more about the particular cultures. Then, of course, figuring out ways of how to present it. If it’s dense, we will work on getting the people from that particular tribe to be able to show that particular dance. If it’s an ordinary experience, we want a chef who has more knowledge of that particular experience to be able to share with us the food. If it comes to guiding, for example, in Zanzibar, you have to be a local of Zanzibar and have a local license to be able to guide people around. So I’m not going to get a guide from the mainland to do the guiding in Zanzibar. I will use a guide in Zanzibar who has the knowledge and the licenses to be able to give an experience in Zanzibar.

Megha McSwain: Looking ahead into the future, how do you envision the evolution of travel experiences in Tanzania? Are you seeing things changed and sort of trends changing there?

Justa Lujawangana: We need more experience. I think we focus more on safaris and Zanzibar, but there’s more to explore beyond. I know there are a couple of companies that have started going beyond, creating more experiences. For example, the air Balloon Safari, and bush lunches. Zanzibar has a lot of coronary experiences. We need more ziplining, we need all of those. America has so many vast experiences. For our country, we also need to have those options. But it’s also an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come in and say, hey, I’m going to have a ziplining company and I’m going to open it. Let me say, for example, in Zanzibar and all the tour operators like, please bring all your guests here. There’s a lot of room for when it comes to water sports and experiences, we have boats, but we don’t have enough yachts. Even foreign investors who are coming into the country are open to foreign investments, but also local investments. There are so many creative ways of how we could be able to use the land to be able to support the people who are within the country.

Megha McSwain: Are there any hidden gems or excursions or things that you can share that you think people should know about?

Justa Lujawangana: A lot of people visit probably 5% of Tanzania. The majority of people have visited probably 5 to 10% of Tanzania. That’s the northern sector with the safaris and then, of course, Zanzibar. In the rest of the country, which is 90%, there’s a lot of hidden gems. If you come to my village, when it comes to culture, just being able to learn about the kings and queens, the kingdoms were abolished when we got our independence in the ’60s, but you could still be able to come in and learn more about it. There is one of my hidden gems, there’s a hot spring in the hot Springs located in Moshi. When you go into that, the hot spring itself is like a pond, it’s not even a river, but it’s so warm in there. You could be able to go in and just enjoy yourself in the middle of the forest, in the middle of nowhere. Hidden gems are everywhere. I never hid a gem. I don’t know if this is a hidden gem or not. There’s an island called Nabudere. Not a lot of people go to that island, but a lot of the locals know about it and we are there. It’s only probably 15 minutes away from Dar es Salaam, which is a crazy city. Everything is happening, but 15 minutes later you’re on this island. If you go on Monday or Tuesday, you’re there by yourself. They have food there that you could order lobster, fresh lobster, fresh seafood, fresh, everything that you want. You would just sit there on the beach and just watch the water. You could be in the water, you could spend 20-30 minutes in the water because the Indian Ocean is one of the most peaceful oceans. But it’s very warm, and calm. You could just be in the water the whole time. That’s one of my favorite places. I don’t know if it’s a hidden gem. Maybe it’s a hidden gem to foreigners, but locals, we do know it and we do go there. So those are the fun places to go.

Megha McSwain: Amazing. This is the stuff people need to know. You’ve sold to me. I’m sold on coming to Tanzania. It sounds amazing. I love Hot Springs and all of that. That is right up my alley. For those who are inspired to start their travel ventures, what essential advice would you offer based on your own experiences?

Justa Lujawangana: Starting with the travel company, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot. But of course, it takes persistence and courage, courage to make that decision to start. Once you make that decision to start, you see everything will start flowing. Just being authentic to yourself, taking advantage of your authenticity, whatever that’s authentic to you. For me, since I was born in Tanzania, that Tanzania is something that nobody could take away from me, but I could add to it. So I started from that. Being a Tanzanian, going back home to do research, did not take me as much money compared to if I’m going somewhere where I don’t know, and then starting from scratch. So starting from where you are and building up as you go, that’s what I did. I just started almost ten years ago. I just viewed on as I went along and I’m still doing that.

Megha McSwain: You’re doing a great job of it. I can just feel the love that you have for the country and the passion and how much knowledge you have. So thank you so much, Justa, for sharing all of this. I know, there are probably endless things we could talk about with Tanzania, and I look forward to hearing more. Let our listeners know where they can connect with you and where they can learn more about Curious on Tanzania.

Justa Lujawangana: So we’re Curious on Tanzania, and we love social media. On Instagram, Facebook, on everything. You could also Google us. Just type in Curious on Tanzania, you’ll be able to find us on almost every platform.

Megha McSwain: thank you so much for joining us. And to our listeners, please follow and subscribe for more episodes of TravelPreneur and leave us reviews. That helps a lot. Thank you so much. We’ll talk again soon.

Justa Lujawangana: Thank you.

Megha McSwain: You’ve been listening to TravelPreneur by make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast listening platform so you never miss a new episode, and we’ll see you again soon on TravelPreneur.