In 2014, Niarra founder Byron Thomas tagged annual leave onto a work trip to visit Africa's oldest national park, Virunga, in the DRC.
It was there, trekking into the forest with armed guards and rangers like Innocent Mburanumwe, that Byron first appreciated the phenomenal investment that goes into critical, large-scale conservation projects. Virunga and its gorillas couldn't exist without tourism revenue. They also wouldn't exist without the brave people risking their lives to protect it, as seen in the Virunga documentary released at a similar time.
On that trip, it soon became evident that community buy-in and shared value is vital for the long-term protection of the natural world. The trip planted a seed that positive impact travel treads an incredibly complex and fine line but one that is essential for communities, nature, and our planet's health.
Niarra was born not from a light bulb moment but a creeping realisation that change is overdue. The clock is ticking on traditional tourism models that serve profit before purpose and where destinations, communities, and conservation projects receive a fraction of client fees. The entire travel industry value chain needs to work together for greater equity and positive impact. Travellers are increasingly searching for transparency, a real impact, and destinations are more vocal in their needs.
The need for change was clarified and catalysed by Covid-19.
Recognizing this opportunity to shake things up, Niarra was founded in 2020 by a small, experienced team with the support of the Oppenheimer Generations community. Operating on two leading principles, transparency and purpose, Niarra creates unforgettable trips to inspiring places while directing more tourism revenue to the people and communities protecting our increasingly fragile natural world. In doing so, we hope to send a ripple of change throughout the industry. This is just the start.