Tusker’s expansion out of Africa has been an organic, exploratory process that has not been lifted from a 10 year plan. That expansion began in 2008, but was in the works for decades, part of Tusker founder’s Eddie Frank’s restless search for adventure.
While his roots are deeply embedded in Africa’s red dirt, Eddie has never lost his wanderlust or his intellectual curiosity about different cultures and the world’s unique ecosystems. He has sought out innovative destinations before the herd descends. Cuba is now hot, but Eddie was trekking through Castro’s Sierra Maestra mountains 20 years ago, but decided it was not right for Tusker.
Instead he found other places and it was his interest in astronomy that propelled him to offer one of Tusker’s first trips outside Africa into Mongolia in 2008.
Following Stars and Sun
Eddie’s friendship with NASA astronomer Dr. Laurence Doyle led Tusker to discover how magical Mongolia was. The two started doing astronomy expeditions in 1983 in Northern Kenya and by 2001 Eddie offered Tusker’s first solar eclipse trip in Zambia. In 2006 Eddie and his new wife Amy, traveled 3,000 miles in Mongolia and came back awed by its pristine wilderness. It was a hell of a honeymoon and led to the growth of the Tusker travelling family.
A Mongolia eclipse trip in 2008 attracted 47 participants and was the spark that fueled Tusker to open other new destinations. That eclipse trip was centered in the far reaches of Western Mongolia near the Chinese border and it pushed the adventure envelope. It was the precursor to Tusker’s Mongolia trek. Traveling by horse, camel and foot, the trek leads adventurers to the Altai Tavn Bogd National Park and a campsite beneath Mongolia’s largest glaciers.
Instead of reformulating someone else’s trip, Tusker came up with something original and it garnered media attention. Outside Magazine designated it, “Trip of the Year,” in 2011. It encouraged Eddie and Amy to keep pushing boundaries and find new Tusker adventure travel destinations.
Keeping Nepal Healthy
Climbing Mt. Everest was never a consideration; Eddie and Amy knew that just getting to Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet) was hard enough. In May 2009 they were invited by a former client to go to Nepal to provide medical support and it paid future dividends.
“An Everest climber and seven-summiter had climbed with me up Kili three times and wanted to run a trip to Everest Base Camp but knew there were extreme medical implications leading a 30-strong trek. These included GI (gastro-intestinal) problems, so he asked Amy and me to come along and be his medical team, thus allowing us to scout the trip at the same time. After the third day we had 28 of the 30 people cramping, vomiting and with diarrhea. We managed to fix everyone and succeeded in getting 27 of the 30 to base camp,” Eddie recalls.
Today’s Tusker trips to Everest Base Camp go through that same Khumbu Valley and stays at the best lodges along the way, but Eddie & Amy trained up their own cooking team with hygienic meal preparation, which keeps their trekkers healthy and happy during the entire adventure.
Tell Us What You Want
Since Everest, Tusker has expanded to Bhutan and Iceland and adds Peru this summer. Tusker doesn’t operate in a bubble of its founder’s bucket wish list or follow its competitors chasing the next new hot destination. Listening to its own experienced clients is a big part in the behind the scenes filtering of future Tusker trips.
Tusker client survey responses are triggering exploratory trips this year that could lead to new destinations. Eddie is saddling up to explore Patagonia as this article is being written, and Andrew Springsteel, Tusker’s South America guide, is trekking down to Chile in March. They are seeking something novel for the Tusker tribe.
If you help weigh in on how Tusker runs their trips, we will thank you with the chance to win a free trek. Take the 3 minute survey here.