Driving to the Masai Mara changed my career path- Laago

Isaac Laago (in white T-shirt) spreads cheer with a group of tourists. PHOTO/MARVIN MILES MUGERWA.

What you need to know:

  • Isaac Laago drove 590kilometres and got a handsome cheque. This propelled him to fall in love with driving in the wild.

Having fun while on the job is a concept many are still unable to fathom, but for 34-year-old Isaac Laago being a tour driver has seen him experience the Holy Grail sought after by all working-class humans. The tour driver has found a way to combine his love for adventure, wildlife and meeting new people in his job at the Uganda Tourism Board.

Laago’s younger self may have had different ambitions, perhaps to climb a corporate career ladder but his route would take a course change during his first job at the Bank of Baroda in 2016, where he drove his then superiors for more than 590 kilometres to the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

“I was paid handsomely yet I enjoyed the adventure. It was an amazing experience,” says Laago as he works the shift gear lever. 

This would inspire him to try tour guiding and driving. The long distances on the road that many dread, are rewarded by beautiful sceneries, lion roars, bird chirps, tasting regional dishes and cuisine for Laago, all thanks to his passion for the wild.

While on his job, Laago has met and interfaced with people from different walks of life on top of visiting different parts of the country.

“I have been able to appreciate different cultures and their traditions, it is interesting that it is an endless series with Uganda’s different cultural norms, when you go to Karamoja it is a unique taste, when you go to Bugwere or meet the Batwa it is different,” he explains

Laago man with a wealth of experience plying the tourism roads and destinations in the land. Obviously, he’s had some amazing experiences over the years, but he says that driving famous people is one of the best things he’s done. It is a wholesome experience to be chauffeur for big names in Uganda and beyond. Laago loves the unique challenges and rewards that come with these opportunities, and he considers them to be some of the most wholesome experiences of his career.

“I have had a number of memorable experiences but I point out this particular one because I was privileged to drive British commentator Rob Walker across different tourist attractions in the country after Joshua Cheptegei had won gold,” Laago says.

The tour driver firmly believes that his job extends far beyond simply transporting guests to their desired destinations. According to him, his role encompasses the crucial responsibility of being a torchbearer for responsible and sustainable tourism.

“We must be aware of our impact on the environment, we must benefit the local communities through buying their craft and products, this is the way to go,” Laago says.

Laago is certain that his current job has drastically changed his life for the better. Not only does it allow him to provide for his family, but it also enables him to make investments for the future. However, he acknowledges that just like any other job, there are inevitable challenges he encounters.

“Some of these challenges affect most of us, from the poor road network to the limited internet connectivity in the wild, it is on rare occasions that accommodation facilities have designated rooms for drivers and guides, it becomes inconvenient you have to drive more than 50 kilometres to find a place to stay,” he explains.

The future
 Laago is optimistic about his future prospects in the tourism industry. He envisions himself carving out a niche for himself in this burgeoning sector, which is seeing a steady influx of new players. He is well aware of the rapid pace at which technology is advancing and is determined to keep up with the latest trends and developments to remain competitive in the market.

Laago is confident that by staying up to date with the latest industry trends and leveraging emerging technologies, he will be able to establish himself as a leading player in the tourism sector.

About that time...Developing interest
The long distances on the road that many dread, Isaac Laago says, are rewarded by beautiful sceneries, lion roars, bird chirps, tasting regional dishes and cuisine. He attributes this to his passion for the wild.