History of Venture Forth
by Walt Meyer, 2022
Venture Forth was started in 1994 by Oliver Dolby, who was joined in 1997 by Walther Meyer. Together we formed much of the ethos and spirit of what today still guides the company, its dreams and goals and its future development.
We started off working out of our moms' houses, climbing and guiding every day and living with everything we owned able to fit in our backpacks. At the time mountain guiding in South Africa was in its infancy and we were probably the first two bona fide mountain guides in the country, living solely from mountain guiding and climbing instruction. We were the first mountain guides to have brochures at the offices of Cape Town Tourism, and worked with a number of outdoor gear shops to market our products.
Oliver departed Venture Forth and South Africa, to explore the world, in 2005, and I carried on with the business. We remain friends, and in contact to this day.
Venture Forth has always been strongly rooted in our belief in the power of adventure and thus also in outdoor education. Oliver studied outdoor education in the UK, and my whole outdoor foundation was based in attending as many school camps as I could, while in school in the 1980's and 90's.
While training as an alpine leader in the USA, in the late 90's, I fell in love with the idea presented by NOLS and developed the dream of becoming the NOLS of Africa. We pursued our love and interest for working with school children wholeheartedly. Venture Forth operated Venture Club, an outdoor education programme at Western Province Prep School, and gained our first major schools' client in the late 1990's. Today we are one of the premium outdoor adventure education providers in South Africa and often new ideas into our programming for many highly regarded schools.
On the guiding side we actively guided in South Africa and later expanded into East Africa, running trips to the high mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. We also ran trips to the Andes, like Aconcagua in Argentina. I actively pursued high altitude guiding in the early 2000's, but decided to focus on Africa as of 2010, and specifically our role in outdoor adventure education; and the training and development of professional adventure guides in Africa.
We are very proud of our guide school, and since 2001 we have been on the forefront of developing and delivering guide qualifications in South Africa. Our goal has always been to fully equip prospective guides with the skills set they need to be successful guides in a very challenging industry. Guiding in Africa is very different to guiding in many other parts of the world and we equip our guide school students to work in Africa, with its vast wilderness, lack of resources and specific challenges.
Both Oliver and I were some of the first persons to obtain instructor awards from the SA Mountaineering Development & Training Trust (MDT), and we were the largest provider of MDT courses for many years. We now prefer to offer proper professional qualifications registered with SAQA as it offers our students the legal qualifications they require, and we are transparently quality assured by the SETA's we work through.
I am extremely proud of the fact that many of our guide school students now run successful adventure businesses, and many actually compete with us for business in the guiding and education sector. We do not mind this. We run a guide school to make people successful and to get people employed. It is about empowerment. Today there are many, many guides and companies offering mountain guiding and other adventures in South Africa. We are proud and delighted to have been involved in the training of most of the qualified adventure guides in South Africa. Our students success is our success.
Venture Forth has a long background in social development and investment, and you can read more about some of the projects we are and were involved in here. We have sponsored many students on courses and assessments over the years, and have helped many adventure friends when they are in need. We are happy to serve the African adventure industry and will continue doing so.