Alden Boon

The Travel Love Story of Earthstompers Bosses Hendrik & Chrissy Human


He was from Cape Town, she was from Kansas City. He was the tour guide, she was the traveller. Hendrik Human and Chrissy Wolfersberger-Human met while they were on tour, and against the backdrop of Cape Town’s spellbinding romance, they fell in love. Together they run Earthstompers, a travel agency that operates in Cape Town, South Africa.

Wine glasses clinking. Silhouettes against a dramatic sunset.  A 73-year-old guest celebrating her first canoeing adventure. First-time sky divers about to take their first leaps.  Earthstompers’s Instagram account is an enviable diary of blissful travel and bed-of-roses moments. We chat with the two founders to learn about their very own love story as well as the business of making memories.

Hendrik, Chrissy’s dad was with her on that very fateful tour. Were you nervous about asking her out with him around?

Hendrik (H): He was the least of my worries: he is by nature relaxed and calm. I could tell he really liked me. Plus, I brought him some red wine and biltong, so he was happy. I was, however, nervous about picking Chrissy up for our first date at The Blues in Camps Bay!

Chrissy (C): (laughs) He broke the tour guide’s “code of ethics” of not dating your guests!

Chrissy, what did you see in Hendrik?

C: It’s such a cliché to fall in love with your tour guide, isn’t it? I liked his confidence, his organisational skills, and the vast knowledge he had of all the places we visited. He knows how to take charge and sort problems out. I will say to this day these are still some of his traits that I like.

To others who have never been to the country, they may have pre-conceived notions about South Africa: that she’s unsafe or underdeveloped. What would you say to that?

C: My take on the crimes and political situation is that all countries have their pros and cons. The United States (US) certainly has her own issues as well. South Africa promises a great lifestyle: I love the way locals get together. There’s a braai for every occasion, from graduations to funerals. It’s intimate. In the US, we don’t entertain quite as much — no one takes a whole afternoon to enjoy a barbecue. Natural beauty abounds here as well. You can climb Table Mountain, Signal Hill or Lion’s Head any day. And that’s why I chose to stay in this country. It’s not perfect, but nowhere is.

Giving it all up for love… Was it difficult making the move from the US to Cape Town?

C: The cards just fell into place. I was previously working for an environmental protection agency and prior to the move I emailed a few similar agencies in Cape Town. But I saw that Hendrik needed help with administrative matters, and began assisting with the business’s financial management. I guess the fact that he had a business made it easy — if I had to struggle financially for months on end I would have been unhappy.

Tell us about the wedding.

H: We got married at Myoli Beach, Sedgefield. The place has special significance as it is one of our favourite stops on the Earthstompers’s route. We love the wildness of the pristine beach, stunning sunsets and splendid views from the sand dune. It was also where we had our first kiss! For our wedding, we wanted something different: casual and romantic. Our party of 90 enjoyed bubbly and oysters from Mossel Bay on the sand dune while watching the sun set over the Indian ocean. That evening, we had a fish braai, music, fire dancers and drank till well past midnight!

Hendrik and Chrissy had to spend a few months apart before she eventually moved to Cape Town. "The heart grew fonder each day."

Marriage is tough as it is, now add running a business to an already intricate equation. How do you two function as a husband-and-wife duo?

C: We complement each other. He’s an extrovert and I an introvert. He likes being around people; I like the nitty gritty. Take for example drafting a reply to decline a request: He’s got the big-picture idea, but I’ve the nuance to write it in a way that doesn’t offend the recipient. Hendrik is really ace at handling situations, so I usually provide a listening ear and brainstorm the best way to handle a problem.

What problems would arise?

H: The shower at a hostel may not be working. A vehicle may break down. Once, I had a female guest who had to stay at a different hostel due to ongoing construction works at the premises. She felt lonely. I immediately phoned the owner of the hostel, found her another room, bought her a bottle of wine, and resolved the issue. I wasn’t thinking about how it would cost me 1,900 Rand for the room. Problems will arise, but you have to go above and beyond to fix them.

Also, problems sometimes arise due to heightened expectations — a result of third-party agents overselling our tour packages. The Earthstompers tour is not about luxurious resorts or five-star hotels, the likes of which dot the landscapes of Dubai or Bali. We opt for hostels and backpacker’s inns, as we want our guests to meet the locals and savour a slice of the South African life.

Describe to us the Earthstompers experience.

H: A great mix of adventure, nature, culture and wildlife, our tours take you to one of South Africa’s most beautiful parts: Garden Route. The tours start on Mondays at 8am. The itinerary is one I have had for 11 years, with some tweaks made over the years. I love animals, and so I added Addo Elephant Park as a sightseeing must-do. Mossel Bay was where I grew up. I was a lifeguard, and my friends and I spent a good part of our lives on the beach. The Cango Caves, which mystifies with its 150 000 years of history, is also a pit stop.

Inverted Comma

To aspiring entrepreneurs, don’t worry if you’re starting small. Go slow, go the extra mile for your customers, collect your word-of-mouth recommendations, and eventually you will catch up with the big guns.

Inverted Comma Bottom

These are places I’d imagine you love dearly. How did Earthstompers begin?

H: When I was 21, I worked as a manager in a tour agency. I occasionally moonlighted as a guide. After two years on the job, I grew envious of the tour guides. I realised that I was a picky person: there were accommodation options my then boss chose that I did not like. And so I decided to start my own business circa January 2006. I began approaching travel agencies, armed with a self-designed brochure and thick South Afrikaan accent, to offer my services. My first-ever tour was a private one, with three Swiss girls in tow.

You’ve recently welcomed a new addition to the Earthstompers family: boss baby William. How have things changed?

C: I’m very lucky that we have a nanny who watches William in the mornings, and then I’m with him in the afternoons.  This is a great balance for me — I think it’s very difficult to be either a full-time office worker or a full-time stay-at-home mom.

H: It is my hope that William be involved in the family business. By then, maybe we would add three or four vehicles to our arsenal, and grow the team to no more than 10 guides. I want to keep things small.

As a service provider, what is your biggest fear?

H: Getting our first negative review on TripAdvisor. We once received two three-star reviews written by a couple. We were devastated, and we read the reviews over and over again. We were like straight-A students who had just got their first B’s.

It’s a blemish on a 300-and-counting five-star track record. What was the feedback about?

H: They weren’t necessarily negative reviews, but we took them hard. The couple commented there was too much driving. That, however, is to be expected for an overland tour that takes you from Stellenbosch to the far end of Mossel Bay, and back. I think there was a language barrier, and the couple did not understand the nature of the Earthstompers tour: raw, fun and authentic. I worried if the two reviews would affect our guests’ perceptions of us. Chrissy assuaged my fears by reasoning that other travellers can read between the lines. Thankfully, our reviews have been glowing thus far.

Inverted Comma

From father to son, I’d say ‘Be patient’. Both in business and life. Enjoy what you do, and never be in too much of a hurry.

Inverted Comma Bottom
Having assembled a first-rate team, Hendrik worries they would one day leave the company. He says cultivating a positive relationship and rewarding their efforts are key to talent retention.

Were there any nadirs in your career?  

H: In my earlier days, I kept my nose to the grindstone. I wanted to handle all the tours myself, and I just could not bring myself to trust another person. But I hit my limit when I did seven or eight tours in a row without a break. I had a group with me, and we stopped for a refuel at a gas station. I was just tired and tears were flowing — but I wasn’t crying. I dried my face and called Nicole, a fellow tour guide, and asked if she could take my next tour. Trusting someone else was a huge step for me.

What is the role of a tour guide?

H: Most guests are on tour to have fun. Some are going through a life-changing or emotional experience. You have to be a counsellor and a very good listener.  Above all, you must possess a sparkling personality and boundless energy.

We read a lot about the impact of travelling — how it transforms a person. What are your thoughts on that?

H: I’ve seen so many people get out of their shells. We have travellers, who are super shy at the start of the tour, dancing on tables on the last night. I think when we travel, we open our eyes to the world and a different life.

C: The lesson that I enjoy over and over again is that travelling allows you to see your life from the outside in.

Which destinations make your travel bucket list?

H: I’d love to rent a camper and explore New Zealand without any travel plans. See the mountains, be one with the forests.

C: My travels have always taken me to Europe and Australia. I’m looking forward to exploring more countries when William is old enough to enjoy the experiences.

For more information on Earthstompers, please visit


Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.