In Kenya, conservation of the natural resources and wildlife and the involvement and development of local communities go hand-in-hand with the sustainability of the camps and the ability to provide authentic experiences. Follow our journey as we explore seven properties that offer unique experiences for their travelers, are committed to conserving Kenya’s natural resources and wildlife, and are intimately involved in the development of their local communities.
If you’re just joining us in this multi-part series featuring seven of Kenya’s top properties, be sure to click here for the rest of the posts. Today we’re interviewing Mark Boyd, The Safari Collection’s Community and Conservation Manager.
What is the best thing about your job?
It can sound very cliche, so I hesitate, but by far and above the best thing is the chance to give back. My privilege is to give back on behalf of The Safari Collection and all of our guests to the people and conservation projects we support every year. The job is often emotional, sometimes difficult, always demanding, but never fails to be incredibly rewarding and I get to make small but very genuine differences to the lives of tens of thousands of people while helping to conserve wilderness and endangered species. Secondly (and I know you only asked for one thing!) it is the variety: One day I might be running a project in Samburu (right this minute I’m sitting in a classroom supervising a project ongoing this week at three local schools working on FGM and HIV education), another I’ll be in the Mara working with the Mara Cheetah Project on a new conservation initiative or another I’ll be sat in Nairobi at our offices in Giraffe Manor. That’s just a scratch on the surface of what I do but it gives you an idea of why I live and love it.
Describe your perfect day in the bush.
An early morning coffee at Sala’s Camp with delicious ginger biscuits listening for lions from my bed and planning which way I’ll go out that morning. Then driving out of camp at first light with friends or family, finding those same roaring lions and parking up nearby to soak up the tranquility and unvarnished natural wilderness without any danger of interruption with another vehicle. After that who knows how the perfect day goes.
Do you have a favorite community or conservation project that The Safari Collection participates in?
We have so many projects it’s difficult to choose! I’m a huge believer in our anti-FGM work with the community in Samburu and our collaboration with the Mara Cheetah Project in the Maasai Mara but I think my favourite would be our project to rebuild the Honi Primary School at Solio because this was my first new initiative after I started my role as the Community and Conservation Manager in 2015. Now after two years of hard work the project is nearly over (or perhaps just getting started!). It all started over lunch at Sala’s Camp with an incredibly generous man, Mr. Charles Wickham, and has now flourished into 6 new, and 3 refurbished, classrooms, a dining hall, a kitchen, a staff office and a playground. I was at the school last week for a big presentation, and the votes of thanks in the forms of poetry, theater, and oratory from the pupils was incredibly heartwarming and shows how important this work is.
How successful has Sasaab’s daily food program for local school children been?
Hugely! For two reasons this year more than ever before. Firstly we have recently expanded our program to feed every child every day at each of the 10 local schools around Sasaab. That means we will provide over 200,000 school lunches this year to over 1000 children. Secondly 2016/17 had been a time of drought and so there has been huge pressure on families to take their children out of school to assist with herding their livestock wandering ever further in search of diminishing pastures and water. A free school meal provides a huge incentive for parents to keep their children in school and the headmasters have told me that the food program has been instrumental in doing that this year. Once in school, a good meal is vital to feed those hungry brains and helps the children to get good grades.
Most memorable trip you’ve ever been on?
It doesn’t get any better than guiding in the DRC at Virunga National Park. Where else in the world do you spend two consecutive days in the same place, doing two completely different things, both of which will stay burnished into your memory for the rest of your life? First, feeling that look of very human recognition in the eyes of a mountain gorilla as they pick at vines, just metres away, on the slopes of Mount Mikeno, and secondly, peering into the flaming depths of the world’s largest lava lake from the top of Mount Nyiragongo.
Number one tip for travelers?
Embrace every moment and try everything once (ok, almost everything).
Thanks, Mark! Up next, we’ll be taking a look at two of the Great Plains Conservation’s Properties, so be sure to come back tomorrow!