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. To see all of the posts from this multi-part series, click here.
Yesterday, we took at look at properties that make up The Safari Collection. Today, we’re interviewing Mikey Carr-Hartley, owner of The Safari Collection for a look at what makes the portfolio, and Mikey, unique.
What inspires you?
I have been raised around wildlife and understand the relationship between humans and animals on many different levels – my family used to move big game off land relocating them for farming, we trained wild animals for use in movies, we hunted them, we then moved them back to the farms we took them off and now we photograph them. My respect for the balance between conserving our wildlife and building a future for Kenya is part of what drives me. We are not a business with an unlimited cash flow. Our need to be sustainable is on many levels and sustainability does not just mean not using plastic bottles. It means protecting our business to ensure its sustainability so that we can continue to provide jobs, support local communities and of course conserve our wildlife. It is very hard work. But when you do get it right and you’ve not only managed to make it through a year of providing salaries and income for nearly 200 people, fed and watered your own family, but you’ve also given nearly quarter of a million USD back into communities, conservation, and other sustainability initiatives, AND you’ve had lots of happy guests, you realize – this can work. We can do this. It is incredibly inspiring. I also am very artistic and I like to build things. Running lodges is as much about creativity and building as it is about wildlife. Beautiful views, beautiful lodges, new ideas… all these things can be unbelievably inspiring for a creative soul.
What makes The Safari Collection unique?
Lots of things! Firstly – Tanya and I have literally built it ourselves. It has been our sweat, blood, and tears that have seen the lodges off the ground brick by brick (or zip by zip). It is our building team that we have sat with through the night getting the jobs done. Giraffe Manor was already there, but we built Garden Manor in two months. We spent two years finding the tiles to match the main house, we hand cut all the stones on site. I was personally there with the carpentry team installing the specially made staircase into Garden Manor on the morning our first guests arrived. Building Solio on a black cotton marshland is a whole other story and Sasaab cut out of hard rock. We are also the last Kenyan owned, Kenyan run group of properties in Kenya. Each of our properties is so different from the other. Many lodge operators will strive to deliver the same lodge, just in a different location. But there is no cookie cutter style to what we do – just a lot of heart and soul! We embrace the individuality of each destination and push for the sense of unity in the quality of the food, service, attention to detail and layers in each experience.
This is a hard one. I love the rugged arid terrain of Northern Kenya, the open Savannah of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem…..the general outdoors….could be fly fishing in Montana.
What’s your favorite property in the Safari Collection? Why?
This is an impossible question to answer. Each destination has been carefully selected for what it adds to someone’s Kenyan experience. They are all completely different. Giraffe Manor needs little explanation. Solio Lodge is the only lodge on Kenya’s first private conservancy. The quantity of the rhino there and the density of wildlife is mind blowing. But it is also a gentle restorative place with mountain views and a friendly climate – warm in the day and log fires at night. The sense of calm and restfulness when in your room alone, is a welcome break to any trip to Kenya. There’s a serenity and light to the place that I love. Sasaab is wild and beautiful. It fulfills my need for exploration and adventure. Being there warms the bones (literally – as it’s pretty hot in Samburu) and gets you out into the wilderness. The cultural element here is authentic and true. Sasaab is also a breathtaking lodge with private plunge pools and big views. Then there is Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara Reserve one of the world’s most famous game parks. We’re unbelievably spoiled with our location in a quiet corner away from the crowds. This was our first camp and named after our first baby – our eldest daughter – Sala. Need I say more.
Describe your perfect day in the bush.
Every day in the bush is a perfect day. Being on an adventure. Seeing new things (as you always see something new) and spending time appreciating the world for its natural beauty.
What do you hope guests take away after their time at one of the Safari Collection properties?
Simple – A love for Kenya and the desire to return. If people want to come back, you know you’ve done a good thing.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever been on?
The first time I went to Virunga National Park. This experience blew me away…..the diversity in terrain, the gorillas, and chimps at Tongo, the active volcano, Lake Edward and the Rwenzories……the place had it all. The other thing that was so unique was that it was a country where due to the civil war it was like the clock had stopped for 40 years. Two years ago we started our Paleontology Safari with Louise Leakey, I had been up to Turkana many times but this was on a different level…..the helicopter aspect gave us access to remote and wild places, but Louise Leakey and her team gave us insight into an ancient world….which they brought to life infant of all of us.
Essential. It’s not a luxury. It is a responsibility to experience the world and to appreciate its diversity and in the case of Kenya – to contribute to the sustainability of its wildlife and its people.
Thanks for joining us today. Next, we’ll be interviewing Mark Boyd, The Safari Collection’s Community and Conservation Manager.