Mr S

Kenya Guru

My 40th birthday in Kenya with my family may have indeed been a perfect day in the world of safari: it began with a biplane flight over the Lewa Conservancy, then we all rode together on horseback to a bush breakfast where my kids were amazed at the “magic bacon” that appeared sizzling and hot from behind a tree. Then it was off for a game drive during which we saw fantastic lion, ending the day with a surprise camel ride back to the lodge! This is the kind of experience I aim to craft for my travelers, too. Kenya is one of the few safari countries left that has many owner-run lodges and camps and a vast range of authentic cultural experiences alongside world-class game-viewing. It is also good for all types of travelers – from first time safari-goers to fifth-time visitors, and it’s especially fun for families with kids of any age.

Kenya is an interesting country that’s probably regarded as the home of the classic “Out of Africa” safari. This popularity did tend to produce a mass tourism model, which perhaps at some time, gave the country a bad reputation. However, I know the country intimately, and there are some truly unspoiled gems to be found. The Singing Wells of the Samburu people are a magical experience. Every morning, the Samburu warriors bring their cattle to a dry river bed near Sarara Camp. Naked, they dig deep wells for drinking water, singing in rhythm that synchronizes the team work as buckets are lifted from one man to another and the well is dug. The songs also call each warrior’s cattle to his well. This is one for the memory banks as it cannot be photographed. An important and highly personal ritual, this tribal tradition is cultural, mystical and spiritual.

Before discovering the travel industry, I was a farmer’s son, born and raised in the UK. To be completely honest, I was a terrible scholar and couldn’t wait to leave school! I worked on farms, in restaurants and as a high-end ski guide for Powder Byrne. In 1991, I headed to South Africa to work as a cocktail barman in Cape Town, quickly followed by a stint as a white-water raft guide on the Zambezi River. After that, I spent six years at a travel company working with clients who had been to Africa before: photographers, adventurers and even Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, who entrusted me with the plans for his family safari. I eventually co-founded a safari company in the UK and later moved to the US to open offices there. I now head an experiential, luxury travel company specializing in customized private journeys to incredible destinations all around the world.

I’ve been on safari 40-50 times, and it’s my goal is to continue discovering new places and revisiting old favorites to make sure that standards exceed my guests’ expectations. In Kenya, I’ve guided and hosted numerous trips, climbed Mount Kenya, walked with tribes in Laikipia, visited community and conservation projects and visited all the many wonderful lodges and camps in the country. My knowledge is both highly specific – the best wildlife, regions, cultural interactions and activities – and broad-based including rustic comfort to luxury, active to slower paced, and how to keep kids of all ages entertained. I’m a huge advocate of family travel – I have taken my own children on safari and know that safety is a priority for parents, while adventure is the key for kids. I don’t sell circuits with “chain” lodges, rather I think it’s key to mix accommodations, guides, locales and even accommodation styles to give guests exposure to everything from fly-camping in the bush to ultimate luxury. I know which camps have guides that truly engage children of all ages, at which they will learn to make bows and arrows or about conservation or get an authentic glimpse of tribal culture. Africa is all about the wildlife but I think it’s who you know and what you know that gives you access to unique experiences that truly enrich a family’s journey.

Based in: United States
Preferred language: English
Market strengths: Family, Wildlife, Luxury
Other countries: Zambia

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