From Strength To Strength
Gold guide exam.
One of the extraordinary things that happened was a leopard hung on a tree in our immediate testing area, and we had the opportunity to test the lads on their observation skills! I was amazed at hells gate because it is a transit route for walkers, bikers, matatus (taxis) and all and sundry, and this leopard was cool as a cucumber, still as a rock but in plain view in the branches of a huge fig tree; only 2 out of the 8 silver level guides being examined actually saw the leopard without having to be prompted to look again and again.
Gold guide training at Cottar’s.
We had fun! We learnt how to deal with difficult questions from clients, etiquette at the dinner table, how to get a faulty high lift jack to work, and how to walk with a gun in the bush. We had debates, wrote thesis on important conservation issues, and learnt about what do our guests really want - wilderness with wildlife, not just wildlife. We learnt how to approach wildlife, how to pick up trash thrown out by other less aware tourists, and the emotional intelligence needed to know what a guest needs before they themselves know they need something (i.e. 'marking their territories', blood sugar levels, Tusker stops, sun protection etc.)
This training course may well fill up fast based on the responses and feedback from this first session, so book now if you are a silver level KPSGA interested to go the next level to gold!
Stuart Butler project.
'Elephants r us' - star newspaper article.
In regards to the Mara, and our conservancy, it seems that we are making serious progress! There are no cattle in the game reserve, and a new program of basing the rangers in the new station nearby Cottar’s is finally paying off! Furthermore, the villages that were intransigent about moving off from the future conservancy land are moving as we speak, and I fully expect a clear conservancy by the middle of July at the latest. It has been a long hard road, but unless every member of the group ranch is for the idea, it just won't get off the ground. It seems we have achieved this. I will update you as it happens...
Following on from my presentation on the Mara conservancy model in South Africa at the 'beyond enforcement; resource rights, tenure and sustainable use as a way of tackling wildlife crime’ symposium hosted by IUCN, SULI and IIEED, all advisory bodies to world government on how to change policies and slow down the loss of biodiversity, wildlife and natural habitat around the world, I have since been invited to speak to European Union decision makers this month to support their cause. Unfortunately I won't make it as I am already pre booked, but I will be making a 10 minute film for them to see, explaining the payment for ecosystem services methods we are using in the Mara, and why it is probably the only mechanism that can secure wildlife in Africa into the future. We will post it on our websites for your interest in a week or so.
With that folks, all I can say is that bookings are looking up with our team doing a magical job in converting interest to firm bookings, even in this tough environment where every camp is discounting like mad. The rains have come with a vengeance! It has been flooding, and the other day the tractor’s hydraulic system locked (ingested water into the engine) trying to get our guests to their plane! (Ouch!)
Cheers for now!
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30th April 2015
Well, what an adventure ride we have been on for the last month! From taking on our own bookings and reservations from C&P, to meeting dozens of local destination marketing companies that channel international agents business, to SKAL meetings (we are members now!), to speaking at the IUCN ‘beyond enforcement – resource rights, tenure, and sustainable utilization as a way to deal with illegal wildlife trade’ symposiums in Johannesburg, and finally to presenting at the Kenya ecotourism symposium, where we contributed as new gold members.
In addition to all that, we had a big american TV network crew visit camp for an entire week – the show is top secret until it’s release in a few months time of course…what I can say is that it will be extremely good for Kenya when it does come out as we captured ‘never filmed before’ wildlife footage and did an entirely new perspective on what exactly is the magic of safari, reconfirming just how amazing Kenya and the Maasai Mara is for high end discerning guests… even how a safari here can be life changing! I can’t wait for the release of the show – and I assure you, you will be surprised!
On that note, I have to say a huge thank you to Doug who was in charge of all arrangements and to all our amazing staff who took care of this huge and complicated group… the service, food and efficiency was flawless, and very much appreciated by the film crew who – I am proud to say – told me it was better service than at many a 7 star property! Wow!
Onto other things now…in the Mara it has rained heavily for a month now, it’s emerald green everywhere and the cattle that had invaded the Reserve from as far away as Rift Valley are in the process of heading out…the pressure has been intense. In regards the Olderkesi wildlife conservancy (my pet project!) this greening has also released pressure on the conservancy, and this combined with the membership register of the group ranch being finalized means there are no more hurdles to us having the conservancy fully operational by the July busy season..time will tell and it all depends on the commitment of the Maasai themselves to make it work.
I must add that the Maasai Mara Management Authorities have been much more attentive in dealing with this recent cattle invasion of the Reserve and have established a ranger camp in our area, capturing herds coming into the Reserve at night and impounding them. All of this is having the desired effect and we are starting to see the Mara the way it used to be when I was a scrappy kid hanging out the back of my fathers safari truck 40 years ago!
We have had many repeat guests during this last month, and to be honest they have been the mainstay for the camp during these difficult times brought about by the recent attacks on Kenyans in the far north of the country, and the Ebola outbreak in west Africa (yes, that is 5000 Kilometers away from Kenya but still affected people’s travel plans!). So to these good folk, all of us at Cottars say a huge thank you! For your patronage and believing that we can keep you safe and continue to provide you with those magical safari experiences!
In early May, I will be an examiner for a silver to gold exam for the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, and we will be offering a training program for 10 silver level guides with ambitions to become Gold level. We do offer the opportunity for our guests to experience this, please request your agent for information.
Louise will be representing Cottar’s at the Classic Camps of Africa AGM, and the important trade shows – Indaba and We Are Africa.
Many thanks for your time and please do contact us for any questions to do with travel to Kenya, Mara and Cottars.
- Calvin Cottar
24th March 2015
This week, I took Colin and Lynn Wilson on a safari to the Mara, 4 days of gliding around the long grass plains in our custom built safari vehicles…open windscreen, an air in the hair kinda of safari for those of us that have hair!
Over the course of the 4 days, we saw 5 cheetahs, 1 rhino, dozens of lions, herds of elephant and dozens of species of other plains game (and big leopard just after the Wilson’s left!), and with the Mara being extremely dry, the clouds are building and the acacias are starting to flower – a sure sign of rain.
Indeed, the zebras have arrived in numbers and seem to be on an early migration pattern…a result of climate change and global warming?
Looking at the wildlife product at Cottar’s, I can say it is absolutely as good as any other camp in the Mara because Cottar’s guides just go the extra distance to get the action; a morning game drive is invariably much longer at Cottar’s than at other camps, and our guides are trained to not rush, not race, not follow crowds of cars, and to stop as often as possible for reasonable amounts of time to search for animals with binoculars, and then, once found, to spend quality time with the animals to observe interactions and action.
While we have plenty of game around camp, including leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and tons of other species, and with patience, on foot or by vehicle, they can be seen with ease.
I realize how Cottar’s really is a pioneering company from the extra things we do beyond the service delivery for our guests… but of course this is not at the expense of the guests experience because we provide the very best of experiences for them including surprise bush meals, sundowners, waterfall visits, Maasai warrior school for the kids, romantic canvas baths for honeymoon couples, and real spoor tracking walking safaris for the more adventurous…we even do running with the Maasai for the superfit!
No… the extra things we do include financing the operations for a school for 200 children with 10 teachers, providing educational bursaries for over 50 children, almost daily ambulance services for the community, medical clinics and provision of medicine, providing water supplies, maintaining roads and tracks inside the conservancy as well as inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, maintaining the only airstrip in the area, two security undercover teams in areas as far away as 60 Kms from camp, looking for poachers, ivory caches, and guns, and non of this includes the development of the Olderkesi Wildlife Conservancy for the last 20 years, finally coming to fruition after all these years.
So Cottar’s represents more than just a nice time for guests; we are the cutting edge of ‘tourism for conservation and rural development’.