When it comes to planning holidays, I am the kind of person who firmly believes that there is always somewhere new to explore. And yet, I have been going back to Kenya, with my wife Pola, for the last 19 years and have stayed at the various Governors’ camps in the Masai Mara a record 40 times! So, what has made us return? There are many reasons but here are just a few.
Amazing photographic opportunities
My first trip to Governors’ Camps in May 2003 was an obvious choice as I am a keen photographer and it was a perfect place where I could learn and improve my wildlife photographic skills to a completely different level. I had read that the BBC team from Big Cat Diary and National Geographic utilise Governors’ as their base for filming in the Masai Mara and so I decided to go.
Image credits Richard Long
All the conditions were perfect and I took some amazing photographs: the landscapes, the wildlife, the bird life, the huge variety of subjects and the great advice from our safari guides. It was incredible as we had access and proximity to animals without impacting their behaviour.
Image credit Richard Long
These early photos are still some of my favorites and they bring back very happy memories.
My connection with the wilderness
I live in the countryside in England and I have always felt very connected with nature. I am always fascinated by the beauty, the resilience and the variety of wildlife, from the largest mammals to the smallest plants, without forgetting insects and birds. They form an equilibrium; they all interact and they live and die in a constant cycle that places like Masai Mara contribute to safeguard and allow us to witness.
A walking safari offers the chance to get close to nature.
What is most important for me is that the Governors’ Camp team plays the role of intermediary between us and nature. They give us access to great sightings but without taking them for granted. They preserve the art of the classic safari and this allows us to connect with the wilderness in a sustainable way that wouldn’t be possible without them.
Each camp in the Mara is ‘eco rated’ with the highest sustainable practices in place.
The friendliness of the people
There is this ‘magical thing’ with the people at Governors’ Camps; the encounters we make and the relationships we manage to create in a very short period of time, are simply amazing.
Richard and his wife Pola with Enkereri school children, on his most recent visit to Kenya.
Over the years I have come to know and greatly admire the team – some have been working there over 35 years. Not only are they all incredibly nice and friendly with their time, special attention and dedication, they always manage to make our stay unforgettable each time.
A ‘Lala salama’ (sleep well) note is left for guests at evening turndown.
The camps encompass everything you want and need when going to Africa on safari: from the amazing wildlife you experience daily; the exceptionally knowledgeable guides; the gastronomic delights from the kitchen; the outstanding accommodation and just the total ambience of the Masai Mara.
Timothy Mugoywa and Simon Memusi at one of our popular bush dinners.
A conservation and community focus
The most important reason as to why Governors’ Camp keeps acting like a magnet to me is probably its ability to create some of the most incredible moments of my life.
Richard Long speaks to the school children at Mara Rianda during his visit in 2020.
On my first visit in May 2003, George, the manager at Little Governors’, asked if I had visited the local school? I hadn’t and he said he would get my driver to take me in the morning. Bordering the Reserve is a Maasai community called Mara Rianda which has one primary school; the Mara Rianda Primary School. It was started by Maasai parents who sold a few cattle to raise the necessary funds to build some mud and wattle huts to educate their children.
During my first visit to the school I asked the head teacher Lawrence what they required to which he answered ‘Chalk would be a miracle!’ His simple request shocked me as I had, up to this point, took school supplies for granted.
Upon my return to the UK, I shared my story with my friend Nigel Hollingsworth. His response was to give me £20 to buy chalk for the school. A place I had been to once for an hour and 4000 miles away! He suggested I wrote to all my business friends and to tell them. I returned in September of 2003 having raised over £8,000 from various friends and colleagues.
Nigel Hollingsworth addresses a gathering for the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust.
In 2004 we set up the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust and with the wonderful assistance of Governors’ Camp we then started to support the school and local community.
Since 2004 we have provided funding for the construction and development work of a fence around the school, classrooms, a dining hall, a borehole, water tower, water tanks and solar pump to supply fresh water and a dormitory. In additional we have provided school supplies and funds for teachers. We have seen over 3,500 children in the Mara Rianda Primary School, benefitting from the Trust’s support.
Our guests at Governors’ have the opportunity to visit the school – by appointment only.
We have also provided considerable support to Enkereri Primary School across the Mara River and two dormitories, for 80 girls and 80 boys has just been opened. The charity has paid for over 175 pupils to receive a secondary school or university education.
Enkereri School (which is also supported by the MRCT) in its original state – photo credit Richard Long
Enkereri School after being developed and improved by MRCT – photo credit Nick Penny
The Masai Mara is truly a magical place and the Governors’ Camp Collection provides you with a base to feel a strong relationship with nature and also yourself. Once you fall under the spell, you will want to keep coming back!
Words by Richard Long, our longterm guest, good friend and supporter of Governors’.