Welcome to the world of Mahali Mzuri, Richard Branson’s very own safari camp situated in the Kenyan Bush. As workspaces across the Virgin Group go, the rangers and guides who make this place tick can make a very strong claim for being located in the most coveted of all. Indeed, Mahali Mzuri translates as "beautiful place" in Swahili...
Much of the team are Maasai and hail from the communities surrounding Mahali Mzuri. Traditionally the Maasai depended on cattle herding for their livelihoods, but a number of jobs and development opportunities now come from the lodges and conservancies that attract visitors and tourists from all over the world.
More so than in most jobs, working on the Kenyan Plains and getting a front row seat to watch the Great Migration encapsulates the spirit of adventure which runs right through Virgin Limited Edition. To understand a little more about what it takes to work as a guide at Mahali Mzuri, as well as why the spirit of adventure is so integral to all they do, we caught up with the team.
"As a professional guide it’s crucial that you take the guests on an adventure and show them your adventurous side," explains Dickson Sadera.
This view is something that’s shared by Dickson’s colleague, Jackson Nchoe, with the sense of adventure being something that comes naturally through working animals on a daily basis. "Dealing with animals is always an adventure," notes Jackson. "They act differently each day and observing their behaviour will mean you learn something new each day."
Located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, situated in the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, Mahali Mzuri stretches across almost 33,000 acres.
It plays home to everything from wildebeest, elephants, zebra, lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffe, impala and gazelles. With the vast and varied size of the landscape guaranteed to keep you on your toes, explains guide Betty Maitai.
"There isn’t really such a thing as an ordinary day here - each day is an adventure. Every day involves different guests, different locations and different challenges."
"For me, an ‘ordinary day’ would involve game drives, pick-ups and ensuring all team members are fully brief for their day of activities," explains Dickson. "It’s important to make sure all the vehicles have all the tools they need and are in good condition for the day ahead."
As far as job satisfaction goes, the role of field guide at Mahali Mzuri must rank relatively high. While much of the world’s workers are struggling with overflowing inboxes and poor posture, the guides are batting the varied terrain. However this isn’t something the team are looking to keep to themselves, with many of the more rewarding aspects of the job coming from sharing the adventure with the guests.
"When guests are happy and excited because of the guiding that you’ve been able to do, that’s very rewarding," reveals Jackson.
"Yes, my enthusiasm for guiding has fully propelled my love of nature," agrees Dickson. "Taking guests out on game drives to give them interaction of the surrounding communities and wildlife in its natural habitat is very rewarding."
In the spirit of sharing the experience with as many as people as possible, last year saw the team pioneer the first ever livestream of the Kenyan night safari, with a total of 50 live broadcasts going out across 11 days.
"Kenya is known worldwide for its greatest attraction: the great wildebeest migration, but the country also has so much more to offer that people aren’t as aware of, like the lions and turtles," explains safari host Andre Van Kets of Discover Africa. "Operations such as #KenyaLive give us the opportunity to showcase these majestic animals to the world in a non-intrusive way."
As you may expect, it’s the animals that take centre stage in the minds of guests and guides at Mahali Mzuri, which made guide John Kaelo’s response to the question of the most challenging aspect of the job all the more intriguing. "We sometimes have guests with personal problems that they are reflecting on during their holiday and time with you, they might be facing a challenge that you don’t understand but it’s important to help them through it."
Life on the Kenyan Plains is nothing if not varied and as Jackson so deftly puts it, it's an adventure for all sorts of reasons - some which you might not be immediately apparent.
"Being a guide is the most sensitive of professions, not only are you dealing with different animals but different people each day."