Governors’ Camp Collection – June 2019 Newsletter
Dear friends of Governors’,
High season is right around the corner and we have been working tirelessly over the last few months to pull off an exciting array of new projects, upgrades and latest additions including a Cessna Grand Caravan, 5 Landcruisers (straight out of the showroom), 3 Landrovers that have been expertly modified into photographic safari vehicles, 8 brand new tents at Private Camp, 8 brand new family units at Governors’ Camp, 1 new balloon basket and 3 new balloon envelopes. Let’s not forget our northern Kenya property, Mugie House, which is coming along beautifully and will open its doors to our first guests by the end of the year!
Rome was certainly not built in a day, but we do feel as though we have achieved something pretty miraculous here. We have a wonderful ‘cast of characters’ at Governors’, which includes an incredibly dedicated team that has made it all happen. Its been a race against time – lots of pressure, lots of fun and most of all – a huge sense of pride that we have managed to meet all the deadlines and ultimately, we can continue to offer a diverse set of experiences, designed to excite and inspire our valued guests.
In keeping with all the new additions, we have welcomed back Will Fortescue as our resident photographer for the next four months over high season. He has just returned from a two week stay at our community-owned lodge in Rwanda, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, with the most stunning collection of images including the gorillas (as used in this newsletter), Golden Monkeys and our supported community and cultural projects. Please follow our social media pages (links are at the bottom of this newsletter) to see more of Will’s photography.
Wishing you all the best,
Governors’ Camp Collection
WHAT’S NEW AT GOVERNORS’ CAMP COLLECTION
Governors’ Aviation: In May we welcomed the latest addition to our fleet: a (new to us) Cessna Grand Caravan that made a five day journey all the way from Ohio, across the Atlantic and over to the Azores and then Egypt, before touching down on Kenyan soil at Wilson Airport. All paperwork and maintenance checks aside, we expect her to be up in the air in time for high season, over which we will be operating a total of four aircraft – all Cessna Grand Caravans – the best in the business!
Governors’ Camp Collection:
Photographic safari vehicles: all our Mara camps are set in the heart of the best wildlife viewing areas, amongst some of East Africa’s most spectacular scenery. It’s therefore no surprise, that we attract film crews from landmark series such as BBC Earth’s Dynasties and Animal Planet’s Big Cat Tales, as well as both professional and amateur photographers from all corners of the world. Attention like this from the world of film and photography enthusiasts can only mean one thing …. bring on the photographic safari vehicles! Specially modified to include same level seating throughout, cut out side panels in the middle row (can be closed over with canvas sheeting), high roofs and fully folding windscreens – features that were specifically recommended to us by our professional photographic safari guides. We have converted 3 refurbished Landrovers into a photographer’s dream!
Private Camp: the camp offering an exclusive taste of the Governors’ experience. We have really gone all out here and replaced the original eight dark green canvas tents with completely new beige tents which are higher, wider and have huge floor-to-roof windows, offering more space and air flow. Pretty touches include brass lamps in the bedroom units and in the bathrooms, as well as the addition of Kitengela’s recycled glassware which replaces plastic bottled water (this completes our whole collection of camps in being plastic water bottle free – hurrah!) We have kept the original wooden decking of each tent’s private verandah – the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the activities of the Mara River below you.
Governors’ Camp: we have replaced the previous 6 family units with 8 brand new family tents which have been beautifully crafted out of beige ripstop. They are one meter longer, and slightly wider and higher than the previous units. The windows are much bigger than before, allowing in more light. The bathrooms now feature double sinks, stone tile floors and ‘Lamu finish’ grey coloured walls, all in keeping with the natural and muted colours of the camp’s surroundings.
Governors’ Balloon Safaris: as pioneers of the Classic African Safari, it was only fitting that we should add hot air balloon flights to the collection, more than FORTY YEARS ago! Offering the most scenic flight path in the Masai Mara, we continue to be the top choice for this bucket-list experience, and so we receive a new basket and 3 new ‘envelopes’ (or ‘balloons’) in just a few days time!
In other exciting news, our Mara guides are currently receiving further training, specifically in Ornithology, by bird expert Dave Richards. Not only has Dave been providing relief management across our camps and lodges since the early days, but he is also a professional safari guide, author and photographer, who has written a number of published books on travel and wildlife in Kenya and East Africa.
UPDATE ON GOVERNOR’S MUGIE HOUSE
For those of you who don’t know, Mugie House is our latest addition to Governors’ Camp Collection – a luxury camp up north which will combine perfectly with the rest of our property portfolio. We expect to be open towards the end of the year!
Meanwhile, hard work continues up in Laikipia as the property comes together beautifully. Aside from the actual rebuild and renovations, there are many other ongoing developments such as ‘bush cookery’ training by Antonia Stogdale, Safari Chef and Founder of ‘Antonia’s Kitchen’. We have two chefs taking the course, David and Mungai, and as you can see there are all sorts of delicious and colourful preparations underway, as well as a home-grown vegetable garden which will allow us to supply only the freshest of ingredients!
GOVERNORS’ CAMP COLLECTION BLOGS – MASAI MARA GAME REPORT
Pastel sunrises have opened the days for the month of May, while rainfall has been quite scattered. There has been plenty of mating between the Marsh Pride lionesses, specifically Yaya and her adult daughters, Pamoja and Nusu Mkia, with some of the Marsh males; we are hoping for tiny cubs by about mid August which will clearly delight our high season guests. Serval cat sightings have been frequent as well as leopard and cheetah.
Loldia House: May 2019
Hot weather and little rain in May encouraged wildlife right into the Loldia House surrounds for the green grass and complimentary hay and molasses mixture we have been leaving out in the evenings. Night game drives are becoming more exciting than ever with the use of red filters on our car’s spotlights; May sightings included an aardvark! Thank you to two special guests who got involved in our community & conservation project.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge: May 2019
May was a mixed month of heavy rain and just a few sunny days. The lodge was full almost nightly and many friendships were made over gorilla talk by the fire in our cosy sitting room – it was truly heartwarming! The highlight of the month was the arrival of photographer Will Fortescue. We had the pleasure of his company for two weeks while he captured all aspects of the lodge including the community & cultural activities.
PHOTOGRAPHIC SAFARI – 2020 DATES RELEASED!!
Following the success of our photo safari hosted by Paul Joynson-Hicks MBE in green season this year, we are hosting two photo safaris in 2020! A renowned African wildlife photographer, Paul’s passion started as a photographer’s assistant many moons ago in London and developed into an obsession through the last 25 years living and working in Africa. He is a widely published wildlife photographer, with several coffee table books and exhibitions. Amongst the social enterprises he has been involved in, Paul is the founder of the world acclaimed Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, created in partnership with The Born Free Foundation, and receiving global coverage including BBC and Sky News.
Dates: 23rd – 29th March and 6th – 12th June 2020. Each safari is limited to six places only!
Community Revenue Earned from Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Community Revenue Earned from Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Surpasses US$3.25 Million
Governors’ Camp’s Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda is a uniquely community-owned lodge, with revenue received by the surrounding SACOLA Community. In August, we reached an incredible milestone when revenue earned by the community surpassed $3.25 Million.
On 7th September, 2018 Rwanda celebrated Kwita Izina, the annual national celebration where new baby gorillas are named in an event attended by heads of state, world conservation figures, and celebrities. The loud and clear message throughout the week of celebrations is that in order to protect gorillas, you must look after communities. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge’s revenue-sharing model has allowed a community of over 5000 households who live at the edge of Volcanoes National Park to benefit directly from gorilla tourism.
Opened officially in 2008 by President Paul Kagame, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is uniquely community-owned, the only such lodge in Rwanda. The Lodge was designed, built and is managed by Governors’ Camp, with revenue streams in the form of lease fees and levies from each guest stay going directly to the community.
Revenue from Sabyinyo Lodge is invested in socio-economic development projects, as determined by the SACOLA community through an elected board, that uplift the lives of the community members.
To date, some of the projects that have been achieved with the revenue stream from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge include:
- Connecting 5800 households to electricity
- Construction of 65 classrooms in 6 schools, including two computer labs
- Purchase of 40 acres of land to build Nyarubande School – one of the six schools
- Donation 60 computers to 2 schools
- Equipping schools with desks
- Payment of school fees for children from the poorest families
- Building of 40 houses for donation to survivors of the genocide, ex-poachers and the communities most vulnerable people. All houses are fully plumbed, electrified and provided fully furnished
- The construction of two villages (34 houses) which house 126 formerly destitute farmers on the fringes of Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda who subsisted from the park. The village provides houses, water tanks and plots of land to people living close to the edge of the national park who are being resettled within the framework of the park extension project.
- The construction and maintenance of 12 kms of local roads. Construction of bridges over waterways
- Purchase of land to build a new technical school, aimed at upskilling members of the community with marketable skills
- Donation of water tanks to community members for household water storage
- Repair of damaged houses for community members
- Provision of healthcare insurance for 7000 of the poorest community members
- Construction of a health centre
- Construction of piping and water collection points servicing over 10s of thousands of community members
- The establishment and support of a local pig project.
- The establishment and support of a local sheep project
- Provision of capital to create a poultry business run by a coop of widows of the genocide
- Ongoing support of livestock business with a SACOLA financed vet.
- Financing of the construction of 2 SACCOS (community banks)
- Initiating a one family one cow program which provides cows to poor people in the local community, with over 250 cows donated
Every guest staying at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is making a direct contribution to the uplifting of lives of the people living alongside the Volcanoes National Park, thus ensuring the future of Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas.