This prestigious Safari Guiding Award is the only one of its kind in Kenya and is a collaboration between UK responsible tourism consultancy Tribal Voice Communications, the Founder of the award, the Mara Conservancy, the conservation organisation that manages the Mara Conservancy, and the Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife conservation and animal welfare charity that has sponsored this award since it’s inception in 2008.
This award is recognised as one of the most important responsible tourism initiatives introduced in Kenya in recent years. It aims to recognise and reward best practice in Responsible Safari Guiding in order to protect the environment and wildlife of the Masai Mara from the negative impacts of increasing visitor numbers and inconsistent guiding standards.
This year’s award was open to all resident safari guides that conduct game drives in the Mara Conservancy. Each participating lodge nominated their most responsible guides and these were judged by two industry experts – the Manager of Born Free Kenya, Iregi Mwenja, and Dr Mathew Mutinda a Kenyan veterinarian working with the Lewa Conservancy, the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service – sitting in on game drives unbeknown to the short-listed guides and assessing them against the Best Practice in Responsible Safari Guiding Checklist developed by Tribal Voice Communications.
The winner was announced at an Awards Ceremony in the Masai Mara on April 12th and was Joseph Ole Koyie of Sanctuary Olonana Camp. The runner-up was Abdul Karim, also of Sanctuary Olonana Camp, with third place going to Andrew Kasura of Mara Serena.
“The award was very fiercely contested this year and all short-listed guides performed well in the Mystery Game Drives. Joseph and Abdul though were head and shoulders above the other guides with just half a point separating them. Each is a great role model to other guides in Kenya” said Dr Cheryl Mvula of Tribal Voice Communications.
Joseph Ole Koyie has honed his guiding skills whilst working for Sanctuary Retreats at Olonana Camp in the Masai Mara. During his awards speech he said ”I am very proud to have won this important guiding award. As guides we are all responsible for ensuring that our game drives do not harm or disturb the wildlife and habitats that our guests come to visit. When I first started out as a guide I was not so responsible, but I quickly came to understand the impacts of irresponsible guiding through the workshops organised by the Mara Conservancy and Tribal Voice. I now take great pride in giving my guests an exciting yet responsible game drive where I focus on the small things in the bush along with the culture of the neighbouring Maasai tribe instead of chasing the Big Five, like many other guides in Kenya. As guides we have a responsibility to ensure that the Mara and its wildlife remain intact for future generations of Kenyans and visitors to enjoy”.
Joseph’s prize is sponsored by the Born Free Foundation and is an all expenses paid training trip to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, home of some of the most knowledgeable and responsible safari guides in Africa. Joseph will shadow guides for two weeks at world-renowned safari operators Norman Carr Safaris, Robin Pope Safaris and Flatdogs Camp.
Once again the main sponsor of the award is international wildlife conservation charity, and long-term friend of Kenya, the Born Free Foundation. The award is also publicised and supported by the Travel Foundation, a UK charity that works with the UK outbound tourism industry to make tourism more sustainable in favourite destinations visited by UK tourists.
Brian Heath, CEO of the Mara Conservancy commented, “We would like to thank those lodges in the area that participated in this year’s award competition and thereby support the development of more responsible guiding practices in the Masai Mara. These are Sanctuary Olonana, Mara Serena, andbeyond’s Kichwa Tembo and Bateleur Camps, Kalima Camp and Mara West. Many guides have really raised their standards as a result of this award and the Travel Foundation-sponsored guide training workshops that Tribal Voice Communications has delivered in the Mara over the last few years. It is our hope that all lodges that conduct safaris in the Mara Conservancy take up the Responsible Tourism mantle and embrace these awards so we can work together to reduce the negative impacts of game drives on wildlife and the Mara ecosystem.”