During their stay at Basecamp, there is one person who guests are particularly likely to remember. The charismatic senior guide Manfred is always willing to share stories about the Maasai culture and happily sits around the fireplace with guests, answering questions hour after hour. Manfred has been part of the Basecamp family practically since the beginning, and he knows the camp inside out.
Over the years he has worked in multiple departments, and has a wide range of experience. When he joined Basecamp in 2000 he started as a housekeeper, and then moved on to working as a barman. After a period in the Curio Shop and the reception, Manfred decided to pursue his lifelong ambition to become a guide. He approached the Basecamp management with this dream, and they supportively offered to pay for his training and his guide certification exam.
The Basecamp concept centeres on empowering their staff, by offering them opportunities to develop themselves.
The Basecamp management recognized potential and ambition in Manfred, and he did not disappoint their (or his own) expectations. Manfred borrowed guidebooks from the other guides and educated himself.
In 2006 he passed his Guide Certification Exam. “It was a real achievement for me to become a guide”, he tells me today. “I trained hard and the hard work paid off. I like being a guide because I get an opportunity to see new things and to interact with the guests.
But it was scary at first – having the responsibility for guests. In fact the third group I ever guided on a walking safari was Barack Obama and his wife Michelle when they visited Basecamp.
Manfred smiles at the memory. “They were really nice and very interested in what I could tell them. However it was very difficult to see animals because we had so many journalists following us. They scared the animals away. But the President was still very positive and seemed to enjoy being out in the nature. I know he really believes in the eco-concept we advocate here at Basecamp and therefore it was a joy to be his guide.” Manfred emphasizes the importance of practicing sustainable tourism and how Basecamp stands apart from other camps because of their excellence in this field.
He sees it as his personal responsibility to educate the guests in eco-living and the operations behind running an eco-camp. “I try my hardest to make sure that the guests are taken care of from the moment they land on the airstrip to the day they leave. After their stay here they should have greater understanding about living eco-friendly lives and how they can contribute in preserving nature. I also want to share our Maasai culture with them. I welcome any question and repeat to the guests how there are no stupid questions.”
“When guests ask difficult questions I see it as a compliment that they are interested in my culture. By sharing our cultural differences I think we can learn and evolve as people.
I treasure the opportunity to share my culture and the Maasai tradition with foreigners.
One of Manfred’s many responsibilities is taking the guests on camp walks when they first arrive. On a camp walk the guests get a chance to see how a Gold Rated Eco-Camp works. Manfred tells me that he enjoys this part of his job because most of the guests are very impressed when they see what Basecamp has accomplished. Yet, he stresses, Basecamp is a lot more than an award winning Eco-Camp. “Perhaps more importantly than being an excellent Eco-, Basecamp focuses on giving back to the local community.“
Basecamp practises sustainable tourism in a broader sense of the term.
Over the years Basecamp has supported multiple projects in the local area to improve the living standards of the Maasai people. They have also given us jobs and allowed us to generate an income. Manfred especially emphasizes how important establishing the Naboisho conservancy has been for the future of the Maasai community.
By securing this land from being sold to speculators, Basecamp has infinitely helped the Maasai people.
“Through the Naboisho Conservancy lease fee, 500 Maasai families receive a monthly income and many other benefits like grazing opportunities in drought. In my job as a guide I want to show how Basecamp should be seen as an example for other camps.”
Manfred is a senior employee at Basecamp and he recognizes a change in the new generation. “The young Maasai have so many opportunities that we never even dreamed of. When I left home and started working here, there was no phone network or Internet connection. I couldn’t phone home or stay in touch with people as easily as one can today.
“I try to teach the younger Maasai how they should treasure our traditions even in these changing times. I try to make them understand that it is good to commit to a place rather than chase after every opportunity. I believe they have to understand the history of Basecamp to really appreciate the concept.
“We, the Maasai people, built this place and we have to sustain it. We have a good life here at Basecamp. I have been here for many, many years and I want to stay for many more.
This is my home and there is no place like this.