"In Maasai we have a word that we use to describe the joy felt when something hidden becomes known, when something concealed becomes revealed: Enjoolata. For me, Enjoolata refers to the thrill, the wonder, when coming round a riverbed, or emerging out from a thick wood, and there, suddenly, a hidden surprise, an unexpected awe, an unforgettable encounter. That is Enjoolata." - Big Moses - Co-founder of Basecamp
It is a fact that Basecamp Explorer is what it is because of its staff. It is undoubtedly the individuals you meet who make a stay with Basecamp so special. At least, that’s the way it was for Barack Obama and his family when they visited Basecamp Maasai Mara in 2006. Even though the Obama family had a tight program and were accompanied by several security guards, they enjoyed their safari so much that they asked to stay at Basecamp for more days than initially planned. The reason? Their guide, Big Moses
The Obama family are hardly the only guests that have had their safari, and their lives, changed by meeting this exceptional man. Big Moses was the very first employee at Basecamp Maasai Mara, and ever since he started in January 1998 he has transformed lives. He is our most experienced guide, and has thousands of safaris behind him. Moses has a supernatural gift for knowing where the animals are, and a superhuman capacity to care for all living things. He is a truly gifted storyteller and happily shares his captivating stories around the fireplace. His years with Basecamp have allowed him to travel abroad on several occasions, and Moses loves telling hilarious stories about his experiences with the Western World. Big Moses has done everything from skiing in the Arctic, to painting in the Pyrenees and fundraising in the UK.
He is a man of the world, but nevertheless a boy of the Savannah.
Because, no matter the places he gets to visit or what VIPs he gets to guide, the Mara remains closest to Moses’ heart. A tender soul, he becomes teary-eyed when he explains how the vegetation has diminished over the decades, or the immense pressure the animals are under. Moses has dedicated his life to secure the survival of the Mara ecosystem. This is not a simple ambition; many would probably deem it impossible. But, as Moses openly states, he has found a partner in his quest to save the Mara, a partner for life, and that is Basecamp Explorer.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Moses grew up in a traditional Maasai way. He worked as a shepherd boy from around age seven until he was in his mid-twenties. Then in the nineties he started working as a freelance guide at the temporary ‘drive-in’ camps that were being established around the Talek River at this time.
Moses tells me that he remembers how the wildebeest used to roam freely also on the Northern side of the Talek River where the camps now lie in clusters. Because of human settlement, Moses explains, the wildebeest have changed their migratory paths and stay on the south side of the Talek River, along the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This, Moses informs me, is a direct result of human activity, which continues to compromise the wildlife and the natural vegetation.
Moses tells me how even as a young boy he was extremely fascinated by the guiding profession. He explains that he loved everything about wildlife, and that he had a very curious nature. Becoming a guide seemed to be his destiny. Even though Moses never went to school, he managed to teach himself English bit by bit. His lack of education is truly remarkable when one considers his proficiency with the English language.
After a period of time Moses moved on to another company. He got a job at the first tourism lodge inside the natural reservoir, Keekerok, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1954. At Keekerok Moses was appointed Public Relations Manager. This position required him to make sure that the guests were happy and that every part of the operation was running smoothly. This allowed Moses to interact with the guests, but something was still lacking. He did not like the fact that Keekerok, like most other tourism operations in the area, showed no commitment to the local community. Also, Moses explains, they did not care for their staff in any personal way: “The company did not care about anything else than earning money.” Then by mere chance, or fate if you will, Moses’ life changed forever because of a random meeting at Keekerok airstrip.
As part of his role as Public Relations Manager, Moses would frequently go down to the airstrip to pick up guests. It was here that he met Jonas, a Swedish man who had just been employed as Camp Manager at a recently established camp, known today as Basecamp Explorer. To kill time at the airstrip, Jonas told Moses about the eccentric Norwegian who had bought a destitute camp beautifully positioned right on the banks of the River Talek. The Norwegian, Mr. Svein Wilhelmsen, had signed a lease agreement with one intention:
to build a safari camp that was different.
In his vision the camp, which would later be named Dreamcamp before changing its name to Basecamp Maasai Mara, would engage with the local community and focus on empowering the Maasai people. He wanted to run a sustainable tourism operation focused on using solar power, planting trees and conserving water. Despite lacking any experience with running a business in Africa, Svein Wilhelmsen recklessly followed a lifelong dream of making a difference. One can imagine that the same fate that introduced Moses to Jonas, had also led Svein Wilhelmsen from Oslo to a fireplace in the Mara, where he met the Maasai chief of the Talek area, Ole Taek.
When the chief explained about the stress the land and the Maasai community was under, Svein became so engaged that he quit his job in Norway and invested his fortune in the area. A similar hotheaded hunger swept over Moses when he heard Jonas’ story, and he immediately applied for a job at Basecamp Explorer. The introduction of Svein to Moses was a meeting of two like-spirited souls. Shortly afterwards Big Moses became the first employee of Basecamp, and construction began on what would become the highest rated Eco Camp in Kenya. The rest is history.
As a self-taught Maasai on the way to success, joyful at heart and desperate to make a difference, Moses was the icon of the concept the founders of Basecamp wanted to establish. Today, fifteen years later, Moses remains an incredibly important part of Basecamp. Even after all these years, not a day goes by without Moses being genuinely excited by wildlife and nature. Every safari with him is characterized by patience, understanding and once-in-a-lifetime moments. Even though Moses has enjoyed personal success he remains committed in his life mission of doing all he can to secure the future of his fellow Maasai and rescuing the land he grew up on. Big Moses is truly the face of Basecamp Explorer, and the company would not be the same without him.
The savannah is the ultimate safari destination that captures the heart, mind and soul of any traveller. Follow the Mara game trails deeper into the pristine wilderness as you experience and marvel at the nature that surrounds you. Walk on the same path as the elephants and other wildlife, feel the blowing wind as you hear a lion roar in the distance. Your senses will awaken, as the wilderness becomes part of your environment.