By far the best part of a Basecamp safari is the one-on-one time it allows guests to have with their Maasai guide. One Basecamp guide who truly enjoys sharing his extensive knowledge about the Mara ecosystem is Derrick.
Derrick is wholeheartedly focused on giving his guests the best safari experience possible. I have a unique opportunity to chat with Derrick about life as a Safari Guide during a private sundowner. As the day comes to an end we park the car right in the middle of the Savannah, and while Derrick prepares our drinks the gentle evening light slowly fades away.
To my amazement a young male hyena is out scouting for prey, roaming the hills only a couple of metres away from us. Luckily we do not seem to be on the menu tonight. As always, Derrick’s presence makes me feel utterly safe. It seems like the Maasai people have an intrinsic way of knowing what the animals are thinking. Derrick seems to read my mind and gently tells me that:
‘You have to respect the fact that these animals are wild, but as long as you know how to read their behavior you can feel safe.’
Derrick is as much part of the Savannah as the lonely hyena; he was born on these plains and has spent his entire life here. Who better to reassure me as the night grows darker? Or, I wonder, who better equipped to give guests a true understanding of the Maasai Mara wildlife than someone like Derrick?
Derrick is a true example of what dedication and hard work can lead to. He is one of a handful of Silver Certified Safari Guides working in the Maasai Mara. Derrick tells me how he is constantly trying to broaden his knowledge, and that he sees every safari as an opportunity to learn. “When guests ask me difficult questions I never tell them that I don’t know the answer. Instead I tell them that I will find out. That way the interaction with guests and their questions also helps me to develop further.” Derrick continues: “many people might think that a safari guide gets bored of doing the same thing every day. I can assure you that every day is different.
When you drive out in the morning you never know what will happen.
“You always see something new out here on the savannah.” Derrick smiles and adds: “I think that if you love what you are doing then you can never get bored. That is the way it is with me. I love being a guide. I love being able to share the savannah with people and contribute to their understanding of life here. I see every day as another opportunity to understand and contribute to the survival of the Mara ecosystem.
After visiting the Mara, guests understand that they have a key role in preserving this ecosystem.
“And they are contributing! Simply by visiting Basecamp they are showing the local community that they should preserve this area because it brings tourists and therefore an income. Beyond that comes the contribution of what we like to call a traveller’s philanthropy.”
I ask him to elaborate and Derrick happily explains: “Very few people can visit Naboisho without realizing how critical it is that we protect this area. Most of our guests share our commitment and want to help. It is very rewarding when guests feel such a strong connection to this area, my home. I would honestly say that practically all guests I take on a safari return to the camp a changed person.” Derrick smiles at me before adding:
“Basecamp and us that work here not only help transform local lives through the benefits they receive from the various Basecamp projects. Just as importantly, we also transform the lives of our visitors. It is a mutual experience, and the impact of this area translates across cultures.”
For Derrick a safari is much more than driving around trying to spot interesting animals. It is also about making the guests appreciate where they are. The Mara is a place of reflection, he tells me.
‘The Mara is a place where you can connect with yourself”
“It is no secret that we have to work together to preserve this area. This is the fundament for the Basecamp concept. Yes, Basecamp is a business and therefore needs to earn money, but the prime focus is to ‘leave a positive footprint’. The income from the tourism business is what enables Basecamp to engage in work that transform lives and protects nature. It is not the other way around.”
Derrick is positive about the future, and he has great plans for himself. “Basecamp has not only transformed my life, but the life of my family. With Basecamp help I have been able to send two of my brothers to school. By working for Basecamp I have improved my skills and grown as a person. Basecamp assisted me with crossing the bridge to a better life, but what is even more important is that with Basecamp I am able to lead others across that bridge as well. In five years I hope that I will still be working for Basecamp and that lives will continue to be transformed through me.”
Derrick wraps his Maasai blanket closer around his shoulders. It is completely dark now, and he says that we should start heading back to camp. Perhaps inspired by the open communication darkness allows, Derrick reveals his deepest ambition:
“I want to be remembered for doing good things. I would like to leave behind the legacy that I was here for a mission.” Safely inside the jeep he adds one final thing: “in my opinion, Basecamp plays a great role in me achieving this. I have a personal investment in this area. This is my home and these people are my family. Basecamp can help me with my mission to transform their lives.”