Dear Advisor Partners,

Have you ever received a note from a guest that validates everything you do? Once you read the note, you feel a sense of release, as if someone finally understands why you zig when the world zags. Well this week, I saw a note one of our travelers sent to their advisor, Kathy, about their time in Peru. They were up in the Illescas Peninsula, in the very north of Peru along the coast, less than 1000 miles from the Galapagos Islands. The words they sent were music to my ears. They just get it. In large part, because their travel advisor painted the right picture.

If you have been reading this blog, and listening to our podcast, then you have heard me talk and write about Illescas and how the remoteness of this destination just drew me in. I felt like a trailblazer as we discovered new driving routes to get here from Chiclayo. I connected so well with Illescas and the four-bedroom surf lodge, the only accommodation for 75,000 hectares, that I was left speechless (impossible to believe I know).

Ever since my return, I’ve been searching for the words to describe a place ideal for lovers of surfing, birdwatching, marine life, mammals and more, then Kathy’s guests nailed it. ‘The end of the Earth’ they named it. Bingo! This is exactly how I’d been wanting to describe it. It is the very edge of civilization and a place you can truly get lost. 

Those words summarize what we all do in this industry. I know Captain Kirk has a saying in Star Trek, “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” I wonder if he’s been to Illescas?

We invite you to explore our Illescas based Presidents Pick where the next amazing testimonial is waiting to be made. 

Enjoy this weeks video.

Dear Advisor Partners,

Those of you who know me well, are aware that I am an early bird. I consider waking up at any time past 4:30 am, sleeping in. So it shouldn’t surprise you that in early 2021, I found myself brainstorming with the famous Scott Largay of Largay Travel, about a phrase I was toying with. What was born, at 3:20 am on a February morning, was not what I expected. Before I continue, I need to give you some back story.

Back in January of 2021, we were exhibiting at a virtual trade show. We were evolving our tagline and looking for words that truly spoke to who we are as a company and our culture as a team. During the virtual event, I was testing out the new tagline our team came up with for 2022 to gauge reactions. This is something we do quite regularly to avoid a disparity between what’s important to us and what’s important to you and your clients. During this event, one of my meetings was with Scott. Now being acquainted with this guy the way I am and privileged enough to call him a friend as I do, I knew that with his marketing background, I was going to get an honest reaction.

It didn’t take long for Scott’s gears to begin turning then he almost intuitively says, “leave this with me, ” as we signed off our meeting. That night, I start getting messages with semblances of words. Just past midnight, “Designed Differently” became the first two words to jump out at me, and I could tell a lot of thought went into this. At 3:00 am I was nearly jolted out of bed thinking of these two words. I started writing back to Scott with some ideas to complete the sentence. Amazingly, he couldn’t sleep either and immediately started responding. Yes, there we were trading ideas back and forth like two buddies cramming for a college mid-term, it was now 4:10 am. Both our spouses likely thought we were completely insane at this point.

Then it happened. A message back from Scott, “Yes, waaay better! I think that’s the one…that’s some powerful stuff right there.” I could tell two things in that sleep-deprived moment. First, this was no longer a tagline, it was a definition of who Big Five was. Second, Scott Largay is an evil genius when it comes to these things and my respect for him just went through the roof. We had it! We had created the perfect words to define who Big Five is, the four words that would start and end many conversations about Big Five, from 2022 and beyond. The time was now 7:10 am.

This one night of work also meant I was about to walk in and tell my team in the office that we were scrapping months of work on the current tag line, the third phase in our pre-present and post-covid marketing strategy. Normally when someone does this, you find a place to hide from the daggers, however, I call it luck and good fortune that the team here thinks like I do, always ready to try something new and are as passionate as I am about Big Five. So good were these four words, that when I told the team, it just clicked. They looked beyond the bags under my eyes and saw what I saw. To them, I give a great big thank you, and to Scott Largay, I give my gratitude for helping me brainstorm as if it was his own. Thank you, brother.

May I present, Big Five Tours & Expeditions – Designed Differently. Explored Sustainably.




Dear Advisor Partners,

We are always looking for signs of what 2022 will look like. Sure, there have been some twists and turns to start the year, so perhaps the signs are not as clear as we would like. However, after the amazing letter from our CEO in last week’s blog, a love letter to the industry if you will, we thought we would share our first video of 2022.  We want to share some of our successes with you since, in a large part, you were responsible for them.

Our commitment to being socially responsible and traveling with meaning was scaled up as business started to pick up. It’s actually the most important achievement for us, beyond any key performance indicator, because our commitment to helping those in need is what keeps us grounded. In 2021, we launched three new sustainability projects under our GIB 5.0 umbrella, and every complete Big Five journey supports one of these projects automatically. To read more about how GIB 5.0 works click here. We helped launch Kipi the robot, which was deployed to the poorest parts of Peru to bring education to communities that lack even basic internet connection as a form of fighting drug trafficking. Thanks to your help, we launched a clean water project in Guatemala partnering with EcoFiltro, putting us on track to provide over 2000 children in Guatemala with clean water for two years starting in 2022. Our long-standing support of Ereto Primary School accelerated into high gear, thanks to your generous contributions, that allowed us to grow this school from 20 children over 8 years ago, to more than 300 children as of January 1, 2022. We restarted our funding of the Jetwing Youth Development program in Sri Lanka partnering with Jetwing Hotels to provide hospitality training for inner-city youth and those born in conflict, in order to offer a viable future. We shifted back from poverty alleviation to micro-entrepreneurship for Andean women in the Sacred Valley of Peru through our partnership with Awamaki. Providing equitable wages for these women through weaving, we even contracted them for the handmade bracelets so many of you received at the travel conferences we participated in from Virtuoso Travel Week to ILTM.

We have so much more planned for 2022 on the horizon. That however starts with some levity and a possible sign of good times…my injuries. In fact, we created a video for you just to make you smile. Happy New Year everyone! We are looking forward to taking on 2022 with you, even if I am typing left-handed these days.

Dear Advisor Partners,

On behalf of the entire Big Five family around the world, I take this opportunity to express our appreciation for your partnership and more importantly, your friendship. Like many of you, the days ahead are looking much brighter and we have many reasons to be excited for the year to come. Above all else, we are excited to take the 2022 journey with all of you, after all, it’s only fitting that we emerge together from the struggle we entered together.

As we ring in 2022, I think back to when I started the company in 1973, almost half a century ago. While that may date me, it doesn’t take away the importance of the first few lessons I learned when I got my start at a hotel front desk in Kenya.

First, I learned there is a difference between the path to reacting and the path to responding and you have only a few seconds to make the right choice that defines either a reaction or a response. It’s this choice, in that small amount of time, that defines how happy guests can be.

Second, I remember being told that travel teaches us to practice peace and to recognize that this is a conscious choice not a given. It means getting out of our comfort zone to find that peace while finding new ways to appreciate those in our lives and to let them know they are valued. As you can probably tell, this doesn’t just apply to guests, it applies to anyone in your life. Make the conscious choice, and peace becomes your constant.

Third,  ask yourself daily, ‘what habits, thoughts, feelings and actions are in my voluntary control that will elevate my state of being?’. There is more in your voluntary control than you think and the best actions are the ones from the heart, the invisible actions. You see the last two years were a reminder for me and everyone here at Big Five, that happiness isn’t from what we get, but from what we give.

We entered 2020 together and we are emerging together. Our message is no longer the same, it has evolved. That means leaving the world better than we found it is no longer a mission. It’s a responsibility and an honor we must hold in the highest regard. Out of all the lessons I learned in the nearly 50 years at Big Five and the 7+ years before that in hotel management, these three lessons have endured. They have guided me since the beginning and especially in these past two years. I hope they can do the same for you.

Best wishes for 2022, I look forward to sharing in success, awareness, and invisible greatness with all of you.

In appreciation,

Mahen Sanghrajka
CEO & Founder Big Five Tours & Expeditions
Chairman Spirit of Big Five Foundation

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