Dear Advisor Partners,
I want to take you back to the year 2005, to a bar in California. I was on the speaking circuit for an adventure show that traveled around the US when I met Costas Christ. One day, after the show in California, Costas and I went for a drink at this local bar across from the convention center and we began to talk about sustainability. Though we didn’t know it yet, this man would go on to be a brother and a mentor to me. We talked about impactful change in the world and what that meant and agreed to write down thoughts that night and reconvene in the morning. We compared our chicken scratch, mine on a scrap paper and his on a cocktail napkin. Comparing our list of ideas, there it was, item number four on my list and item number five on his – “foundation.” I don’t think I ever in my life said yes as quickly as I did that day. Costas went on to guide me and even became an ambassador at large for what is now known as the Spirit of Big Five Foundation, at its inception.
Early projects started with a recycling center on the Galapagos Islands, preserving sea turtles in Belize, and even helping to set up the ruins of Koh Ker in Cambodia. Today the foundation has evolved with my father as the chairman. Working in conjunction with our GIB 5.0 proprietary program, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation has today evolved, while remaining the heart and soul of the company. While I never like to harp on the foundation’s achievements, as I never believed in bragging, I do think sharing some of the accomplishments are warranted here, since so many of you helped achieve these milestones:
These are all in addition to local projects in Colombia, Kenya, Morocco, and Ecuador.
All of this makes the announcement I make next, a proud moment for us. The Spirit of Big Five Foundation is now an approved philanthropic organization for Amazon Prime members. AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll have the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. Simply visit smile.amazon.com and select Big Five Foundation Inc. as your charity of choice or watch this instructional video to get started.
Learn more about the foundation here.
Dear Advisor Partners,
I just returned from visiting some of our amazing partners in Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta and meeting our mutual adventure travel enthusiasts, all of whom are so excited to get back out there to see the world the right way. Now aside from realizing my Alberta friends’ definitions of warm and mine are different, this visit reminded me of a really cool adventure I’ve been on with my family and repeatedly with our advisor partners, climbing up to Sky Lodge in Peru. For me, it’s what I look forward to as its one of the many examples of Peru beyond Machu Picchu.
On my last climb up, I kept thinking about the amazing footage a drone could take alongside the capsules, a bird’s eye view if you will. Fast forward and this week’s video features just that, amazing drone footage at the same altitude as the capsules. One can spend the night here, which is impressive, and others go up and down before lunch which I prefer, as it is equally impressive. This way I also get to enjoy my favorite lunch at this hidden gem of a local farm right off the square at Ollanta. There are two ways up, one via the Ferrata which is more psychological as it is about getting over our built-in fears of height and the other is a hiking trail, that is just as much fun. You are strapped in on both paths so falling isn’t a worry, even though your mind thinks it is. After a while, it just gets amusing!
Now coming down is just as much fun, with a series of zip lines that give you an amazing view of the valley as it opens up towards the horizon, each time bringing a new adventure for myself and our clients. This ranges from my people yelling obscenities midflight as the zip line gains steam (I learned a few new words in various languages I didn’t think even existed), to laughter, to a silent adrenaline rush. This is an adventure in its own right. You see, what I love about this whole experience is that it shows you that even in the most classic routing of Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, we don’t have to follow the classic touring that everyone else does. There are hidden gems, from Sky Lodge to unknown parts of the old Inca Trail that are not commercialized, that complete the memories of Peru we form, both before and after visiting Machu Picchu. If you agree, then you will definitely love this week’s video.
I close with a special thank you to Clare Isquith of Global Adventures in Travel. Her guests finished an amazing biking adventure with Duvine Cycling in Ecuador before we took over in Quito and later in Peru. Sky Lodge was a highlight for them and a reminder to me, I must get back to Peru!
Dear Advisor Partners,
Where are you from? Where are your family’s roots? For some, it’s one country, for others, it’s several countries. For me…it’s a bit more complicated. While I could say Kenya, or Sudan (or Colombia for those who visit with me), I proudly say India as well and I think, if for no other reason, it’s because I like to party. Let me explain…
You see India is home to some of the most amazing festivals. From Navratri twice a year, to Diwali, to one of my favorite celebrations, Holi, the festival of colors. Some even call Holi the festival of love, celebrating the bond between Radha and Krisha. More importantly, as well as more appropriate for the time, Holi observes the triumph of good over evil, in whatever manifestation that takes in your life. Reading the current events in our news, this is needed now more than ever. The celebration is where the colors come in, where you leave your cares and worries of which stain remover to use on your white clothes, and celebrate without any inhibitions, free in spirit. After the evil is vanquished in a large bonfire on the 17th, the Holi festival begins on March 18th.
With India now reopened and the quarantine period lifted, Holi is an important reminder of just how far Indian mythology and pop culture stretch. With Bollywood movies now filmed in Morocco on occasions, and the Holi festival being celebrated all over the world including places like Miami, London, and Kuala Lumpur, it’s very evident that India is no longer contained to the subcontinent, she is now embraced by the world. This was likely the vision the marketing folks in the Indian government had in 2003 when they introduced a campaign called “She Is India”.
Check out this week’s video, then on March 18th wish all your Indian friends होली मुबारक’ or just say Holi Mubarak and remember the meaning. We have defeated a lot in the last two years, and nothing can ever stop good from triumphing over evil, no matter what is happening around us. See you all in India soon!
Dear Advisor Partners,
I am back in the office after my final week experiencing Africa again, bringing the trip to an end in Uganda. If you have been following my dispatch from East Africa, you saw my adventure start in Tanzania, where the rains are great and the upcoming migration season is expected to be spectacular. The highlight, of course, was visiting the Ereto Primary School and seeing all the success being achieved there. From there, it was an adventure into Uganda, a place I love going back to. You see, a friend of mine, James Curry, who many of you know, often calls Uganda and Rwanda modern miracles. Countries with such a traumatic past, that it’s hard to fathom tourism even being a driver in the economy. Yet, here they are, clear examples of how sustainable tourism can transform a failing economy into a thriving one. My wife and her family know this better than most as her father and grandparents were exiled from Uganda by Idi Amin. I got to hear about their arduous journey out of Uganda during a stop in London on our way to Africa when I first got married. Their story and my past experiences in Uganda endeared me to this country, as much as my native Kenya. This journey was going to happen, no matter what.
Landing in Uganda, the joke in Entebbe is, ‘3 minutes’. Everything is 3 minutes away, which is insane compared to the traffic in Nairobi. While in Entebbe, you take in the relaxing atmosphere, the amazing food, then you also realize, even from my first visit to Uganda, that this is a country still transforming. The gorillas bring you in, it’s everything else that keeps you there, from the chimpanzees and forest elephants to the mouth of the Nile River and beyond. It was a great first stop before flying out to Kisoro to start my gorilla trek and the gorilla habituation. Some of you know from my January blog, I was supposed to do this journey with the amazing Lisa Freeburg and her family. However, Covid and a damaged shoulder sadly kept me back. So while I have recovered from Covid, my shoulder is still technically “busted,” but nothing was keeping me from returning. Much like Flat Ash made an appearance while Lisa was on safari, Flat Freeburg joined me on my safari!
Heading towards the trek, my adventure begins in Rushaga. I chose to avoid Nkuringo this time considering I was attempting to trek with one arm and knew that if I damaged my arm more, I would be too stubborn to stop trekking. We headed to Rushaga, which is not a cakewalk itself. Wearing a GoPro on my head, the documentation of the adventure begins. The first contact with the Kahungye family arrived a few hours later after a few steep inclines, avoiding giant footsteps of forest elephants that make Shaq’s feet look like toddlers’ in comparison. The interaction was amazing, including one little guy that snuck up behind me and tried grabbing my leg to pull me in with the family as he walked by. If I was a kid, I would never wash those pants again. The second day was a habituation experience with the Bikingi family, a wild group that is still not used to human interaction. The four hours that habituation allows you is worth its price in gold since the regular trek allows you one hour. This family is more elusive, constantly moving around, so our machete got good use as we cut a trek through the dense forest while keeping a respectful distance from the family. What a day.
Remember my shoulder? Well on day one, a slight hiccup transpired. You see, porters are included in all our treks at no extra cost. Unfortunately, when your dominant arm is the injured one, it’s a bit complicated to navigate a walking stick and use their hand for leverage. At one point I must have moved the bone, so when I went to push up against a tree, the arm gave out and I found myself in excruciating pain. Even that wasn’t going to deter me from what I had just witnessed and the privilege I felt to have been back here with these amazingly intelligent primates. My arm could have been falling off, (it certainly felt like it was), and I would have still had the massive grin ear to ear that I did.
Please enjoy this GoPro footage of my trek for this week’s blog video.
If you want to be seen gorilla trekking, there are great options for you. If you want to do the real thing, Uganda is for you.
Want to go back and see where I was before Uganda? Check these out below:
Dispatch from East Africa Part 1: featuring the Ereto Primary school
Dispatch from East Africa Part 2: featuring the Serengeti