Dear Advisor Partners,

February 14, 2023, is a day I won’t soon forget, and it really has nothing to do with Cupid (don’t tell my wife I said that). It was 8:00 AM in Nairobi, and I was getting ready to head to the lobby at my favorite hotel, Hemingway’s, when my colleague, Irene, from our Kenya team,  called me and said, “come quick, someone is here to see you.” I ran, thinking it was an emergency meeting or maybe someone important. When I arrived in the lobby, I looked around and heard a soft voice that I remembered very fondly saying, “Ashish!” I quickly turned around and said, “Sammy”? You see, Sammy is a tour guide for a different company and was at the hotel to meet his guests when Irene saw and told him I was in Nairobi. What were the odds?  With five million residents in Kenya and at this exact moment we were in the same place. Lighting in a bottle doesn’t even begin to describe the moment.


Sammy and I were kids together in Kenya., Sammy, my senior by a few years. His family has been intertwined with mine since my father was 3 years old, so we are talking about a 70 plus year relationship. Well, Sammy cut his teeth in tourism working after school at the Kenya Big Five office and made a career for himself. Well, I hadn’t seen Sammy since I was 12, and if I recall, I am 45 now. His face had not changed, I knew who it was immediately. I don’t think I have ever hugged another person as tight as I hugged Sammy because we both knew right away that it was a miracle that we even found each other again. So, there we were in Hemmingway’s lobby, tears, his clients waiting and wondering who I was, and my party wondering who Sammy was. Now I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason, and I don’t know how our paths aligned, but the last thing I said to Sammy before leaving Nairobi was – please, let’s not wait 30 years to talk again.


If that isn’t crazy enough, my day still wasn’t done. Fast forward 3 hours after flying to the Rift Valley to a private Maasai conservancy in the southern part of the country. Our chartered Cessna 206 lands on a dirt airstrip deep in the valley. A long Land Cruiser awaits us with a Maasai guide named Amos. I swear I had seen Amos before because that Déjà vu feeling was in full force. My “Spidey sense” was off the charts. As we drove towards our hidden retreat, Lentorre Lodge, I asked Amos if we had met before. By this point, the travel advisors on safari with me are asking, is there anyone you don’t know? Amos starts recounting his safari journey from Basecamp Explorer back in 2010 and I say, “Amos, were you at Koiyaki Guide School in the Mara?” He nods his head, possibly wondering where this conversation is going. Do you remember two Canadian volunteers teaching music there? Amos nods and turns around, now realizing where the conversation is going. Do you remember Big John, a 15 year old Maasai who towered over everyone including my 6 ft. 3 in. frame?  He nods again, now fully engaged. Do you remember a swarm of African bees in the back of the school and this one visitor who walked through that swam unaware of his surroundings? Now laughing, Amos says “was that you”? Well… and I still don’t have any sense of my surroundings all these years and that was the day I was stung by the famous African Killer Bees multiple times on my left arm. Amos now with a good laugh going, remembered who I was and me him. He said you were squeezing your stings which is completely wrong!  I agreed and reminded him that I got more worried about the stings when he started hitting the wounds and looking for a sharp object to skin my arm to get the stingers, I had foolishly pushed further back in and out.


If you ever asked yourself what would happen if you were injured in a remote area far from hospitals and cities, well, I answered that question for myself that day. I looked at Amos, and as I said to Sammy that morning, February 14, 2023,  is a day I will never forget. A one-chance meeting is incredible. However, two in a span of a few hours on the same day just seems like divine intervention.

CLICK HERE and Enjoy Part II of our East Africa Dispatch video

Dear Advisor Partners,

This week’s blog is very special as I write my first dispatch from East Africa. We have dispatches lined up to share exciting happenings in Tanzania and Kenya, where my parents and I are from.  I have already taken almost 300 photos and video clips from the Serengeti, however, that will be covered in our next dispatch. No, today is more important. This exact week marks the 50th anniversary of Big Five, and I thought it fitting that on the exact week where we started operations in Kenya 5 decades ago, I am on safari in the Serengeti. It’s funny how the world works. That delay in Istanbul I talked about in dispatch 0.5 last week is coming into play even more with each passing day as it allowed me to be in the Serengeti with a few amazing travel advisors who are enjoying getting off the beaten track while in the bush.

So, this week. I felt compelled to record a video while sitting at Roving Bushtops, one of my favorite camps in Serengeti South. Now I must tell you, this video took me 10 times to get right as I couldn’t get through because of the topic and emotions. Starting in January, we shared stories from the origin of Big Five, as recalled by my father. Well, this week, I wanted to share a story about my mother as she is the backbone of Big Five.

So, enjoy the video, and stay tuned for future dispatches. If you need information on the latest happenings in Serengeti, where I just left, or the Great Rift Valley of Kenya where I head next, please feel free to ask.

CLICH HERE to watch our story unfold.

Dear Advisor Partners,

I am a creature of habit, and I love routine. I get my coffee from the same local place down the road from my neighborhood, take the same route to work every day, and make an annual pilgrimage back to my native East Africa at the beginning of every year, taking a few advisors with me. When it comes to going on safari with Big Five, game viewing is the most normal thing you will do. It’s everything else that makes a safari a #bigfivin safari.

Stay tuned to this blog as we share dispatches from the journey. My adventure started early, and it seems a flight delay now allows me a chance to see Istanbul, where I recorded this video. So, enjoy Part I and keep watching as we share more insights from East Africa.

The Unplanned Stop:  CLICK HERE to watch this exciting journey unfold.



2023 makes a major milestone for Big Five and one that makes me very proud, our 50th anniversary. In February 1973, in Nairobi, Kenya, the dream of Big Five was born. My father, whom many of you have met, was working at the front desk at a major hotel in Nairobi. While sitting at the hotel’s Big Five bar, he and his friends decided to partner up, and Big Five was born. Initially, Big Five was a small local touring company based in Kenya. Our US office opened in 1985, followed by operations in Latin America in 1989 and acquiring an Asia portfolio in 1997. We thought initially to list every major milestone along the way and present one of the timelines you always see in a car museum or corporate HQ lobby. Then we remembered life isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about the struggle, the journey, and your actions along the way.

So, we decided to chronicle the struggle and the journey and let the timeline speak for itself of my Fathers’ Tales;


Having left a career in hotel management to start Big Five, going on safaris was now part of my new job description… one that I have been doing since the age of 8.

In 1978, Big Five was only a few years old, and I was living in Nairobi. Often, a few of us in the industry who were friends would travel together. On this particular day, we were going from Nairobi to the famous Masai Mara in a minivan driving over those dreaded roads and discussing issues that were threatening the wildlife in Kenya.

As we entered the Mara, we saw a brush fire just outside the reserve and realized the danger it posed and immediately asked for help from the locals, explaining how the fire would harm their farms if we didn’t do anything. As it later turned out, a cigarette butt started this fire. Thank goodness it never expanded into a full brush fire.

When we arrived at our lodge, we immediately shared our story with the park rangers. We asked, “What can we do to stop guests from smoking in the game reserves?” explaining the irreversible damage it would have caused to the ecosystem had it not been extinguished.

What if we hadn’t been there? What if the local communities refused to help?

We came to the conclusion that we must approach the Ministry of Tourism in Nairobi and meet with Kenya wildlife personnel. Luckily, through a good friend and our director/my partner at Big Five in Kenya, we met one of the ministers overseeing tourism, Lawrence Sagini,  who was able to arrange a private meeting with the cabinet minister to share our concerns.

As a direct result of this meeting, quick action was taken by the government to ensure the conservation and protection of natural resources and made it a priority in their policy-making decisions. This meeting started the conversation that morphed into larger sustainability topics that Kenya is addressing today.

Enjoy the special video we made for this moment. CLICK HERE

We invite you to share in celebrating 50 years together. If you have a story to share, please feel free to let me know, or if you want to just say hello to Mahen, I’m sure he would love to hear from you.

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