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.