My father started Big Five in Kenya in 1973 with a singular goal – to reveal in the eyes of an elephant tourism’s power to save wild places. This continues to drive our vision 47 years later. We still need to show the faces of tourism through the people, the priceless habitats and rare wildlife in the countries we serve.
My earliest encounter with one of those faces was John Kimani, the first Big Five guide I met when I was a kid. John could drive anything with four wheels, even if two of those wheels were not on the ground at any given time. More than four decades later, his talents still impact my life in a positive way.
There are countless John Kimani personalities in the world, and they represent the best of tourism. Right now, their lives are on hold and their ability to provide for their families through tourism is threatened.
I’m not worried about us. Big Five is a financially sound company with one of the best reputations in the industry. We have been through downturns and troubled times before and we know how to persevere, as does every member of our team. We are so lucky to have our loved ones and friends near, so our focus turns to others we can help right now. It is our responsibility, as market leaders; no, as human beings, to help provide for those most in need to ensure they are still here when you are ready to travel again.
The world is healing itself as we use fewer resources in this moment. It seems to be coming around full circle, bringing us back to our humble beginnings. In Africa, it’s reinforcing our commitment to the private community conservancies that we have closely partnered with for so long. In Peru, we have used tourism for years to fund the betterment of women in multiple weaving communities. We continue to help through donations of food to let the 139 women know they are not alone.
In Colombia, those beginnings lead us to a renowned rum sommelier in Cartagena that I am proud to call a brother. He is using his connections, as the son of the mayor, to a provide food for the impoverished communities around the city and toys for their kids. I am so gratified that Big Five has been supporting these communities for years through the delivery of paper straws to help alleviate plastic consumption and waste, the delivery of school supplies for their children, and mangrove planting to help preserve irrigation streams. Today I am thankful that we are involved with helping feed more than 6,000 families in those communities.
Our work is not done. Indeed, it is just beginning. We are so fortunate to be in such a powerful industry, that even in hardship and struggle, we don’t lose our commitment to those remote societies we serve through tourism.
Travelers will hit the road again. And like so many of you, I cannot wait to get back to exploring the remote nooks and crannies of the world. Until then, I will stay on course with my purpose and that of Big Five’s to continue to help where we can. We look forward to once again roaming the globe to meet the smiling faces waiting to welcome us back when this is done. We will be ready when you are.
Over the past few weeks our team has tried to find the words to describe the current effort. I really loved what they came up with and am proud to share it here.
Big Five Tours & Expeditions: humanizing the soul yesterday, today and tomorrow.