Creeping into a hide (a camouflaged outdoor room where you watch animals from) in Zambia, to watch antelope on the lagoon...only to find there was a lioness sitting INSIDE on the bench! I've never been so terrified and confused in my whole life! Fortunately, it was a windy day...and in the right direction...so she didn't sense me and I live to tell the tale! But my life really did flash before my eyes! I actually had a commission had a sketch commissioned to remember the amazing moment. I was within 1.5 meters from her. I don't think I'll ever get as close to a lion on foot ever again!
I love travel, adventure, nature and being outdoors, so philanthrophic travel is really important to me.
I started writing the Culsans Business Plan in 2017 while working in Zambia. I'm really passionate about educating our next generation about the impacts of conservation and how they operate on a day-to-day basis. If we don't know what's involved, how are we meant to continue the good work of the existing conservancies and develop positive conservation initiatives in the future? It's out world after all, we need to know how to look after it successfully.
What is your favorite travel memory?
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I've become much more in tune with Gen Z. When I started Culsans, I thought it was easy to know what 18 year olds want. I'm only 30 so it wasn't too long ago! But things have changed so much and so quickly. What was cool when I was 18 certainly isn't the case now! I had to adapt to a new mindset & modern attitudes fast. I'm also really lucky that I do what I love. My interest in conservation, Kenya and wildlife is genuine so my knowledge organically develops on the subject though my own research and reading, rather than me feeling like it's work!
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
They all have good stories to tell! Whether it's from further traveling that they go on to do, or success stories when they get back. I love staying in touch and really try to help my students develop further into successful careers or work experience. I feel so invested in every single one of them! I always feel very proud when I tell people about Mimi going on to write an article with The Sunday Telegraph. She really wants to get into Conservation Journalism after uni so that was a great introduction I was able to make for her.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Culsans is not a big travel agent, selling multiple options for gap year students. We are a one-man band and we only have one trip. This gives us a quality unlike others - it makes us true specialists in the product we offer. I am very conscious of growing the company too quickly and losing our personal touch and relationships with local communities. I like knowing that we definitely offer the very best Kenyan conservation adventure experience and I'm not in a rush to change that!
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
The quality of a Culsans experience really is very different to your standard gap year experience - they are completely different products. We do not cut any corners. If we did, it would change the product and effectively cheat our students. We work with the most amazing local people and successful, untouched conservancies directly. You are not able to get inside the conservancies we take you to collectively any other way. It's an extremely privileged itinerary.
And furthermore, for every student that comes on a trip with us, a $500 donation is automatically given to the Il Ngwesi Scholarship Fund, supporting Maasai children through university.
Proud feelings tend to happen spontaneously when least expected, and are usually to do with student/maasai interaction or sharing of knowledge. At Il Ngwesi, I looked around to see all of the Maasai trainee guides turning up to hear our afternoon lectures. They sat among our students and they all learnt together, side by side. I really wasn't sure if the Maasai would come or not so was so overwhelmed to see this sight!
Another moment was in the school. Our students were giving a talk about careers and the different jobs you can do in life. They told the Maasai students that if anyone had any questions they could stay behind at the end. Around a third of the room did which was just amazing! They were all so engaged on the subject and really wanted to know more.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
Good question! I think I'd have to say, from my gut feeling, honesty and passion. There are huge highs and lows running a company. There is no way I could do this without my genuine passion for responsible travel and wanting to inspire and educate people. It's what drives me every day. And honesty is what keeps things in perspective while maintaining personal values. It helps develop friendships and manage expectations.