Sarah Gold

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Most
Kenyan and Tanzanian safari lodges enlist Masai—traditional pastoralists, but
with a fierce hunting history—as game drivers, security guards, and
after-dinner entertainers (their high-jumping dances are meant to display
virility). But Shompole ascribes to a radically different business model. Here,
70 percent of the staff—including the chefs, the safari guides, the jeep
mechanics, and the gardeners who grow the vegetables and herbs used in the
kitchen—come from local Masai settlements. More remarkable, the tribe members
aren’t just employees of Shompole: they have a 30 percent ownership stake in
the property.

The
unusual partnership was the brainchild of Shompole founder Anthony Russell, a
Kenyan-born artist and conservationist who first visited the Nguruman
Escarpment in 1999. Moved by the beauty of the landscape and troubled by the
plight of the local Masai (who had been devastated by years of drought),
Russell approached the elders of the local clans with a proposition to lease a
parcel of the 140,000-odd acres under their tribal stewardship. With their
grazing lands parched and their cattle herds dwindling, they quickly recognized
the potential benefits of Russell’s vision: a cooperatively run lodge that
could bring new visitors—and new wealth—to their valley, while allowing them to
maintain their traditional way of life.

Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

Most
Kenyan and Tanzanian safari lodges enlist Masai—traditional pastoralists, but
with a fierce hunting history—as game drivers, security guards, and
after-dinner entertainers (their high-jumping dances are meant to display
virility). But Shompole ascribes to a radically different business model. Here,
70 percent of the staff—including the chefs, the safari guides, the jeep
mechanics, and the gardeners who grow the vegetables and herbs used in the
kitchen—come from local Masai settlements. More remarkable, the tribe members
aren’t just employees of Shompole: they have a 30 percent ownership stake in
the property.

The
unusual partnership was the brainchild of Shompole founder Anthony Russell, a
Kenyan-born artist and conservationist who first visited the Nguruman
Escarpment in 1999. Moved by the beauty of the landscape and troubled by the
plight of the local Masai (who had been devastated by years of drought),
Russell approached the elders of the local clans with a proposition to lease a
parcel of the 140,000-odd acres under their tribal stewardship. With their
grazing lands parched and their cattle herds dwindling, they quickly recognized
the potential benefits of Russell’s vision: a cooperatively run lodge that
could bring new visitors—and new wealth—to their valley, while allowing them to
maintain their traditional way of life.

Sarah Gold

Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

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