Ralph Iantosca's Podcast

Bush and Beyond Kenya portfolio with Elizabeth Bean Crookston

January 03, 2020 Ralph Iantosca Season 1 Episode 3
Ralph Iantosca's Podcast
Bush and Beyond Kenya portfolio with Elizabeth Bean Crookston

spk_0:   0:06
Bush and beyond is one of our favorite suppliers that are very authentic and offer some very special experiences in Kenya. So I'm here with Liz, a 15 year friend that we've worked together through Apthe, the Association of Promotion of Tourism to Africa, and Sean, who is Chris's son, who we know through Nairobi, and he's over here with us today. So I thought it would be fun for us to maybe communicate everything that we can about the Bush and beyond portfolio to our listeners, to get them to become very excited about things they don't nothing about. So why don't we start with Liz and there's welcome. I'm so glad you're here, So why don't we talk a little bit about an introduction of like how you got started and tell us a little bit about your background?

spk_1:   0:48
I am the perfect example of why people end up falling in love with Africa on safari. So just first of all, thanks for having us and I am Canadian by birth. And Kenyon by soul is what I like to say, and I went on safari 16 years ago. I have a background in advertising and headed up an ad agency in Toronto. And so this was my vacation. I went on safari, and I stayed at members of the Bush beyond portfolio on my first

spk_2:   1:17
safari and came home and quit my job six weeks later, pack my bags and headed to Kenya. So I always warn your clients when they're heading out, that could be truly life changing. So I was privileged enough again to stay at a number of other Bush and beyond properties and during that time, because one of the things I love about our portfolio is they're all individually owned and operated, so the owners are there on site. There. You sit with them at the dinner table, you get to hear their stories. And while I was there, one of the owners of Franco family asked me if I would consider Rocky Colin, and they asked me whether I would consider doing their sales marketing. And here we are 15 years later. So I've had the privilege of working with all of these owners and now the next generation of them people like Sean and call in the Iraqi sun and peers his son Jeremy, and now the next generation. The Craig family. So it's been fantastic.

spk_0:   2:10
I love it. And Sean tell us about you. Like, what do you love about working in our business? I think probably what I'm, you know, enjoy the most is the second generational continuation. Actually like, Let's just said we are alone Iran and independent properties that come under the Bush and going put portfolio on. A lot of them are second generation, you know, myself included. So we have Colin and Rocky and Andrew taking over Jeremy taking over from peers and Hillary up with Sarah. You know, Sophie and Callum, Sophie's fourth generation living on. They were coming, you know, right down to tangle here in the morrow. Jackson's got his daughter tomorrow. It's working with him. I love him in our office and I really There's five of us through a second generation within the office. And so why do you love working this fire business? Every day is a different day. You know, nothing's ever the same, you know, putting together itineraries. It's Yeah, it's I enjoy it. Actually, you know, I might not necessarily be on safari myself, but getting Thio put together things for people who are gonna have a great time. Really, really well, so Okay, let's talk about who is the candidate for Bush and beyond. But tell me until her listeners, who is perfect and ideally suited to come to your place, is their very special. They're very unique,

spk_2:   3:25
you know, it's really often hard to describe the typical customer because we have clients that come from all over and, you know, in old, different sort of generational dynamics. But I think they share the same sense of purpose, and that is to try and find an authentic way to experience a safari that's becoming really hard to do. And again, you know, we were talking about this. Sean and I have been traveling together for a couple days and and about the fact that we're the last portfolio in East Africa of owner operated properties. And that sounds strange and your clients may not understand what that means. But what it does mean is you're you're meeting people who have chosen to live and make their lives in Kenya for multitudes of generations, and I would see people come to Kenya for the wild life. Obviously, we've got fantastic wildlife, but people leave with stories about the people, and that's what touches people in in particularly in Kenya's all the different cultures and the opportunity to get to interact with them. And I think that's what makes it special. So I guess what I would describe our ideal client is is someone who's looking for authenticity and who wants to, you know, create memories. We talk about our group of owners being creating memories for generations.

spk_0:   4:39
Well, it's funny you say that because you know the three key ingredients into every single trip that I do. It has to be authentic, has to be innovative, and it has to be memorable or we will not do it. That's just what we're known for. That's why we're such great partners. Exactly. E no, I think we think the same. So let me have you take a few minutes and just kind of share what these experiences like Like, what are your properties, like if you've never been to Kenya before, right, that's just typical. My friends went on safari or I've been on safari. I've never been this far, but, you know, and my friends went and they did something that everybody's always heard of. right. But then there's you that they've never heard of so kind of. What is that?

spk_2:   5:19
Well, you know again, say that the nice part about where are our property's heir located? That you could make a fantastic itinerary just using our portfolio of properties. And so, you know, obviously the Mara is the most famous and iconic national park in Kenya, and everybody wants to go there because of the migration. And I always tell people, you know, there is fantastic stuff happening in Kenya 10 months of the year. Really, there's only two months that I say necessary. Don't want to travel in Kenya, and those are rainy season. So November and April can be a bit iffy for us in Kenya. But in the Mara, where we're different than everybody else is the opportunity to have authentic cultural experiences again. The Mars jam packed with wildlife. That's fantastic people going for that. But I think what you miss out if you don't stay at a property like tangled Tamara, that's the first moss I owned and operated camping. Tamara, that's so great, you're not gonna get the opportunity, Thio. So so describe the

spk_0:   6:16
camp. What is the camp like

spk_2:   6:18
our camp is, you know, And I would say it's it is comfortable. It is not going to be on top of the top luxury because we actually don't want you to be in camp. We want you to get out and the experiencing, the wild life, you're going to be comfortable. You could have a great bed to sleep in fabulous food, you know, lovely hot shower and all the things you'd want. But we're really focusing on getting you out and whether that's getting you out on a game drive to go and see the world like whether that's getting out to be ableto walk. I mean, that's another fabulous thing because we sit in private land at all of

spk_1:   6:50
our camps and lodges. We can get out and walk. We can camel ride, we can horseback ride. You know, there's all sorts of different ways of experience,

spk_0:   6:57
So describe a walk. What would that be like? Because I think people think I'm not good out of the Jeep, but I'm gonna be eaten by a lion. You know,

spk_1:   7:05
I always say there's a great quotation I use, and I will admit that I've stolen for Robert Pope, who sort of was found him walking safaris and he describes it as a game drive is like seeing the movie on a walk is like reading the book on DSO. He's get into more nuances. You get to learn a bit more about the characters, and we do it safely. We are. I always remind people this is not a zoo, it is a wildlife park or Conservancy, and so we always walk with an armed ranger. We hopefully never have to do anything with that and touch wood we never have. But when you're out on a walk, you officer get quite close to some of the game. So things like giraffe and zebra you could, you know, get close to and get understand. But you also get to know a little bit about the little five. We always talk about the Big Five, you know, the lion, the rhino, the elephant buffalo. But there is actually a little 52 and that's often fun to try and find. So the leopard tortoise or the rhino beetle, or the Buffalo Weaver, which is a bird. You know you do that and you learn about the plant life and and the plants are not only important for the wildlife, it's it's their nutrition. And, you know, when you think about it, even the lions kind of eating plants because he's he's eating a herbivore. But the plant life has huge cultural implications. So we talk about a tree called The Old Secretary, which is the sandpaper tree. Well, it's used in the Maasai culture two ways. One, The leaves feel like sandpaper, and they use it as sandpaper. That's what they do tow, sort of fine tune, their wrong guys or the spheres, but it's also their peace symbol. So the way we wave a white flag and our culture, they hold up a branch of the old secretary when they're coming to me together. So you learn those sorts of things when you

spk_0:   8:44
don't love that. Okay, that's really fun. Let's talk about some of the other properties that you represent. So, like my personal favorite is, it lay well, which I've been to many times. Why don't we tell everybody about Layla?

spk_1:   8:55
Layla is an amazing place. It's a UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is probably nowthe largest Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa and darn close to the continent of Africa. So it's home to over 100 rhino, both black and white, almost equal number, but is also home to some other unique endangered species. So we have a type of draft, a draft story, see brother called the Gravity Zebra, and there are less than 2500 of these in the world, so they're more in danger than the elephant or the rhino or the draft things that we hear about in the media and the gravity zebra. 30% of the world's population is found on Layla Wow, and it's an absolutely beautiful private Conservancy. It was started by the Craig family. It was their original family farm, and now we have the fourth generation on fifth generation of the family, living and working there. So lay warehouse are property on. Layla is owned by Sophie and Callum, and Sophie is the fourth generation of her family and her kid. Their kids were actually born at labor. Archie's birth certificate says Cottage for a wildlife.

spk_0:   10:02
That's fun. What can you do? One later

spk_1:   10:04
on later. Obviously, we're gonna do game drives, and we do game drives at all of our properties, But again, what I like to talk about with label Wildlife Conservancy is that less than 40% of the Conservancy is accessible by road. So you need to get out of the car in order to get into certain places. And we'll do that by foot, obviously going out for game walks. But we also do it on horseback. There's nothing like being on a horse and riding into a herd of zebra or draft.

spk_0:   10:28
You know what? I did that at your property and I loved it. Yeah, that was very special.

spk_1:   10:32
And then we also have camels and people go camels. And in Kenya, you don't think about them as a safari animal. But if you think when we the amazing get thing about Kenya is the equator runs right through the middle. So if you think of North Africa so the northern part of Canada, you can think about Egypt and Morocco. And, of course, you think of camels. They're so anywhere we are in the northern part of Kenya. You're gonna find camels as well.

spk_0:   10:54
That's fun. And what about Sarah? This is always intrigued. Me,

spk_1:   10:58
Sarah. Sarah means the meeting place on DIT is situated in a Conservancy called Nam You Knock, which is the place of peace in the Samburu language. And this is the largest community conservation area in Old of Africa. It's 850,000 acres, and we are the only safari operation within that Conservancy. So it's It's an amazing success story. It is a community owned and operated and by getting the community involved, and that's what we like to do it all of our properties. We are actually saving the wildlife because the community benefits from the wildlife being there, and it begins to understand. For the Samburu and the Maasai in particular, elephants and things were there cooperators. They were the things that eight, you know, they're they're all of their maze and caused problems. Or they may have got into conflict with the humans coming into the villages, etcetera. So they saw them as the enemy. And now that they're benefiting from them being there financially and their Children are being able to go to school and metal prompt medical projects are happening for them all the result of tourism, they see the elephant as their Saviours. And so we now have the second largest herds up in Sarah. This is an area that in the 19 seventies didn't have an elephant to be found. So it's an amazing success story and mystical, Beautiful. What does it

spk_0:   12:18
look like out there?

spk_1:   12:20
How do you describe that? I describe it. You have this amazing ring of mountains, the Matthews Mountain ranges that encircle the Conservancy, and then in the middle of it, you sort of have these flat kind of scrubland with sort of copies rising out of the middle of it and up on those Matthews mountains, you're gonna find some of the oldest plant life known to man. And really, the amazing thing about it, which I hadn't realized, is it is actually called a sky Island because it is surrounded by desert on the rest of the side of it. It's its own little biosphere. I mean, so literally a picture of the biosphere that sits out in Arizona that all of those guys walked into it and locked away. And you have 850,000 acres. That's huge. So what is this story with the water slot? So the fun part again about this part of Kenya is we have these great springs up on the mountains and at certain times of the year after we've had the reins. Obviously there's more water coming through the springs and everything, and we have these natural rock slides that you can literally slip, slide your way down. We call it sort of a Samburu water park and is great fun to be doing that.

spk_0:   13:29
Oh, my gosh, I love that. You know, I've always heard about the singing wells there, and I just think this is something that's really interesting. So describe that experience.

spk_1:   13:38
So the singing wells happen in our dry season. So that is pretty well from, I would say, are dry seasons up in this area. Sort of is from this January February and then again operates with July, August, September into October. And the Samburu are like the moss, either the or livestock people. So they have cattle, they have goats and they have sheep. And so in the dry season, the rivers have completely dried up, so they have to dig wells down to the ground water. And the amazing thing is, these wells are passed down from generation to generation to generation. So my family, if I was Sand Brew would have been going to the same well for over 500 years, and we just dig deeper each time so that what happened sort of each morning when they're coming in, is they'll come in with their cattle on your sheep and goats and L to this area where there's probably about 30 of 40 wells in any given area. And then the men will shut off their clothes and they form a human chain down to the bottom of the well. And right now that's raw. Those wells are five men deep, so they literally are five men down to the bottom to the top, and they passed buckets of water to the troughs that you'll find on the riverbed. But why they're called the singing Wells is at my well, I sing a certain song so my cows and sheeps and goats know to come to my well. Shawn's well, he would sing a completely different song and his cavil in goats and sheep to go to his well, you're well, you'd sing a different song, so you have this amazing singing and all the bells ringing of the cows and the sheep and the goats coming in. And not only what's happening there, besides the water and the livestock, is this is the meeting place. That is what Sarah means meeting place. And so this is where all the business happened. So this is where you and I discuss whether my daughter should marry your son. This is where we settle a domestic dispute. This is where the women get their gauss up. I mean, all of that is happening at the wells. So after the livestock leave, that's usually about two o'clock in the afternoon, we'll come back down with their guests, they'll and we'll take them to see the changing of the guards. And what we mean by that is course the livestocks left, and the elephants now want to come and get some water, too. So the Ellie is all come out of the trees in the bushes and come down from the banks and down to the river bed, and they start to stick their trunks in and scrape up whatever water is left

spk_0:   15:55
for God, that sounds so special. You know, I don't think people ever realize the cultural connection. I mean, they're all about the game and all about seeing the game, and I think the cultures air really great. I remember when I was at Rocky and Collins Place, I actually went to assemble over Wedding, and it was one of the most special things that ever been to in my whole entire life. Don't you talk about Rocky and Colin in their world in their ranch?

spk_1:   16:16
Well, Colin and Rocky Frank can run a ranch and a lodge called Somalo, which means the place of the greater coup do and a coup do is a beautiful type of antelope. This viral horns and what I love about Colin and Rocky and the Frank family is, and this is appropriate as we're in Texas. It's a working cattle ranch, and they've just allowed the wildlife to come on. And so the wild like Inter mingles with their domesticated wild life. So it's a really special spot, and what they have also done like that Sarah is they have a wonderful relationship with their local Samburu community. So this is as you were saying before you saw the Samburu wedding. It's where I got married on DDE, had my Samburu wedding. I didn't do all everything that they do in a traditional sever wedding. But almost and I love it. I think you know what's so lovely about all of the members of the bush. My own portfolio is that the cultural side just happens intrinsically, because our gods, our staff, our owners are

spk_2:   17:16
all going to be from the local

spk_1:   17:17
community. And yes, we'll do the village visits. And yes, you'll have the opportunity to see the singing wells when they're active. They're, you know, an operation and and we'll

spk_2:   17:26
go to a local school and do all of

spk_1:   17:27
that. But in the meantime, just sort of all all the time, you're interacting with Sam

spk_0:   17:32
Boom. I love that. That makes it really special. You know, For years and years, I had to talk about anything negative in tourism. But I've been too very busy places in Africa like, for example, the Angora Girl crater, and everybody hears about you know where a man first walked in, You know, the in global crater, and it's really sad that it's so overcrowded. And there's lines of vehicles waiting to get in and T shirt shocks and all these crazy Maasai that are running after the bus is trying to get tips, and it's not like what we have with you, which is authentic. Real deal. Yeah, yeah,

spk_2:   18:03
and I and I think our guests just feel that, you know, I'm looking at

spk_1:   18:07
your business card right

spk_2:   18:08
now with authentic, innovative and memories, and so aligns with exactly what we do. And, you know, I think authenticity is everything to us. It's it's what we eat, sleep and breathe. It's probably the most important thing for us is that we we offer authentic experiences that create member memories

spk_1:   18:27
for our guests when they stay with me. I was just saying,

spk_0:   18:30
and I don't know who said this, but it's like, you know, you can leave Africa. Africa never leaves you. You know, I don't know where that comes from, what I've heard it my whole life, and I just love it. And I just feel like your experiences that all your properties air so special and unique. And I talk about like the number of rooms at each place, for example, on how intimate they're mean because some of these places, like on the morrow, these lodges, I mean, like, I don't know the Fairmont or they're 100 rooms and the's Serena lodges that are 100 rooms and these junket packages that people go on with buses and hours of driving. And like, you know, they're in these big vans out of tomorrow, getting high centered and like, let's talk about your quality, like the vehicles. You know how big your place is, what it's like.

spk_1:   19:10
I would like to say where we are

spk_2:   19:12
intimate because we actually love Thio at most of our properties, alleges get or guests all together around the dining room table, and they're hosted by the owners. So we we need of a big dinner party every night, which I, which I love. We also, of course, offer, you know, private dining and intimate experiences for those who want it. But our largest lodge

spk_1:   19:30
is our Nairobi property and the Emma Cocoa and Anton and Emma. There we have 10 cottages so we can do 20 gas, plus our private villas. So that's our largest. Our smallest Somalo lodges eight guests, so I say, on average were about 12 to 14 guests at any of our properties

spk_0:   19:47
at one time at one time, when they're completely full, when they're completely for that's so great. Yeah,

spk_1:   19:52
and as such, we try to make sure that all of our guests have a private experience. When they're win in a vehicle, they're gonna have their guide at that lodge or camp with them. Their entire stay. We never change. Guys. We want you to form a relationship. We want our guide to get to know you love you. Be part of your family. By the time you leave and we will put you in a private vehicle, I mean, and when I say a vehicle here, we're not in a minivan. We're not in a pop top. We're gonna be in a Land Cruiser or Land Rover, and you're gonna be able to get your pictures and have a guide with you who's gonna be able to explain what you're seeing when you're doing a game drive and just have that wonderful We want to build relationships. We truly believe that you should leave one of our cans, all of our camps and lodges feeling like you just left your family.

spk_0:   20:35
Yeah, I know. I felt that I love that At

spk_1:   20:37
least the family you love. So what are

spk_0:   20:39
three takeaways that our clients and did a listening to this podcast are going to get from Bush and beyond

spk_1:   20:44
we always use, you know, our motto is, you know, explore experience, escape And why we used as we like to say, that you're gonna get the chance to explore our privately owned camps and lodges. And so you're gonna form that relationship with our with our families while your family is staying with us. When we talk about experience, we really talk about the fact that you're gonna get to experience authenticity. So

spk_2:   21:07
authentic cultural experiences, you know, authentic wildlife. Our wildlife is old, moving on its traditional migratory path and having that its rates and last escape. And what we mean by escape is that you're gonna get into these amazing private Conservancy's, and you're gonna escape from the crowds you escape from your life back home, and you're gonna have the opportunity to create, you know, memories in a wonderful you know, truly magical way.

spk_0:   21:33
Oh, I love that. Well, thank you all for joining us today. This was really helpful. And you're one of our favorite partners and you always will be. Thank you. Thank you. I'd love to speak with you. more about these wonderful itineraries and things that we do. So please reach out to Ralph at the office. You can call me at 1877301 11 10. Again. Toll free. 1877301 11 10 Please visit our website www dot i in tosca travel dot com Spelled I a n t o s c A. Also, you can send me an email to Ralph r A L p h at I am tosca travel dot com. Thank you so much.