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Cottar’s 1920 | A Safari Experience Like None Other + An Interview With Calvin Cottar

Cottar’s 1920 is a safari experience that is incomparable in the Maasai Mara National Park in Southern Kenya. Aside from the fact that the family-owned operation pioneered the idea of tourism safaris almost 100 years ago, the experience is like being a guest at someone’s private game reserve. And, in reality, that’s exactly the case. Equipped with incredibly luxurious “tents”, leaning more toward a private canvas villa, guests are taken a world away from reality, without having to give up modern conveniences. Plush bathrooms, cozy beds, fireplaces and a personal butler – all make for a good time. In the main tent, is the communal sitting areas, dining room and views for miles over the Mara.

Guests are treated to three gourmet meals daily, game drives, a swimming pool, spa treatments and interaction with the warm Maasai people who live in the area. Game drives are lead by expert guides who are among the best in the country. Watch the video for insights as to what makes this place so special. And, below, find the interview done with camp owner, Calvin Cottar. If you haven’t had the joy of seeing a lion up close or the great migration happen before your eyes, it’s best you choose Cottar’s 1920’s Camp to show you how.

IC: What makes Cottar’s 1920’s Camp special amongst all the other options in the Maasai Mara?

CC: Authentic history spanning 98 years in the area and no mass tourism in our area – therefore a better quality wildlife and wilderness experience and superior guiding. We have three of Kenya’s fifteen gold level KPSGA guides.

IC: As someone who grew up in and around the Mara, what is the importance of the reserve to the country of Kenya?

CC: 40% of Kenya’s tourism revenues (a billion dollar industry worth 12% of Kenya’s GDP), are generated by Maasai Mara in some form or another. It’s also the most important tourism brand name in Kenya. Also, 40% of the country’s wildlife population inhabits the Mara reserve and surrounding conservancies. It’s so important, it’s hard to put into words.

IC: What is a common misconception of the safari?

CC: That a safari is dangerous. No. Safari is actually one of the most safe things you can do with your family.

IC: What does Cottar’s do as a business for the community in the Mara and the environment?

CC: We started a non-profit trust, Cottar’s Wildlife Conservation Trust, that pays for: bursaries for over 40 school kids in secondary school, building and staffing of a primary school and providing a free feeding program for over 190 children, aided in water supply to the school, built a bridge over a local river where dozens of people have drowned over the last few years and brought-in ambulances with international doctor groups.

We also pay the community for a 6000 acre wildlife conservancy/easement to secure the land from subdivision and farming. We pay for anti-poaching units and training, aerial surveys and undercover operations to capture ivory traders.

IC: What is your philosophy and ethos as a safari camp owner in 2013?

CC: Safari is “experiential” and not just a hotel (though the camp has to be top notch). We don’t have a future if we don’t secure the land for wildlife.

IC: In what state is the health of the Mara as an ecosystem now, in 2013?

CC: The Mara is the top wildlife experience in the world today, and the best part is the non-mass tourism area where Cottar’s 1920 is located. However, there are threats of overdevelopment of hotels and domestic livestock. But we have faith the current government will sign the Maasai Mara Management Plan and that they will act to reduce the pressure on the Mara.

IC: Who is the Cottar’s customer?

CC: Anyone who wants to have a life changing experience in the best wilderness of Africa. Our clients come from all corners of the world, from old Europe to the New World and Asia. Wherever our clients come from they have common interest, language and culture to fit in seamlessly together at Cottar’s camp, often making lifelong friendships. We have four generations come on safari sometimes.

IC: What legacy do you wish Cottar’s to have over the next several decades?

CC: For the Cottar’s safari legacy to continue for many more generations, and, that we are the cause and reason for our Maasai landlords to choose wildlife and wilderness as their future land instead of farming, and to conserve wildlife into perpetuity!