A group from Basecamp Explorer's Spitsbergen branch traveled to Masai Mara in Kenya last fall. The company was originally started there, and there is still a close collaboration between the two subsidiaries and destinations. Basecamp Spitsbergen Managing Director Steinar Rorgemoen said that after the visit they decided to have an exchange program for guides. As a result, Basecamp Kenya's two senior guides – Steve Rokoi Olkumumu, 30, and Derrick Jubula Ole Nabaala, 33 – made the long journey north.
Same types of guests
Rorgemoen said he believes the two destinations have many features in common and can learn from each other.
"We got to see how they bring their guests into the nature," he said. "Now we have shown them how we bring our guests into the nature here. Our perception is we usually have guests who are visiting the place for the first time, so it is also in Masai Mara."
The two guides from the parent company in Kenya gained first-hand experience in the High Arctic. During the past week they visited Isfjord Radio, Nordenskiöldbreen and Pyramiden, and went mushing and hiking.
"It's so beautiful, wild and unspoiled nature here," they said. "Fantastic. And the people here are are so friendly all together."
Never seen ice
Steve and Derrick have never seen ice before and the word glacier does not exist in their language.
"We have taken many great photos that we will take with us back and talk about our experiences," the two said with a smile. "Some things will be harder to explain since we do not have words to explain."
Derrick said he has seen 14 new bird species and many other animals he never saw before, including Svalbard reindeer, seals and several other species.
Both have family back home in Kenya, so they've kept in touch using WhatsApp and they have also posted updates on Facebook.
Steve and Derrick are real children of nature who grew up on the savannah. They work as guides at Masai Mara, and take tourists on safari among lions and wild animals. They never go out with weapons, but are not afraid of the lions.
"They retreat as we approach. Besides, we have a car when we were driving around," they say. During their visit here they learned about the respect people traveling in the outdoors have for polar bears and what precautions it is important to take.
They wore their traditional colorful dress to pose for a photographer. Otherwise, they have had proper outdoor clothing while out on tour. A paltry five degrees Celsius is cold for these guys.
"Yes, it is cold," they said while going outside in sandals for a short picture shoot.
At home in Masai Mara the average temperature of is 22 to 27 degrees.
Steve and Derrick are proud of the work they do and the workplace Basecamp Explorer created in Masai Mara. There are six guides and 80 people work at the facility. In addition, there are about 120 local Masai women selling handmade jewelry at the market. Unemployment is high and there is considerable poverty in the region. The jobs therefore provide important income.
In Longyearbyen, anyone taking a paid tour of visiting Mine 3 is making a small contribution that goes toward the planting of a tress in Masai Mara.
"We are very grateful for the cooperation and assistance," they said.