Q&A with Calvin Cottar

An African safari is no normal vacation; it is you and your family ‘coming home’ to our ancestral Pleistocene motherland. Your soul will sing and your senses will resonate deeper than you can imagine. It is my honour and privilege to unfold Africa for you, and my duty to demonstrate how we can all do better at conserving it for the future.

C. Cottar

  • What is your greatest accomplishment?

    My strong belief is that my greatest accomplishment is to bring the new concept of biodiversity easements as the best way to achieve conservation into the wider discussion, both locally with the poor landowners, with government, with the international conservation community. I am also proud for helping develop and run a world class safari destination – Cottars 1920’s Safari Camp.

  • What drives you? or What are you passionate about?

    I am driven to make biodiversity itself valuable enough for poor people to keep intact, so that they don’t have to convert the land to unsustainable subsistence agriculture that requires fencing and the removal of biodiversity. I am passionate about changing how tourism works to achieve this goal. I am passionate about giving our guests a safari experience in Africa that will change their lives for the better, and which will give them a new appreciation of what it takes to achieve true biodiversity conservation.

  • If you had one last safari where would you go and why?

    The Greater Serengeti /Mara ecosystem. This is because it is the location on the planet where most numbers of mega fauna still exists in their natural open landscape. It is also one of the most threatened natural ecosystems on the planet and it needs every tourism dollar possible to hold the line against the destructive forces of land use change.

  • How did you start out in guiding?

    I grew up in a safari family and it came naturally when I came of age. I guided my first safari when I was 14 years old while studying for my O level exams in Cottars Mara Camp.

  • What’s your favorite place in Africa and why?

    The Sero Sopia area of the Maasai Mara National Reserve south of the sand river. This is a pure, diverse and uncluttered part of the reserve that always feels like true wilderness and that always produces extraordinary wildlife experiences.

  • Have you ever been really scared on safari?

    Many times; letting the leopard walk past me as I was standing stock still (I was 16 years old) ‘just to see if I could’, the many musth bull elephant and matriarch cow charges while on foot – including the Peter Beard incident – were truly terrifying.

  • What three books do you recommend your guests read before going on safari?

    ‘Africa, a biography of a continent’ by John Reader

    ‘A Primates Memoirs’ by Robert Sopalsky

    ‘Safari, A chronicle of Adventure’ by Bartle Bull

    There are so many it’s hard to choose.

  • What are the three most important pieces of kit for guests to bring along?

    Good binoculars for everyone

    Earth or vegetation colored clothing

    Good walking shoes that don’t give you blisters.

  • What is your motto in life and what concepts are sacred?

    ‘Live every day as if it’s your last, but make every action you take improve the planet, or at least not harm it’.

    Most important concepts are :

    (1) we are all part of one living planet and every action we take – both individually and collectively – will effect our children and future generations quality of life and indeed their survivability.

    (2) therefore we need to think and act collectively and positively to keep biodiversity loss in check and to control climate change

    (3) we must get rid of old tribal ideologies of nation state and instead think and act more cohesively.

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