Presenting…Nicole Nanetoi, Saruni Samburu Manager

Q. Tell us a little about yourself….

A. I am a 29 years’ old Samburu girl, a third born in a family of six, born in a village called Lorubae, Archer’s post, Samburu in Northern Kenya. I am a graduate in Hospitality Management & Human Resource Management from Alison International College.

Q. How did you start to work at Saruni?

A. I heard about a vacancy in Housekeeping and I thought I should try it as I was waiting for my college admission. With the supervision of the owner Mr Riccardo things were tough but it really taught me a lot that I never knew from my humble home management back in the village. I fell in love with hospitality job from that time and Housekeeping remains my favourite department.

Q. What did you want to be whilst growing up?

A. I wanted to be a Nurse.

Q. What are the highlights of your role?

A. Being able to share my culture with people and explaining to them how their visit is helping protect our environment and wildlife due to Saruni’s conservation efforts.

Q. What are some of the challenges of your role?

A. Exceeding guests’ expectations – especially the ones who are only focused on seeing the ‘big cats’ on a game drive, yet we have lots of rare, special species and authentic culture to enjoy. Also, the long and irregular working hours!

Q. What’s one of the funniest things that has happened to you in your work? 

A. I was with my colleagues making our way back to our lodgings down the hill after finishing the night shift. We were telling each other ‘scary stories’, when we heard an elephant trumpet nearby so loud that it sounded like a thunder, scaring the life out of all of us. One colleague refused to move – he was frozen to the spot. Luckily, we managed to dodge the elephant leaving us crying with laughter afterwards.

Q. What makes you proud to be a Samburu?

A. The authenticity of my culture and the positive embracement in conservation.

Q. What does it mean to be a Samburu, a female, in a management role?

A. It has challenged the cultural chain of male superiority and the mentality that a woman can never lead, but always remains second in command! Thus, I am proud to be a role model for the young girls in my community. It has taken me to ‘hustle’ to surmount the vertical learning curve and get my male colleagues and community members to respect my position, my leadership, and my opinion.

Q. How have you personally benefited from tourism?

A. It has given me the chance to interact with people all over the world. As an orphan, I have been able to educate and support my six siblings. My sister is now a nurse in the community. One brother is a post graduate in biochemistry, another brother is at Hospitality Management College and the last born is in high school. Above all I have been able to complete higher education whilst simultaneously working under the scholarship of Saruni lodges.

Q. How has your community benefited from tourism?

A. Our community’s economy has been boosted through guests’ payment of park fees and village visits. Wildlife numbers have increased due to environment and wildlife conservation support from Saruni, and hundreds of people have meaningful employment. Tourism revenue pays for important public services, such as security (Rangers employment) and health. It funds operating expenses and infrastructure in our local public education system through annual payment paid by Saruni to Kalama Community Conservancy.

Q. What is something about the Samburu culture do you wish to share with our readers who haven’t?

A. That a woman is literary called a boss “Ngitok” by her husband in the house yet he is the boss in society. Because of the patience and love that they have, women are the only ones allowed to climb the sacred mountain Ololokwe to worship Enkai and ask for pardon on behalf of the community.

Q. What is your favourite Saruni experience or activity that guests can enjoy?

A. Our “Warriors Academy”. Guests can experience and learn about first hand bush skills, the flora and fauna, and our ancient herbs used to cure diseases, our folklore and ancient wisdom needed to survive in one of the richest wildlife regions in Africa.

Q. What’s your favourite animal?

A. The dik-dik! They are very small in size with lovely, soft and expressive faces and a comical snout. I really admire their loyalty to each other – they are monogamous and partner for life. You never see one without the other.

Q. What makes Saruni special?

A. Many things! Its support in four conservancies in which we have seen rapid wildlife number rise; the likes of Sera Community Conservancy where we exclusively have rhinos for the first time in a century. The boos to local community economy through employment. The only property in the Samburu area (apart from Saruni Rhino) with a manager from the local community. Eco-friendly environment support like the increase of acacia trees in all four conservancies through our Seed Balls project. I could go on….

Q. What do you hope for Saruni in the coming years?

A. To see it expanding further in Northern Kenya: bringing tourism, development and opportunities in as yet undiscovered areas. To see wildlife population in the community conservancies triple, as well as increased community employment to help eradicate poverty in our society.