JAKE GRIEVES COOK RECOGNIZED AS AFRICA’S TOP TOURISM PERSONALITY
The Good Safari Guide’s Safari Awards 2013, aka The Safari Oscars,announced at a ceremony in London last week the winners from among 90 finalists in 18 categories of awards, selected by a panel of 18 eminent judges who know the continent’s tourism businesses like the back of their hands.
This year saw one of East Africa’s finest confirmed to be The Finest when Jake Grieves Cook was awarded for the ‘Best Personal Contribution to Safari Tourism in Africa’. Jake’s company in Kenya, Gamewatcher Safaris and Porini Safari Camps, have time and again found favour with judges and scooped award after award, when Kenya and the world recognized the highest standards of operations, or like a few weeks ago, the Eco Tourism Society of Kenya awarded 2 coveted Gold Rankings and 1 Silver Ranking for among the four Porini Camps.
Jake, an icon in Kenya’s tourism circles, if not across Eastern Africa, looks back at a long history from the 70’s until now, and has distinguished himself in each and every position he ever held.
He founded the Eco Tourism Society of Kenya, rose to become the first Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation – Kenya’s Tourism Apex Body – and then served two successful terms as Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board, before once again concentrating full time on Gamewatchers and Porini after serving the nation in various capacities.
He is a pioneer in forging partnerships with the Masai communities when he was among the very first to establish privately managed conservancies, converting overgrazed pastures into wildlife sanctuaries adjoining the Amboseli National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve.
The recognition by the respected The Good Safari Guide therefore comes as no real surprise for insiders, as it was truly only a matter of time before being publicly applauded and awarded for his lifetime achievements and accomplishments for and in the tourism sector.
His honours come alongside the Kenya Tourism Board, which was again named Africa’s Number One ahead of Malawi and South Africa, but other Kenya properties too came out tops, such as The Karen Blixen Camp, which was named as Best Ecological Property in Africa. Daphne Sheldrick, another Kenyan renowned for her work with elephants, was at the same ceremony named as having made the Best Personal Contribution to Wildlife Conservation.
The 2013 Safari Awards were not only about honouring the most expensive lodges, or most luxurious Spa, the categories range from ‘Best Ecological Lodge/Camp’ to ‘Best Personal Contribution to Wildlife Conservation’. For example this year the Awards recognize Iain Douglas-Hamilton and Daphne Sheldrick for their conservation work in Africa alongside new safari camps/lodges Singita Explore, Naibosho, Lamai Serengeti, Elephant Camp and Azura @ Qualilea. Last year’s Best Safari Camp in Africa, Chiawa, is joined by Jack’s Camp, Old Mondoro, Tafika, Zarafa, Singita Faru Faru, Sayari, Rekero, Greystoke Mahale and former winner Beho Beho for the highest accolade. Recognizing the contribution wildlife conservation charities make to preserve the wildlife in Africa the ‘Best Wildlife Charity/Organisation Operating in Africa Award’ features finalists Children in the Wilderness, Tusk Trust, Uthando, Wilderness Wildlife Trust and previous award winner Africat Foundation from Namibia.
The Awards are sponsored by The Good Safari Guide: independent media for the Safari Industry. The Good Safari Guide publishes an annual printed directory of the finalist and award-winning lodges, camps and mobile operators and the dynamic website (www.goodsafariguide.com) showcases finalists from the previous four Safari Awards events, as well as keeping visitors up to date with all the camp updates, special offers and other news from the safari world.
Henry Hallward, Director of The Safari Awards, commented in a communication to this correspondent: ’In this our fifth year, having moved The Safari Awards to London, the event is now the established platform for recognizing excellence in the safari world, not only for the safari camps, lodges and operators but for those organizations that, through their conservation efforts, help maintain a strong wildlife population and education platform to provide future generations of Africans with a secure livelihood’.
Rosanne Cobb, Editor of The Good Safari Guide, sponsors of The 2013 Safari Awards added in the same breath: ‘The Awards have become increasingly popular and important as a genuine system of distinction and recognition. From 300 voting tour operators in 2008 to over 1,800 for the 2013 event, the views of the safari specialists have defined the creme de la creme of ‘Safari Africa’. There are thousands of mediocre lodges and camps out there with fabulous websites or clever marketing/pr representatives, and without the Safari Awards the consumer has no reliable way of weighing up one against another. The Safari Awards cut through all the fluff and reveal the views of the trade- those who really know’.
Congratulations to all the winners in the 18 categories where prizes were up for grabs but a very special pat on the back to my long time friend Jake, who at last receives the recognition he so richly deserves for a life dedicated to safari tourism in Kenya and the East African region and for promoting the highest standards of sustainability and ecofriendliness. Well done indeed.