Kenya Masai Mara

A colourful ‘cast of characters’ (Part Three).

The warmth and personalised approach at the heart of Governors’ Camp Collection guest experience radiates directly from the people who make up the ‘collection’.

Continuously balancing strength, empathy, determination as well as their kindness and grace, contributes to our brand offering and raises the bar on impeccable service and hospitality.

This month we have featured our Head of Maintenance and Pilot for Governors’ Balloon Safaris, our resident leopard in the Mara, Romi and our Community Liaison Officer.

Meet Cpt. Sanjay Gupta, Head of Maintenance and Pilot for Governors’ Balloon Safaris.

“Governors’ Balloon Safaris has the best flight path in the Masai Mara. Every day is simply magical as we fly over the Mara River, plains and forests.  There is always so much to see from the air and guests experience it all from above” ~ Captain Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay has been part of the Governors’ Camp Collection family since 2011 when he joined as a Line Pilot in addition to the role of maintenance of the hot air balloons.  In 2014 he became Chief Pilot and Head of Maintenance for Governors’ Balloon Safaris until 2018 when he went on a sabbatical for two years.  He returned in 2021 as Head of Maintenance once again and Line Pilot.

“I first discovered Governors’ Camp and Governors’ Balloon Safaris in 1978 when I read an article in National Geographic which instilled a dream in me, of flying hot air balloons over the Masai Mara.  I contacted Aris Grammaticas, co-founder of Governors’ Camp Collection and he kindly invited me to the Masai Mara in 2009 for a holiday and to obtain my Kenyan Pilot’s License”.

Upon obtaining his Kenyan Pilot’s License, Sanjay so loved being a balloon pilot right from the start; it thrilled him to fly guests over one of Africa’s greatest wilderness destinations.  Over the years he has gained expertise and  a passion that opens up the wonders of the Masai Mara to first-time and repeat guests as they discover its countless life forms.

“My day starts early as I wake up at 04:30, cross the Mara River in a little boat to get to the launch field and carry out all the safety checks.  We give the passengers a safety briefing and then launch the balloon at about 06:30, just before the sunrise.  After a flight of about an hour, we land and have the most marvellous ‘bush breakfast’ in the middle of the Masai Mara.  I then return to base and catch up with paperwork and any other jobs like regular maintenance and interact with the other pilots.

I adore what I do as I get to meet people from all over the world and share my passion through an entirely unique view of the wildlife and landscape below, all the while highlighting the importance of its protection and conservation”.

What has been your proudest achievement working with Governors’ Camp Collection?  “A balloon safari has it all – drama, adventure, euphoria and fascination and I enjoy sharing this with the guests.  Plus making it the best managed, best run, best maintained balloon company in the Masai Mara!”

Governors’ Camps love affair with Romi the resident leopard.

Romi has been a resident in the region of Governors’ Camps for not less than 14 years.  She obtained her name from her gentle behaviour which matched the character of Dr. Romi Grammaticas, who is one of the founders of Governors’ Camps in 1972.

Described as an ‘elusive and solitary predator’ over the years, we have watched and learnt the subtlety of her behaviour and began to understand the intricacies of her life and most importantly began to gain her trust. Subsequently, we have had the privilege of watching her establish herself on this piece of wilderness.

Her mother came from Double Gorge, which is a favourite breeding place for leopards as it is rocky and has caves where cubs can be hidden.  It was also the home to Short Tail and Zawadi, who were featured on BBC’s television programme Big Cat Diary which followed the lives of Africa big cats in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

So far, she has managed to raise four litters successfully.  Roughly only one in four leopards will make it to one year old and of those that make it to this milestone, 75% will make it to independence.  It is no easy feat raising cubs in the wild and so when there are young leopards that are coming of age and almost independent, it’s an extremely exciting prospect.

Guests photograph Romi in the wooded area surrounding Little Governors’ Camp.

Owing to the dynamic nature of leopard populations and their territorial behaviour; individual animals move into areas where they can secure a territory for themselves. On occasions this means they move away from Governors’ Camps locations, never to be seen again, whilst at times new leopards arrive and establish themselves. Because of this and because of the massive eco system, we know that the leopard gene pool of the Masai Mara and the greater African population only continues to grow stronger. Any leopard staying in the Governor’s side of the Masai Mara must be wise by knowing how to avoid baboons and the famous Marsh Pride of lions.

At a time when the future of leopards is severely threatened and where they are persecuted around the world, the important haven that the Masai Mara provides for these magnificent cats becomes ever more apparent.

Romi has intimately shared her story and thus woven ours into hers. Through moments of beauty, mystery and exhilaration, we have fallen in love with her time and time again.  She has redefined the relationship between man and wild cat.

Romi on the alert as she tracks down prey.

We trust that you may cross her whilst on safari with us and we hope that you too, get to share in some incredible encounters with one of the world’s most iconic cats.

Meet Julius Karia, Community Liaison Officer for Governors’ Camp, Masai Mara.

“Our Maasai culture is central to who we are.  All of our work in the Mara starts from the foundation of honouring the Maasai people, respecting and promoting culture, which has created an ecosystem that is compatible with wildlife conservation and tourism” ~ Julius Karia

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to work in conservation and with the people of the Masai Mara to help improve their lives.  The Maasai people and wildlife are my life’s passion and for that reason, I find myself very fortunate to be working as the Community Liaison officer for Governors’ Camp.

I joined Governors’ Camp in 2013 after attending Hotel School in Nairobi.  I have held several positions over the years in the camp but my current role is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.

From inception in the 70s, the Grammaticas have been much attuned to the important role they have to play in conservation and in the community – how they managed the land and the development of the community.

Over the years it has grown dramatically; conserving and protecting the natural environment is high on our agenda.  My role is to oversee the development and implementation of projects and systems. We focus on a number of initiatives ranging from water systems, to building schools and health centres, to wildlife conservation and development.

Julius speaks on behalf of Governors’ Camp, at a recent opening for a new dormitory at Mara Rianda Primary School.

Our work is based on meaningful, inclusive participation and engagement with our partners and stakeholders in the ecosystem. We know that creating impact requires building trust and establishing partnerships through open communication and transparency.

Our Maasai culture is central to who we are. All of our work in the Mara starts from the foundation of honouring the Maasai people for which the region is named. Respecting and promoting culture, which has created an ecosystem that is compatible with wildlife conservation and tourism.

Julius teaches young guests of Governors’ Camp the art of ‘bow and arrow’ making.

One growing factor which we are more aware of is that our guests now look to see what impact we have on conservation and the community.  With regards to the right relations with the Mara, it’s the right thing to do in my opinion.

Our team is our greatest asset; we are passionate about the Mara landscape and we have diverse and complementary skill sets which strengthen our operations. We believe in a bright future for the Mara ecosystem and that by working together as a team, we can achieve more. At our core, we make every decision to deliver positive, sustainable results for the Maasai Mara wildlife and its people”.

Julius Karia, Community Liaison Offer for Governors’ Camp.



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