Amani Mara: Meet Ashif Suleman

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Ashif Suleman of Amani Mara photographed by Susan Wong Aug 2011

Currently ranked number 25 of 74 specialty lodges in the Maasai Mara National Reserve on TripAdvisor with perfect reviews, and only 5 months old, Amani Mara has already established itself as a lodge that has exceeded expectations of guests and even its founders.

Ashif Suleman, proprietor and one of the founders of Amani Mara, remembered five years ago how barren the land was, “It was so rocky it was like Mars.”

In all respects, Amani Mara has exceeded all expectations.  Situated next to a dry river bank, not even the animals could dream that this rocky and barren land could be restored.

To most, Amani Mara was an ambitious vision, but all great projects have great visionaries behind them.

Ashif Suleman of Amani Mara on a game drive photographed by Susan Wong Aug 2011

Enter Ashif Suleman

A fourth generation Kenyan and recently relocated from Australia, Ashif Suleman is firstly a self-proclaimed bushman and businessman second.

What sane businessman from the concrete jungles would purchase 50 acres of barren land, camp in the Mara for 4 years, and take almost 5 years to complete the project if it were not for the sheer passion and love for the idea behind it all – to build an environmentally conscious safari camp that has minimal impacts on the environment.

Aside from reviving the region’s ecosystem through bringing in over 300 truck-loads of manure and soil collected from the surrounding community, using the rocks that were collected from the soil for construction of the lodge, and building a small dam so that the dried-up river could be revived naturally through the collection of rain water; Amani Mara is still adding to its long list of eco-friendly initiatives to ensure that their lodge is as in-tune with Nature as Nature is with itself.

Suleman relishes his time camping on the property when construction first began.  Often, he points out fondly to his former campsite as he takes his guests on a game drive.

If he’s not busy running Amani Mara, you’ll find Suleman taking guests on walks and sharing his passion for the abundant wildlife and lush plains that surround the Lodge.

 

Ashif Suleman of Amani Mara walking with guests photographed by Susan Wong Aug 2011

A New Kind of “Eco-Friendly”

Although Amani Mara is not the first eco-conscious lodge in the Greater Mara, it is the first lodge to be situated on a former barren piece of land.

“Most lodges are eco-friendly these days but almost all of them choose a beautiful river bank or a lush forest to build on.  As a result, taking over vital wildlife habitat,” explains Suleman.

Reviving the surrounding ecosystem and creating opportunities for local communities are what Suleman and his team believe is true conservation.

“More lodges should pick barren locations in the Mara instead of adding to the congestion along river banks etc.  We [Amani Mara] could have easily been built by the river, but we chose not to.  The river bank is crucial for indigenous plants and wildlife.”

But the story gets better.  Suleman first came across the barren property because he had heard the owner wanted to sell the land in order to be able to send his daughter to school abroad.

It may seem like a bad business decision to many, but Amani Mara and its visitors are now reaping the rewards.

It’s clear that Suleman’s risky purchase that originated out of goodwill has become a thriving lodge and has become a place where memories are conceived.

So the moral of the story?  Building a business out of compassion for others and the environment can still work.

 

 

 

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SUSAN WONG

Susan Wong is the Editor of Capital Lifestyle, a resident photographer, an award-winning journalist, radio presenter, full-time adventurer, long-time admirer of anything edible, and a spicy food athlete at Capital FM.

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