Guest Blog: Sharon Machira turns 30 with Singita
Sharon Machira is a former Senior Journalist at the BBC and Communications Lead at Google in East Africa. She sits at the intersection of tech and storytelling. She is also a content creator who is passionate about travel in Africa.
I recently turned 30 and felt this millennial urge to tick something off my bucket list – gorilla trekking! As a journalist and content creator, I felt I had to document the experience, so I teamed up with French Cinematographer Samy Ghannam (Battered Lens) to bring the vision to life. Very quickly, as things do when Sam and I team up, the vision morphed into something bigger. Our goal was simple. Beyond simply documenting this epic adventure, we decided to leverage our combined skills to raise awareness about the gorilla conservation efforts happening in Rwanda. I felt compelled to lend my voice in this way because, in my opinion, the conservation space in Africa has an acute diversity problem. We rarely hear stories that don't pander to a white gaze, and I hoped that through this travel film, we could spotlight the stories of incredible Africans playing their part in saving mountain gorillas.
Sharing a milestone
I spent some time looking for the perfect hospitality partner to work with on this film, and after doing my due diligence, all signs pointed to Singita. From the various sources I spoke to, Singita had a glowing reputation regarding conservation. This was crucial for me because in an industry rife with ‘green-washing’, I needed to find a partner that would uphold the editorial integrity of the film.
Serendipitously, I realised that Singita was also turning 30, a glorious opportunity to reflect on this milestone and celebrate our anniversaries jointly. To keep in the theme of ‘30’, we decided to also shed light on the 30x30 initiative by the UN – a global goal that aims to preserve 30% of the world’s land and sea habitats by 2030.
Off we went, from Nairobi to Singita Kwitonda, where we spent the next few days on a tight production schedule to ensure we captured all the bits we needed while there. With a production crew of only four people, that meant our nights were short and days were long. It was a tall order to turn this production around with only four days on location. Luckily, I had the best team, and they each pulled their weight!
Healing in nature
I must admit, before coming to Singita, I thought I would be impressed by the material elements it had to offer. The interior design, architecture, fine dining – all world class, don't get me wrong! But surprisingly, what melted my heart was the people I met there.
A few weeks before going to Singita, I experienced a deep personal loss that shook me to my core. I was not in the right headspace to take on a project of such intensity, but as we say in Broadcast Media, ‘The show must go on!’. Meeting the incredible team and getting an opportunity to interview and spend time with them while making the travel film was profoundly inspiring. Seeing their passion for their work ignited a part of me that I thought had died a long time ago. They gave me back a piece of myself that I thought I had lost. I was reminded that when we open ourselves to hear other people’s stories, we embark on a journey of hope, one that leaves us better than how we started. So much so that it inspired the title of the film, ‘A Journey of Hope’.
Here are some core reflections and reminders from my visit that will always stay with me;
- Even though we share 96% of our DNA with Gorillas, they represent the best of us as primates. They love unconditionally and are not driven by greed.
- If you protect your ecosystem, your ecosystem will protect you.
- Be like a seed; when dirt is thrown at you, use that as ground to grow.
- Goodness and service are the only investments that never fail.
- Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
- Never lose hope, and always make an unwavering effort, even when the odds are stacked against you.
I didn’t realise it then, but the entire experience helped me find my way back home, back to myself. From the humbling views of the volcanoes, the inspiring staff, their nurturing hospitality, the nourishing food, to even the daily walks on the property – every day spent here had a healing effect on me. Perhaps one would call it a divine visitation with the self.
Restoration & gratitude
From the moment we drove through the gate, I immediately felt a sense of calm, peace and even completeness. The scenic drive into the property gave me a glimpse of what to expect, yet at the same time, a place like Singita Kwitonda is nothing close to predictable. The staff welcomed us with kind smiles and open hearts. They are the real stars of the show. So much so that we dedicated the entire film to them, to the faces of Singita Kwitonda.
It wouldn't be as magical a place were it not for their unwavering hospitality, professionalism and empathy. I can't stress how much more meaningful they made my stay. The travel film was my letter of gratitude to them for breathing life back into me after experiencing deep loss.
That is what Singita does. It restores you. Singita Kwitonda means a place of miracles, and what better miracle could one hope for than a restoration of self?
When I set out on this path, I had in mind to simply go Gorilla Trekking, but what resulted was so much more. I couldn't be more grateful to have turned 30 with Singita.
Special thanks to: Backdrop Production, Samy Ghannam, Loise Machira, Mia Ruffo, Uberluxe Safaris & Rwandair.