Father and daughter shine in the wild and film

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Damaris Nailantei with her father, Jackson Looseyia. Photo/PD/Harriet JAMES

When Jackson Looseyia, a TV personality, a devoted conservationist and one of Kenya’s renowned safari guides, was accepted to be the host of the BBC and National Geographic’s Big Cat Diaries in 2008 after a vigorous interview.

He didn’t know that behind the camera, nine million viewers were watching him, enthralled by his in-depth knowledge of the Masai Mara ecosystem and wildlife in general. 

He became the first Kenyan to host such a show and with it, international doors opened up for him, with other international stations coming to work with him in telling the Mara story.

Today, he co owns Tangulia Mara camp with his partner Dominic Nchoe, which is anchored within the local culture. 

The breakthrough

Damaris Nailantei Looseyia, his daughter who is now the camp manager at Tangulia feels lucky to watch her father’s growth in tourism.

She recalls how her father was enthralled when he received the confirmation in 2008 that he had been chosen as the presenter of the show. 

“Our lives changed for the better. The community also benefitted as he started a school, Koiyaki Guiding School, with the proceeds.

But I didn’t understand his achievements until I came to the Mara. He would tell us that he has met the Prince of England and other big personalities and how he was interviewed in TV stations in the US. But for us, it never sank,” she shares. 

Looseyia  is one of the best wildlife guides in Africa. He grew up surrounded by wildlife and from an early age found it a source of inspiration.

Jackson Looseyia.

Tracking wild animals is in his blood – he comes from a long line of hunters and trackers.

He was trained as a guide in the 1980s by Ron Beato, owner of some safari cottages in the Mara.

For seven years, Ron apprenticed Looseyia before he allowed him to guide alone, and there was no stopping him.

His horizons were broadening and he continued to acquire a remarkable breadth of skill.

He moved easily between different worlds; the perfect host and expert guide, working in remote villages promoting conservation and education, research and training

Being a conservationist, Nailantei recalls her father’s constant warning that they shouldn’t litter.

This stuck with her even in her adulthood. She also recalls having a camping culture with her father.

“For Christmas, we would take dad’s vehicle and go somewhere in the bush carrying a goat and slaughter it,” she says.

While her father was a TV host, Nailantei’s screen life took a different turn. She developed a passion in entertainment, writing and music when she was in Class Seven and together with her siblings, they wrote songs and recorded their first album, Yesu ni Bwana  in 2005.

“My siblings and I came to the Mara, where we shot the videos of the album and many people liked it. We started being invited for radio and TV shows as a result,” she continues. 

Screen life

The album sold about 76,000 CDs (Compact Disks). Her father was scared of them being famous at a young age and was a bit hesitant to allow them to continue with music.

However, in 2007, the Looseyia Five, as they called themselves, recorded another album.

In school, Nailantei also recalls writing skits. At Njoro Girls High School, where she schooled, she was actively involved in journalism, drama and the environment clubs. 

When she joined Catholic University to study finance in 2011, her classmate informed her about a local TV show, Tahidi High, she went for the auditions, and she was successful. 

Her character was Nailantei, a rebellious student who had been expelled from her former school and when she got to Tahidi, she had to deal with different rules, as well as a new gang of rebels.

Nailantei would be caught smoking or drinkin or sneaking illegal stuff into the school.

She says that this character gave her an opportunity to go round secondary schools educating young people on the dangers of being rebellious. After three years of being in the show, she quit.

“I felt that my character was not really growing though I was making some good money.

Before I got into acting, I thought that it was so exciting, but I later discovered that it was a lot of work because you have to be on set at odd hours.

Another thing is that people out there don’t differentiate between acting and the real person,” she reveals, hence a lot of judgement.

In 2017, another opportunity came calling as she participated in the reality show The Ultimate challenge- Nomad Edition.

The participants were taken to Turkana’s Chalbi desert where they had to survive for 21 days. 

“The weather was harsh. It was always windy and hot, but I got to learn a lot of things, such as the Turkana culture and got to interact with the locals,” she says. 

Still, Nailaneti was into music and would perform karaoke shows in different places. 

In 2018, she got an opportunity to go to the Mara and got to understand her dad’s career and the impact it had in the community and desired to do that as well. 

“I’ve been on the BBC set twice, behind the scenes. I began understanding what my father did.

I can’t say I would follow in his footsteps because they are big and I wouldn’t want to live in his shadows.

But I feel that there are African stories that need to be told. I want to do my own thing and I’m still figuring out what I want to do,” says Nailantei. 

“My dad has just given me 90 acres of land (36 hectares) where my sister and I want to build a school.

We are currently in the initial stages of registering the school and getting the paper work done so that we can start reaching out to donors.

We already have a fund raiser going on with the United Nations and we are working together with friends of the camp.

I’m hoping that I will use this school for women empowerment and to transform lives and impart knowledge.

I also want to use the school to maintain aspects of the Maasai culture that are good, such as respect for elders and fashion.

The Maasai attire has placed Kenya on the global map,” she says in conclusion. 

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