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INSIDER – The Call of the Wild

Specialising in conservation-led luxe eco experiences in Africa, Mantis Collection is poised for serious global expansion. Helen Dalley meets CEO Paul Gardiner.

You recently opened the Siringit Migration Camp by Mantis, a Bedouin style camp with eight guest tents that moves every few months from Northern Serengeti to Southern Serengeti to follow the migration path of wildlife. Tell us about that

To witness the migration is one of the biggest bucket list items in world… to see the wildebeest and watch the predators following them. You get to see right into the wild, and the heart of Africa. It’s wild glamping with luxe elements, like sustainable hardwood decking. I’ve never experienced migration, and this is definitely on my bucket list.

Mantis owns everything from safari lodges to boutique city hotels in Botswana, Rwanda, Namibia, Tanzania, Costa Rica and London. Are they all different?

They absolutely are distinct and unique – some have as little as five rooms and there’s 80 keys maximum. It’s very decentralised and we rely on GMs to run them like their own businesses. It’s all about sustainable adventures and celebrating locality. In one of our upcoming hotels, Mantis Bahrain Hawar Island Hotel & Resort, guests will be able to help plant and manage the reef and watch one of the largest migrations of dugongs, for example. 

You are set to launch a Resurgence Through Nature programme in South Africa. Tell us about the inspiration for this

It was inspired by our crazy pre-covid lives, which were filled with stress and overload from family, work and travel, and that’s all now been compounded into this new normal. Guests are assessed at the city hotel by a team of medical professionals, including a psychologist specialising in burnout and fatigue, who create a bespoke, week-long itinerary for you. The programs will take place at small intimate properties: Mantis No5 and Founders Lodge by Mantis. It’s about going into the wilderness and using nature to fix people. 

Kivu Queen uBauranga a luxury houseboat in Lake Kivu in Rwanda, is set to open in 2022. Tell us about your vision for this new accommodation

We’ve got four boats that sail down the Chobi River in Botswana and Namibia, and that river eventually flows into Victoria Falls. The hook is that you get to see wildlife while cruising. The Chobi doesn’t have the history of, say, the Rhine, but it has the wildlife. Trips on the Kivu Queen will start in the south, where guests can see chimps, then when they get up north, they’ll see gorillas. It’s a great ape cruise, in a way. We want to open other waterways, like Lake Victoria and are looking quite seriously at the river cruise market.

Mantis Mansa Marina, a boutique hotel on one of the Cape Verde islands, is opening at the beginning of this year. What makes it special? 

This a small property with just 32 keys. Cape Verde isn’t a mass tourism market, and we are keen to grow the brand in that part of the world. As the pandemic continues, people are keen to retreat to islands.

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