virginbush safaris directors' biographies
Cindi Crain - Owner / Director, VirginBush Safaris
Cindi has been inflicted with a bad case of wanderlust since childhood, and her parents unwittingly fueled the condition. In its early days, the family traveled to far-flung locales such as Australia and South Africa, often pulling Cindi and her sister out of school with the only penalty being that the girls had to keep a diary of their experiences to share with their classmates.
It was no wonder that Cindi graduated high school one year early so that she could set off to Boston to start a new adventure in college, and ultimately would become a travel magazine editor with a love of words and pictures.
After college, Cindi moved to New York and worked in advertising and direct marketing, almost all the time focusing on the companies' travel-related clientele, such as American Express and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. After three years, however, she decided she was in the wrong career, and so she quit her job, moved out of her apartment and kissed her friends and family goodbye to set off on an 18-month solo trip around the world. She wasn't quite sure what she would find, but in the end what she was looking for was with her all along.
She kept diaries and wrote poetic letters to friends, describing with fascination the characters, food and customs of Bora Bora, Thailand, Provençe, Buenos Aires, Bali, Australia, Hong Kong, Antarctica, Peru and more. She crewed on a yacht, went trekking with elephant, huddled with flocks of penguin, danced the tango, laid offerings to Buddhist gods, and in the end knew that she was happy as long as she could simply convey these experiences to others.
So when Cindi finally came home, she went straight into the Medill School of Journalism, in Chicago, as her father had, to earn her masters degree in writing, particularly for magazines.
So you can guess what her first job was after that: She became an editor for a travel magazine. At Travel Holiday, in New York, Cindi wrote the magazine's most popular department, and spearheaded the magazine's first website, in the embryonic days of the internet (naturally using every bit of her vacation time to continue her adventures to Asia, the Caribbean and more).
Next, Cindi saw an opportunity to create a new luxury travel magazine for golfers, the first of its kind, with her father, a longtime publisher. Golf & Travel was born in 1997, which Cindi ran with gusto as its editor for several years. She blissfully worked with the top travel writers and photographers, and, with her staff of six, artfully laid out each bimonthly issue.
In 2000, Cindi handed the reigns to a new editor, and remained in New York to consult on several coffee-table book subjects she'd had a longtime interest in, from fly fishing to custom publishing. However, around this time is also when her travels to Kenya began, to see Lisa Rolls, her best friend of 18 years and longtime partner in crime. The two traversed the country from north to south, east to west, making good friends of luxury camp managers, expert guides and local legendary characters all the way.
Lisa had lived in Kenya a few years at that point, and had earned her safari-guiding license with her significant bush skills. Lisa's former colleagues from her advertising days in New York were soon demanding she take them on safari. Thus Lisa and Cindi, armed with almost two decades of adventures together around the world, started Virgin Bush Safaris , a company where exclusivity, style, active adventures and connection with the bush are paramount.
Cindi left New York at the end of 2001, and moved into "The Dairy", the house near Nairobi where Out of Africa was filmed.
Cindi and Lisa's only promise to one another was that they would continue Virgin Bush only so long as they were having fun, and they were last seen flying low over the Rift Valley in a light aircraft, with chilled glasses of Champagne, following flocks of flamingo as the African sun set on yet another ridiculously lovely and intrepid day.
Lisa Rolls - Owner / Director, VirginBush Safaris and Safari Guide
Lisa's infatuation with animals and Africa started at the age of four, when "obsessions" are still allowed, and her folks watched tirelessly as she spent hours, days and years reading and watching wildlife dramas. They wondered why she cried every time she heard the music from Born Free and why she then wanted to watch it AGAIN. As her parents never were safari-goers, Lisa tried tenaciously throughout her life to invent reasons to come to Africa. Growing up on the Florida coast, she placated her desire to be a wildlife expert by adopting all manner of unique species from starfish to ferrets and by immersing herself in the world of horses. She thought she'd finally won the battle when her parents gave her and her best childhood friend a trip to "anywhere they wanted to go" for college graduation. However, the itinerary, inspired by readings of Heart of Darkness and West with the Night , was quickly foiled when the parents deemed it "unadvisable" for two young girls to navigate the Congo in duet. This diversion from the plan took them instead to Europe and the South of Spain from where there caught a fleeting glimpse of "the dark continent." Greedy and rebellious, the girls took the morning ferry to Morocco where they planted their feet firmly (just for a day), took their first camel ride, became addicted to the exotic and vowed to return once free from parental guidance.
Lisa spent her university years between Cambridge University in England and Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in Comparative World Literature and Language Studies. Post graduation, Lisa decided to try her hand at the concrete jungle and moved to New York City where she began working at a small advertising agency. Over the course of her career there, she worked in print and television production account management and strategic planning for a diverse clientele. Specializing in entertainment marketing and advertising, she held the position of account director for numerous networks including, The Discovery Channel, Sci-Fi Network, E! Entertainment Television and the National Cable Television Association. Her last position at Ammirati Puris Lintas was senior vice president for Burger King's worldwide youth and family marketing efforts, in which she was responsible for developing monthly co-promotions and strategic alliances between BK and various youth-oriented entertainment entities. Her experience in film included managing partners like Walt Disney Corporation, Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, Nickelodeon, Turner, MCA/Universal, M&M's Mars, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros.
Despite a fulfilling and successful 12 year career, Lisa still couldn't shake her love for things less concrete, and all of her time off was spent traveling the whole of Central America and a good part of South America, including the four-day trek to Machu Picchu. Frequent safaris to the Galapagos Islands led to a variety of freelance consulting projects including: the creation of a business plan transforming a working tea farm in the upper Amazon basin to a world class tea retreat/resort; organization of the first hot-air balloon trip through the Ecuadorian Andes; and development of an artisan craft export business from the Andean Highlands. Lisa also finally lived her dream to safari in Kenya in 1995 and it was everything she "knew" it would be. This passion led to annual safaris throughout various parts of Africa including Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Ultimately, this love for wildlife and wild places inspired her to trade New York for greener pastures on a full-time basis. Before permanently relocating to Kenya in October of 1999, she spent 5 months doing sound work and second camera for a documentary on Galapagos conservation. Her first objective in Kenya was to become a certified Professional Safari Guide, which she did in 2001 after spending 2 years traveling and studying the bush. Lisa is one of only two American women who are officially licensed professional safari guides in East Africa.
After her move, Lisa had so many friends and former colleagues from New York and LA who wanted her to take them on safari that before she knew it she had a thriving business. Making it formal, she partnered with her best friend from New York (the same partner in crime from the shores of Morocco) to create Virgin Bush Safaris Ltd. , a company where exclusivity, style, active adventures and connection with the bush are paramount. When not out in the field with clients, Lisa spends her time doing yoga, learning to fly and writing and producing several educational wildlife documentaries for the kids markets in Kenya and the US.
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