My Perfect Adventure
The Leakey name is immediately recognizable, at least for the remotest anthropology fan. Louis and Mary spent much of the 20th century proving Darwin right by making profound human discoveries in and near Olduvai Gorge. Their youngest son, Philip, was raised in Kenya and Tanzania, with the Serengeti as his playground.
Eventually, Philip became Kenya’s first white member of parliament, a position he held for 15 years. He left a legacy of conservation: By the end of his political tenure, he’d been appointed to the president’s cabinet, serving as minister of environmental and natural resources.
During the annual wildebeest migration on the Masai Mara plain, he married Katy, an American artist; they moved into a hilltop tent, where they still live.
In 2001, a severe drought left the couple stretching to support 100 Masai families who’d lost livestock and agriculture. Searching for a way to help the people create an income, the Leakeys devised a method of making attractive necklaces and bracelets from the region’s abundant tall grass and fallen trees. They taught unemployed Masai women how to do it, and called their new jewelry company the Leakey Collection. Today, the endeavor provides fair-wage work for some 1,400 Masai artisans, and five percent of profits go toward supporting Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.
Having made a life and a living for himself and others in Africa, Philip says that he wants young people from around the world to realize the vast amount of opportunity he sees there. In this interview, he also shares that he yearns to see Patagonia, that he’s fascinated by both Charles Darwin and chemistry, and that he intends, eventually, to devote a year to writing a book.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
A perfect day for me would be to find or assemble a group of young, quite energetic entrepreneurs and to spend the day showing them the many opportunities I see in Africa. Then I’d like to see those young entrepreneurs take them up and pursue them. I would like to inspire passionate people to realize the vast opportunities I have seen in Africa.
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
Patagonia, to see the wide space, wilderness, and beautiful scenery full of nature that is so starkly different from what I’m used to.
When you arrive somewhere new, what’s usually first on your agenda?
I familiarize myself with the lay of the land. If I’m in an urban area, it’s figuring out where things are located. If it’s wilderness, I orientate myself in relationship to everything around me: rivers, rocks, trees, other plants, and the general area at large.