Robert More is the founder and CEO of the MORE Family Collection, which comprises a portfolio of boutique luxury lodges, hotels, and private residences.
The Collection was founded in April 2001 with the opening of its first Lodge in Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. Today the operation has expanded from the Cape to Victoria Falls and includes six lodges in two unique safari reserves, four private residences, and four hotels, and employs 624 people.
In 2020 MORE Family Collection formalised their sustainability journey, introducing tracking methods across all the properties with sustainability champions on site.
Tell us about yourself:
I believe life is this incredible place where we get to discover our talent, choose what really matters and then shape, build, and create this in the best way possible. This is not to say it is easy in any way, in fact often the harder things are, the more living there is. My passion and purpose is my family, my 13 year old twins, and my extended family who are the MORE Family Collection. Tourism is a fulfilling space for me to be in, a legacy from my great grandfather Guy Aubrey Chalkley, which dates back to 1933 and the founding of Lion Sands Game Reserve. Tourism is tangible – we get to craft real experiences, we get to see the expression of guests, we get to build incredible properties in incredible locations. To build something that has a positive impact excites and energises me.
What kind of traveller are you?
I love an authentic hospitality experience and prefer staying in an area where I feel I can step out with the locals. I have grown to love some of the creature comforts which come with luxury travel but always prefer these served in a wholesome and unpretentious way. I love being able to travel with my kids and have crafted many of our own travel offerings around this theme. I also enjoy pause moments as opposed to rushing from one sighting, gallery, museum, cathedral to the next. Sitting on the grass in any one of the parks in Paris or on the banks of the Seine with a bottle of wine and fresh baguette, soaking up the late afternoon sun, being a local, that is what for me really resonates.
Tell us about one of your most memorable trips/travel moments. Where and why?
Uganda – the people, the landscape, and a sense of incredible grandness of all the elements that surround one as you move through this wonderful country. I hope one day we can invest in this country as I believe it would truly enrich people’s lives and benefit the country by having a booming tourism industry.
What is your all-time favourite destination? In Africa? Internationally? Why?
One of a few special places I have experienced is Mexico, amazing people, food and culture and of course tequila which tastes vastly better than what we get served here in South Africa.
Lion Sands is more home to me than any region I travel to, so I guess here locally my favourite is Marataba Mountain Lodge. It really must be seen and felt to be understood.
Based on the five senses and thinking about travelling what do you…
- Like to see: We have incredible leopards at Lion Sands and one of my favourites is Hanyile a male leopard that I first saw on foot on a misty morning, just metres from me. It was unforgettable and I will never forget that slow calculated backtracking I did. We have recently compiled a profile of all the leopards we see at Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park and the lineage of these animals is remarkable and truly captivates our guests.
- Like to taste: A good red wine from an unknown Estate that our Executive Chef Amori Burger at Lions Sands has likely recommended. Always reminds me how much depth of quality and talent this country has.
- Like to feel: An unusual and not recommended behaviour but I love to walk alone at night during the week of the full moon at Lion Sands. The feeling of all my senses being switched on to every noise, moving shadows, air movement, and then of course relief when one gets back to Camp in one piece! The other more tangible would most definitely be a hug from my children, and I guess a bit safer.
- Like to hear: The night sounds when sleeping in the bush. One always thinks the bush is quiet, yet it is a cacophony of animal and bird noises, leopards making their sawing noise, hyena, bushbabies, owls, nightjars, – all sometimes louder than in a city, yet one sleeps like a baby but always with an ear open!
- Like to Smell: A good cup of coffee in the morning and the smell of fresh rain which unlocks so many other bush smells, the scent being carried within the moist air.
Suggestions on resources for other travel and tourism stakeholders. Any websites, publications, podcasts, thought leaders you can recommend or newsletters we should sign up to?
I enjoy listening to Tim Ferris! I enjoy a variety of business-related podcasts – anything that inspires me in my daily life and encourages new ideas. I also keep up to date with tourism news from various sources such as Tourism Update.
Lastly, what was your favourite thing about Africa Travel Week (WTM Africa) in 2022 and why should everyone attend in 2023?
We are a people business and therefore any opportunity to be face to face with a guest or a client we should do this. As we have learnt from the pandemic only so much can be achieved virtually. It was wonderful to connect with our agents and friends in the travel industry after the last two years. These relationships mean so much and we are reminded of our unity as a tourism industry. I absolutely recommend being present at ATW to be reminded about why we do what we do and everyone’s passion for travel that is as tangible as that hug from my children.
Conservation focus for July:
What are some of the conservation initiatives closest to your heart?
- We work in partnership with the relevant conservation and governing bodies of the reserves on various projects such as support of dehorning and translocation of rhino, and anti-poaching measures. Monitoring and research of wildlife also play a key role in understanding the larger ecosystem and we support any such initiatives.
- Field Guides form an important educational aspect on a safari, one that will encourage travellers to care about our wildlife and in turn support conservation initiatives. We have a dedicated field guide college that is helping bring excellent guides into the industry, including historically disadvantaged students from surrounding communities. This is part of our commitment to addressing unemployment and building of skills in South Africa. These students become ambassadors for wildlife within their communities encouraging a conservation approach and the next group of future field guides.
- Across all our properties we are formally tracking our sustainability measures and making some incredible reductions in our carbon footprint which includes the investment in solar power. We have sustainability champions on each site that continually ensure we all remain aware, always seeking out ways we could be doing things better and treading more lightly. This is a journey that takes consistent effort, and I am truly proud of our team for their ongoing commitment to all these initiatives.
If you could wave a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would like to change in conservation?
- Poaching! Whether that is rhino horn, pangolin or other being used traditionally in the Far East, or species killed for bushmeat, poaching is having a terrible impact on so many species and it absolutely our duty of care to protect the wildlife.
- The other side of poaching is understanding the issues of our surrounding communities. We need to create hope for a better future. We work closely in education, upliftment and skills development that encourages alternative livelihoods. Projects such as our More Community Foundation digital learning campus create hope for an improved future. Tourism and local employment create opportunities that are long term beneficial to the people who live around the wildlife areas. Communities must be part of the eco-tourism economy and benefit in various ways which will discourage poaching.
What would you like all travellers to know when it comes to conservation?
- Remember that we are the visitor and must look at reducing our impact. This is a core philosophy and ensures we remain respectful and mindful. Observe how lodges or activities respect their surroundings and their staff. I believe good people do good things and you will feel the difference.
- Avoid certain animal interactions that are detrimental to species. For example, the farming of lion for the trade in lion bones and canned hunting and the spin-offs such as lion cub petting. We need these conscious choices by travellers that will ultimately impact legislation.
What is your advice to travellers to differentiate products that are greenwashing as opposed to real conservation initiatives?
- We definitely see that guests are becoming more educated about sustainability and take this approach seriously, as they should. We love guests who subscribe to our ethos and experience and feel the same passion for what we do. Their support means we can continue to give back. Our guests have the opportunity to be part of many of these initiatives and see firsthand what is being achieved.
- We can only encourage travellers to research what companies are doing ensuring that they have measurable actions to back it up.
Which initiative in Africa are you really proud to tell people about?
- I am personally proud of the work we have done through the More Community Foundation, our non-profit arm through which we deliver our corporate, social and environmental responsibilities. We also have the Nakavango Conservation Programme in Zimbabwe.
- Our work is making a real difference in the communities that live alongside our wildlife areas. I am proud of our borehole water projects that make lives that much easier. We are committed to education and one of our impactful projects is the Huntington Digital Learning Campus in partnership with Good Work Foundation.
- We must fight for our people, our wildlife, and we must bridge the gap between them for the benefit of all.
I am inspired by the conservationists and organisations that are on this journey as it takes a great heart commitment. Only through the collective effort of many are we going to make a difference. I admire those on the ground doing the work, that will ultimately save these incredible areas and species.