Why are you so restless?
Because I don’t like to be involved in just one thing. People often call me a Renaissance man. It’s probably because I work on all the components of a project or combine business with nonprofit activities. Drawing from my experiences, I can emphatically say it’s a more colorful way to live. I also try to think artistically in everything I do.
What drew you to Zanzibar?
A while ago, I was contacted by a good friend of mine, who’s a mountain climber. He called me and said “Hey Václav, I’m on the island of Zanzibar and have just found the most beautiful beach ever. And it’s for sale!” This was back before tourism really took off there, and I must admit, the beach really was beautiful. Initially, I didn’t have any plans for it, I just wanted to buy it, so I did. We bought a few more plots of land and had 14 hectares in total. Crazy, right? But hey, why not invest in Africa?
What social responsibility measures did you take at Zuri?
Well, we’re helping to preserve the beach. We could have created a 200-room property on the plot of land that we had, but we created 55 villas, and that’s exactly how to stop mass tourism from taking over and ruining a beautiful beach. That’s important to me. We also invest money into protecting corals and providing computers for local schools. And we’re creating local jobs and training people.
What was the last Original Experience you had?
Last month I visited Chumbe, a very small island just a short boat ride away from the main island of Zanzibar, and I stayed at a seven-bungalow eco-hotel that reinvests all of their profits into conserving the island, as well as hosting some research scientists. They look after flora and fauna, and take care of the island in general. There’s no electricity or air-conditioning; just beautiful sunsets and interesting wildlife. They have crabs that are one meter in size that can crack open coconuts! That’s the kind of experience we’re trying to give our guests: We’re trying to connect guests with nature and, in turn, help them connect with themselves.
What were the challenges?
To build anything in Africa with Western quality is a real challenge. There’s a big bureaucracy on the island and it seemed like a never-ending chain of problems, even though we used brilliant Czech construction teams. It was a very complicated way to create paradise.
So now that Zuri is open, can you sit back and relax?
No! I’m too restless. I’m working on a coffee-table book about contemporary life here, called “Why I Fell in Love with Zanzibar”. It’ll be around 500 pages of photography and stories of Zanzibar and its people. This island is just so photogenic and I couldn't find a single quality book published on its contemporary culture. My new documentary has also just hit the screens. It’s about shamanic rituals involving hallucinogenic substances found in the glands of Colorado River toads. And after these projects, who knows!