A childhood spent in the bush inspired Robert More to follow in the family legacy, heading up the MORE Family Collection. He spoke exclusively with Upscale Living about a close encounter with a male leopard, and exciting projects on the horizon for the MORE Family Collection.

As a 4th generation custodian of a pristine piece of land – Lion Sands Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand – how did the MORE Family Collection come to be?
Our heritage lies in the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, the oldest private nature reserve in South Africa. It was established in 1948 with our great-grandfather as one of the founders and is still in our grateful custodianship four generations later. Lion Sands is the only private reserve rooted in both the Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park, with four luxury lodges, an iconic treehouse experience, and exclusive traversing on private concessions.

Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel in Cape Town joined the fold in 2006 and by 2009 we formalized our journey under the MORE Family Collection parent brand. 

Please share with us your fondest childhood memories.
My family and I used to camp out at night on Lion Sands and although I was mostly terrified, at an early age I grew to love and understand the wilderness which remains deeply engrained in my DNA. I have learned to respect and admire the wild and as harsh as it is it remains in perfect balance and harmony. 

Robert More had a memorable albeit close encounter with the Hanyile male leopard. Photo by Francois Fourie
Robert More had a memorable albeit close encounter with the Hanyile male leopard. Photo by Francois Fourie

Were there a few harrowing moments in the bush where you ‘cheated death’?
I have a fondness for full moon walks at Lion Sands, but I am always aware and responsible when it comes to being in the bush. My most memorable encounter was with Hanyile, a well-known leopard at Lion Sands, which is etched into my memory. It was a winter morning and the sunrise filtered through the rising mist of the river. I followed the route along the water’s edge, taking care not to bump into any returning hippo or grumpy Dagga Boys (bull buffaloes). An hour in, I arrived at the Msuthu dry riverbed. The perfect place to let this incredible setting sink in before heading back. Then, a guttural warning just meters away stopped me in my tracks. Hanyile jumped to his feet on my left, startled by my presence piercing his own moment of peace. He instinctively ran to higher ground. I stood there, frozen, watching as he looked back at me from his vantage point, following my every move as I took small backward steps to slowly, carefully remove myself from a place that belonged to him, not me. I returned to the lodge at the briskest of paces, knowing that being this close to Hanyile in his home would be a memory that few others would experience and certainly one I will never forget.

As the Custodian & CEO of the MORE Family Collection, what are your key responsibilities?
My core function is to ensure we deliver on our purpose and that it is done so by staying true to our values through employment opportunities, growth for our people, and unlocking talent and value to our guests by ensuring all stakeholders participate. 

With a highly stressful job and the accountability that comes with the territory, what makes it all worthwhile?
While I occupy the seat of custodian and CEO, I see it as my duty to deliver on the Collection’s purpose and leave a positive impact and legacy on our people and our beautiful planet. 

I believe you are very hands-on. How important is it in this day and age and what are the benefits to you and your staff?
I take the role of custodian to heart, and in my experience, there is not one well-run company that does not have a CEO who is hands-on. If you want to build something great, you need to know it is going to come with hard work and sacrifice. 

The stunning Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of MORE Family Collection
The stunning Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of MORE Family Collection

How much time are you able to spend at the lodges?
I am constantly traveling between the Lodges and Hotels as part of my role which ensures I am close to the guest experience, I get to connect with our people, and I am constantly inspired to look for opportunities to further enhance what we can offer our guests.

What are the deciding factors of where to build a lodge?
Lodges are site-specific. You need to find the magic and then work back into designing the lodge from there. If you get this right the rest takes care of itself. 

What inspires you?
Creating something that has a lasting positive impact excites and energizes me. My passion and purpose are my family, my 14-year-old twins, and my extended family who are the MORE Family Collection. Tourism is a fulfilling space for me to be in where we get to craft real experiences, build incredible properties in incredible locations, and see the resulting joy of our guests. 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. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my place and my family of people. 

Do you have a favorite wildlife animal?
Leopards certainly stand out. That encounter with Hanyile and the incredible leopards at Lion Sands led us to compile a profile of all the leopards we see, a remarkable lineage that truly captivates our guests. 

Cape Cadogan Hotel with the backdrop of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain. Photo courtesy of MORE Family Collection
Cape Cadogan Hotel with the backdrop of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain. Photo courtesy of MORE Family Collection

The MORE Family Collection has the most amazing lodges – from Cape Town to Sabi Sand, Marataba, and Victoria Falls. It’s probably difficult to pick a favorite, so instead please tell us what makes each lodge/property special for you.
Our Lodges, Hotels, and residences are like our children and therefore you are right, dangerous ground to have a favorite! Lion Sands is home to me with the perennial Sabie River, the lifeblood of this place, and my greatest opportunity. I love the mountains at Marataba, in the Marekele National Park, with its soulful feel – it has to be experienced to be understood. Monwana in Thornybush Nature Reserve has been created with such passion and love and this energy is tangible when staying there – like coming home. 

I enjoy the authenticity and talent that abounds in Cape Town and the location of our two Hotels Cape Cadogan and More Quarters. I am very proud of our Upper Union restaurant making waves in this space. 

Victoria Falls is an adventurous place and Stanley & Livingstone is set on the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve offering access to safaris, and our unique black rhino conservation experience. The destination restaurant 1871 is also iconic in the area, and guests here love the afternoon tea with a twist – think gin cocktails and beautiful African sunsets.

Sustainability is at the heart of what the MORE Family Collection is about.
It is a lifetime commitment and something we all need to be part of if we are to make a difference. We need to measure our sustainability efforts as this empowers our thinking and helps us change behavior. 

Please tell us about another one of MORE’s core values – regenerative tourism and conservation.
MORE Family Collection is committed to protecting the environment, supporting community development, following sustainability principles, and delivering on our purpose of creating life-enriching experiences for our guests for this generation and the many that come thereafter.

Robert with twins Madison and Mackenzie in 2017. Photo courtesy of Robert More
Robert with twins Madison and Mackenzie in 2017. Photo courtesy of Robert More

As a father of 14-year-old twins, what is it like raising Mack and Madi in this technologically overwhelming world – have you managed to cultivate your love of the natural world with them?
As a parent, I believe we set the example for our kids and even though you may not think they are listening or seeing, I am confident that they do. My respect for people and the planet has been imparted upon them even though I too constantly must fight back on the negative aspects of tech. My late wife Britt and I learned what it means to travel as a family and the precious time granted to reconnect with each other. 

Exciting projects on the horizon?
We are always looking for incredible guest experiences in unique complementary locations. Hot off the press, is that we are entering the planning stages for a beautiful boutique family beach Hotel in Plettenberg Bay (opening in November 2024). We are adding to our exclusive-use Residences, opening a new winelands Residence just outside Stellenbosch in a 210-year-old manor house (December 2023) and we are also planning a Residence in Victoria Falls. Lion Sands is opening a new three-bedroom safari Residence in November 2024. We are also starting to look outside of South Africa and Zimbabwe and into the Okavango Delta, so hopefully, we can learn and grow into a new region in 2025.