May 2013 marks Wilderness Safaris’ 30th birthday as Africa’s leading ecotourism and conservation company. From humble beginnings in 1983, the company has grown substantially over the last 30 years – not only in size but also in its ability to positively impact Africa.
Wilderness Safaris registered as a Botswana company in 1983, offering rustic mobile safaris to like-minded guests who were passionate about nature and exploring the country’s remote wildlife areas. It was also the first safari outfitter at the time to realise the need for its financial benefits to flow back to the country and its people, ultimately ensuring the sustainable protection of Botswana’s diverse wilderness.
Even though this approach forms the cornerstone of ecotourism all over the world today, it was a ground-breaking philosophy in the early 1980s that set Wilderness Safaris apart and set its course for the next three decades. The company also began to offer specialist birding and photographic safaris that caught the interest of both the local and international travel trade and the business began to grow.
In 1985, Wilderness Safaris extended its mobile safari offering to include tented camps set on exclusive wilderness sites. As a result, the lodge-operating side of the business was born and the first two tented camps opened in the Okavango Delta. In the 1990s, with renewed global focus on southern Africa as a luxury travel destination, the company began to broaden its positive ecotourism footprint to Africa’s neighbouring countries – first Namibia, then South Africa, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, followed later by Zambia, Seychelles, Congo and Kenya.
Today, Wilderness Safaris owns and operates more than 60 camps and 15 set-departure guided Explorations in 9 African countries, all committed to its 4Cs philosophy (Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture). Its reputation and operating experience has enabled the company to successfully tender for prime leases in key wildlife areas, offering guests an unrivalled suite of camps and concessions in Africa, and, in turn, contributing materially to their ongoing conservation.
The extent of the organisation now means that it traverses over more than 3 million hectares of prime wildlife and wilderness covering parts of 9 of Africa’s 11 biomes (communities of flora and fauna), and provides funding or in kind support to more than 50 significant conservation projects each year. It has also partnered with 19 different rural communities, impacting positively on some 25 000 to 30 000 community members as a result of employment and the associated multiplier effect. In addition, about 500 rural children are hosted in its safari camps each year as part of the Children in the Wilderness programme, and thereafter participate in regular Eco-Clubs in their communities that help change perceptions about wildlife, tourism and conservation.
Wilderness Safaris would like to thank all those who have made this incredible 30-year journey possible. Together, we can all continue to positively impact Africa, its wildlife, people and guests through responsible and visionary ecotourism.
Click here to view Wilderness Safaris’ 30 year video, narrated by Map Ives, Environmental Manager for Botswana.
Wilderness Safaris’ 30-Year timeline at a glance:
- 1983: Wilderness Safaris registers as a Botswana company
- 1983-1985: Specialist photographic and birding mobile safaris run in Botswana
- 1985-1990: First tented camps open in Okavango: Xigera, Xaro, Jedibe and Mombo
- 1993: Rocktail Bay Lodge opens in South Africa (SA)
- 1994: Mvuu Camp (Malawi) opens
- 1995: Mvuu Wilderness Lodge (Malawi), Ongava Lodge (Namibia) and Kings Pool Camp (Botswana) open
- 1996: 10-year partnership with Torra Community in Damaraland signed; Damaraland Camp (Namibia) opens. Savuti and Vumbura Plains (Botswana) open
- 1997: North Island bought with the intention of rehabilitating it and reintroducing the endemic and endangered bird species of the Seychelles. Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Lediba, DumaTau and Little Vumbura in Botswana and Chintheche Inn (Malawi), Makalolo Plains (Zimbabwe) and Ongava Tented Camp (Namibia) open
- 1998: Linyanti Tented Camp (Botswana), Little Makalolo (Zimbabwe) and Kulala Desert Lodge (Namibia) open
- 1999: Jao, Kwetsani and Jacana Camps (Botswana) and Ruckomechi (Zimbabwe) open
- 1996: Kulala Wilderness Reserve (Namibia) created, fences and exotic species removed and wildlife begins to return
- 2000: Wilderness begins supporting the Maputaland Sea Turtle Project, Rocktail (South Africa). Little Mombo (Botswana) and The River Club (Zambia) open
- 2001: Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Programme begun: Wilderness collaborates with Botswana’s Department of Wildlife (DWNP) to bring rhino back to the country. First Children in the Wilderness camp programme run in Botswana
- 2002: The non-profit Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust is established. Tubu Tree Camp opens in Botswana
- 2003: Award-winning HIV Programme launched. First four black rhino released into the Okavango. Little Kulala, Little Ongava, Desert Rhino Camp and Serra Cafema Camp open in Namibia. North Island opens for guests
- 2004: Abu Camp opens in Botswana
- 2005: Doro Nawas Camp (Namibia), Pafuri Camp (SA) and Vumbura Plains Camp (Botswana) open
- 2006: Seba Camp (Botswana), Busanga Bush Camp and Shumba Camp (Zambia) and Mumbo Island (Malawi) open
- 2007: Responsible for the introduction of 25 of a global population of 350 Seychelles White-eyes to North Island (Seychelles). Rocktail Beach Camp (SA) opens
- 2008: Toka Leya Camp (Zambia), Andersson’s Camp (Namibia) and Kalahari Plains (Botswana) open
- 2009: NamibRand and Kulala Wilderness Reserve drop fences. Partnership formed between Wilderness and Doro !Nawas community
- 2010: Wilderness begins retrofitting camps with solar energy systems. Wilderness Holdings listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange. Banoka Bush Camp (Botswana) opens
- 2012: Lango and Ngaga Camps (Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo) open, marking Wilderness’ first foray into Africa’s rainforest environment.
- 2013: Segera Retreat (Laikipia, Kenya) opens