Africa's leading Eco Safari Operator – The Wilderness Safaris story
Wilderness Safaris is a luxury safari company operating in Africa that also boasts North Island in the Seychelles in its collection. With a vision to be a ‘leading ecotourism organisation, creating life-changing journeys in order to build sustainable conservation economies and inspire positive action’, it’s a shining example of responsible travel.
The Wilderness Safaris story began in Botswana in 1983 with two guides who shared a passion for wildlife, the environment, Africa and improving the way safaris operated. Fuelled by a compelling desire to act as custodians of some of the continent’s best wilderness areas, they set out to educate people about the importance of conservation in protecting these habitats for generations to come. ‘Giving back’ to local communities, whether through employment or special projects that benefit rural people, was also of paramount importance.
With this in mind, the principles of Wilderness Safaris’ vision have become known as the four Cs: commerce, conservation, community and culture. Commerce speaks to a critical element of sustainability; if business is doing well, the company can continue to make a difference. Conservation relates to building and managing eco-friendly camps and protecting wildlife and ecosystems. Community ensures that the people who work with and for Wilderness Safaris, including the local communities, are looked after. And culture includes respecting the ways of the communities surrounding the conservation areas where Wilderness Safaris operates.
Throughout the Eighties and Nineties the vision was nurtured to bring a new, exclusive type of safari experience to the luxury market. Better Land Rovers, specialist experiences and more guides made Wilderness Safaris stand out from the crowd, while mobile and permanent safari camps were opened across Botswana, including exceptional areas of the Okavango Delta, as well as neighbouring countries. In Namibia and Zimbabwe, innovative lodge and camp circuits were introduced to give guests even more choice and all-encompassing safari adventures like no other.
Along with animal conservation, one of the most important developments for Wilderness Safaris was the introduction of community programmes. The project that set the benchmark was the inspirational and award-winning partnership with the Damaraland people of Namibia, with whom it built Damaraland Camp. Owned and largely run by the local community, it is a unique place, full of the personality of the local culture, where guests can enjoy a first-class eco safari. Located in the Torra Conservancy, there is also the rare opportunity to observe endangered desert-adapted elephants in the area.
Wilderness Safaris ventured into the Seychelles in 1997, when it became part of a team that bought North Island. An ambitious plan, affectionately known as the ‘Noah’s Ark’ Rehabilitation Project, it has seen the island’s natural beauty nursed back to health. Part of this included removing invasive plants and replacing them with endemic broad-leaved and fruiting trees to provide the perfect habitat for insects for birds, including the native White-eyes, to feast upon. White-eyes are an endangered species and their reintroduction to the island has been a huge success, with the number quadrupling. Giant tortoises, geckos, fruit bats and hawksbill turtles are among the other creatures that call North Island home.
Along with reinstating the island as a haven for indigenous species, the plan included building one of the world’s leading luxury private island hideaways. A great success, the resort works in perfect harmony with its environment and was where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge spent their honeymoon.
An unspoilt, tropical paradise with just 11 villas, North Island is ultra- exclusive and offers an exceptional secluded experience and world-class facilities including a spa, state-of-the-art gym and restaurant. There is also the opportunity for diving and snorkelling among the pristine coral reef, relaxing on the stunning beaches, exploring by island buggy and bicycle, and further afield on kayaks and boats.
Among its accolades is the Energy Globe National Award for Seychelles (June 2016) that it scooped for its successful initiative to reduce plastic waste by installing the latest Vivreau reverse-osmosis water-purification technology and bottling the water in reusable glass bottles rather than plastic ones. This is just one of several programmes designed to lessen North Island’s ecological footprint.
Today, as well as on North Island, Wilderness Safaris has more than 40 exclusive lodges across Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda (2017), South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, in many of its own concessions, which means there is greater privacy than you’d find in public-access National Parks. But no matter how big the company may grow, it will always be committed to its original guiding principles.
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