Celebrating Responsible Tourism with African Bush Camps Across Southern Africa
Luxury safari company prioritizes sustainability efforts and community investment in and around bush camps and lodges across Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia
World Responsible Tourism Day is just around the corner on November 6, 2020. The occasion recognizes businesses and destinations that work to educate, inspire, and improve the world through the power if tourism. African Bush Camps (ABC) will be spending the day like all the others on its calendar, embracing sustainable practices at its 15 luxury bush camps and lodges in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. At the same time, it will continue to support worthy initiatives, led by its non-profit African Bush Camps Foundation (ABCF), to improve the quality of life among the rural communities in vulnerable wildlife areas surrounding its safari destinations. Taken together, ABC’s responsible tourism efforts are something to celebrate every day.
Onsite Sustainability There is no better designer than nature, and ABC knows its beauty and power must be respected and protected. But who says sustainability can’t be sumptuous and authentic or that luxury travel, with all of its comforts, can’t also be purposeful?
Some of the sustainable practices at ABC properties include: The building materials used at camps and lodges include canvas for guest tents, certified wood for decks, and concrete for foundations that can be easily broken up and removed as necessary. All camps and lodges are solar-powered, with generators on-hand only as emergency back-ups. All water, including sewage, is filtered through “bio rock” systems that use natural processes and enzymes rather than bleach to ensure potability before being released into the environment. Amenities and cleaning products at most ABC properties are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Paper waste is transformed into paper-mâché to create welcome cards for guests, while trash is collected and removed to designated dumpsites located outside national park boundaries. While at present, there are no recycling centers outside of the parks, African Bush Camps separates recyclable waste to encourage others to imitate them. Meantime, ABC is working on dramatically reducing the use of plastic. There are no plastic water bottles or straws at camps and lodges, and procured goods are packed in as little plastic as possible.
Investing in Local Communities ABC camps and lodges always employ local laborers, bringing in people skilled at plumbing, electric, and transportation for onsite handiwork. However, the company’s investment in local communities goes well beyond that. The ABC Foundation, which receives at least 2.5% of its parent company’s annual revenues for funding, currently has over 40 initiatives underway to benefit rural communities surrounding ABC’s luxury safari destinations. Among many examples from 2020 alone:
Maunga Health Centre – In rural Maunga, Zambia, near ABC’s Thorntree River Lodge, ABCF recently put finishing touches on a Health Center to provide critical healthcare services to thousands in the area. The Center’s labor ward welcomed its first delivery in February. The Foundation’s work is ongoing and includes teaming up with WaterAid to provide running water to the Center as well as to a nearby primary school.
Mangwara Primary School – In 2019, ABCF completed construction of the first classroom block for Mangwara Primary School near Bumi Hills Safari Lodge in Zimbabwe, replacing a mud-and-thatched-roof structure that was open to the elements and not conducive to learning. The block includes two classrooms and a storage area, which were furnished with desks, chairs and learning materials earlier this year. Though construction of a second block was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, work recently resumed. Upon completion, the school will be able to register as a government school, enabling seventh graders to sit for their exams for the first time.
Ranger Support – With National Parks throughout Zimbabwe critically underserved, particularly during the pandemic, ABCF has started a new project to support over 300 rangers and their families in Mana Pools National Park and Hwange National Park through provision of monthly food staples and protein. The project will keep the nutritious meals coming for at least one year.
Anti-Poaching Unit – Responding to an upsurge in wildlife crime, ABCF is launching a project to address poaching in the remote northeastern region of Mana Pools National Park. Funded primarily by ABC, the project adds an anti-poaching picket base to be equipped and supported with logistical requirements. The funding will also add eight additional Rangers to the anti-poaching unit, along with equipment and rations for at least one year.
Goats for Education – This novel program piloted by ABCF in Mambanje, Zimbabwe, near Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park, is designed to improve access to education. Orphaned and vulnerable children, and their families, are provided with an indigenous goat doe whose offspring can be sold to generate income for school fees. In 2020, Goats for Education enabled 13 families to pay their children’s school fees for the year. With 68 goats now distributed, that number will grow. The goats provide additional benefits, including fertilizer for household farming and improved food security through milk provision.
Learning for the Differently-Abled – Thanks to funding from ABCF, the Kachikau Primary School in Chobe, Botswana, accommodates differently-abled learners with wheelchair accessible pathways paved between buildings. Now the Foundation is constructing a dedicated dining area for these students who currently eat meals outside or alone in their rooms. The dining area will be equipped with electricity, running water, and tables that accommodate wheelchairs, creating a clean and social space for children to enjoy dining and each other’s company.
Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation – After limited resources in the Bumi Hills area of Zimbabwe led to conflict between community members of Mola and surrounding wildlife; interventions were put in place to restore harmony, including lion-proof bomas to protect livestock. This year the ABCF program went further with Lion Guardian training to assist community members in monitoring the movement of lions, acting as an early warning system, and collecting vital data supporting local conservation efforts. Ongoing veterinary care for cattle has also continued, benefitting the health of livestock and livelihoods in the community.
African Bush Camps (ABC) is a 100% owner-run, African-based safari company designed to delight adventure travelers with authentic safari experiences amid untamed wilderness across Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Operations are always focused on the guests, with 15 luxury tented bush camps and lodges, offering seamless safari experiences with internal flights, food, drinks, and activities included. African Bush Camps promotes and influences travel to Africa on a global scale while operating with a strong focus on conservation, and an environmentally sustainable footprint that celebrates the culture of communities in the areas in which it operates. The African Bush Camps Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on conservation, education, and empowerment for the communities that surround the company’s camp locations. Launched in 2006, the Foundation operates through a multi-faceted partnership with the company, which donates $10 to the Foundation for every bed night accommodated in each of its camps. All donations go directly to community-based development projects initiated by the Foundation. Since opening, the Foundation has spearheaded 72 community projects across Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia; 42 of those projects are currently in operation under the Foundation’s wing. African Bush Camps was founded in 2006 by Beks Ndlovu, a professional safari guide born and raised in the village of Lupane on the outskirts of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. From the start of operations, Ndlovu’s mission has been to operate a portfolio of luxury tented camps and lodges across Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia that reincarnate the fantasy of ‘Old Untouched Africa,’ while treating guests to authentic and adventurous professional guide-led experiences and bespoke safaris that can only be found in the bush.