Our Story: African Bush Camps

With 15 luxury tented bush camps and lodges surrounded by untouched wilderness in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, African Bush Camps draws travelers from around the world to discover the beauty of the bush and the authentic cultures of the communities around it. Led by Beks Ndlovu, CEO and founder of the company and its non-profit African Bush Camps Foundation, we are equally focused on providing exceptional safari experiences and conservation.  Indeed, as Beks launched what many now lovingly refer to as “ABC” in 2006, we embraced our role as stewards of all the destinations we call home.

Born and Bred by the Bush 

Beks Ndlovu knows his way around Zimbabwe – the villages and the bush. Born and raised in the small village of Lupane on the outskirts of Hwange National Park, the country’s largest natural reserve, Beks learned early on how to harmlessly chase intruding elephants from his childhood home by banging pots and pans. The ritual sparked an interest in wildlife and began blurring the lines between his home life and the bush.

The latter soon became Beks’ passion: In 1995, he took his first step into the safari industry as a camp volunteer, spending days collecting firewood, transferring guests, tending bars, working on anti-poaching, and pitching temporary camps for expeditions. After cutting his teeth in the safari industry, he obtained his first license as a Learner Professional Guide in 1996.

Beks quickly mastered the art of hosting and guiding people in parks, exploring various regions of Zimbabwe via multi-day canoeing adventures on the Zambezi River, and leading tracking expeditions in the Zambezi Valley and Southeastern portions of the country. He was named river guide of the year in 1997, and qualified as a professional guide shortly after.

 

We embraced our role as stewards of all the destinations we call home.

 

After years of guiding and evolving into a camp manager and operations manager, Beks longed to return to his passion of guiding. He did so in 2001, setting up Beks Safaris to conduct private guided safaris all over Africa, which exposed him to the richness as well as the imbalances of the continent.

The challenges Beks observed motivated him to pursue a larger cause and have a greater impact by becoming a camp owner. In 2006, he opened his first: Somalisa Camp in the heart of Hwange National Park.

Old Untouched Africa’

As Beks journeyed through Africa as a private guide, he dreamed of creating luxury safari camps where travelers from around the world could experience the ‘Old Untouched Africa’ he so loved. “The experiential component of safaris is the fabric of African Bush Camps,” notes Beks. “Luxury to me is the essence of vast tracks of wild spaces far from crowds or civilization, working with the best guides and naturalists, and viewing animals with hardly anyone else around.”

 

The most magical experiences happen when you least expect them.

 

ABC is renowned for exceptional field guides who create the magic and lead explorations into the bush.  Locals are employed exclusively onsite, the better to benefit their communities and encourage them to share their culture and history with our guests. ABC consistently works toward a company culture of inclusive safaris, both by catering to people of various backgrounds and providing locals with opportunities to take up senior positions. Beks chose to begin his professional and personal venture with a simple name that said it all: African Bush Camps.

The First African Bush Camp
In 2006, Beks acquired a private concession in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and opened Somalisa Camp. Situated under the dappled shade of native tress and with gorgeous views of the park’s golden savannah plains, Somalisa Camp set the standard for every African Bush Camp to follow – elegant styling, reclaimed wood and organic features, solar power, eco-friendly building techniques, a garden for fresh produce, and a remote setting right in the bush.

 

ABC works toward a company culture of inclusive safaris, both by catering to people of various backgrounds and providing locals with opportunities to take up senior positions.

 

From sipping sundowners while listening to the distant roar of lions, to close encounters with elephants at the ‘elephant pool’ edging an expansive deck, we set out to immerse guests in the Africa our guides know and love. Operating under the philosophy that the most magical experiences happen when you least expect them, our guides ensure that no experience comes off as rigid or overly planned.

Growing the ABC Family 

ABC now counts 15 bush camps and lodges in our portfolio: 6 in Botswana, 8 in Zimbabwe, and 1 in Zambia. The most recent are Nyamatusi Camp and Nyamatusi Mahogany, both situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site  of Mana Pools. Nyamatusi is a local name for “wild game,” and it is one of the last Wild Edens in Africa where endangered species such as the Painted Wolf is commonly seen. Mana Pools is home to one of the most successful wild dog dynasties in Africa, hunting for many years along the banks of the Zambezi River. Known as nature’s supreme hunters, a population boom in the area has led the dogs to target baboons as prey, behavior unknown elsewhere in Africa.

 

Nyamatusi is a local name for “wild game,” and it is one of the last Wild Edens in Africa.

 

Our next safari destination is Khwai Leadwood, set to open in April 2021 beneath the shade of leadwood and sycamore fig trees on the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve in the community-run Khwai Concession of the Okavango Delta of Botswana.

Investing in Local Communities 

If safari is the heart of African Bush Camps, our non-profit African Bush Camps Foundation is the soul. Founded along with the company in 2006 to focus on community conservation, education, and empowerment, ABCF operates through a multi-faceted partnership funded by at least 2.5 percent of ABC’s annual revenue.

 

If safari is the heart of African Bush Camps, our non-profit African Bush Camps Foundation is the soul.

 

All donations go directly to community-based development projects spearheaded by ABCF: 72 across Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia to date, of which approximately 40 are currently in operation. They include active fundraising to support:

  • Renovation of Early Childhood Development classroom facilities serving roughly 30 students from rural Hwange Main Camp near the entrance to southern Hwange National Park.
  • Partnering with the Mauna Community near Thorntree River Lodge to complete a long-awaited Health Centre to serve the community along the western border of the vulnerable Dambwa Forest Reserve
  • Installing 1,000 ‘Tippy Taps’ (public hand-washing stations) in rural communities around ABC camps.

Our Philosophy of Immersion

Throughout our expansion, African Bush Camps’ ethos has remained solid: to offer genuinely experiential safaris and revel in the joy of discovery from different perspectives. ABC operates in pristine locations, offering exquisite opportunities for travelers to immerse themselves deeply into Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia: from guided game drives, canoeing, and trekking, to visits to local communities to experience the work of our Foundation first-hand. Holistic adventures express our philosophy with elements that bring southern Africa to life and promote meaningful relationships grounded in conservation and preservation of wildlife, natural beauty, and culture. We succeed when ABC conserves, preserves, and has a positive impact on the places in which we operate.

 

We promote the work of our Foundation to guests before they arrive so by the time they land they are ready to embrace rich experiences and honor the land and people they come into contact with.

 

ABC’s priority is to ensure that we play an active role in educating and getting our guests involved in the journey of conserving Africa while making a positive impact on the planet. We promote the work of our Foundation to guests before they arrive so by the time they land they are ready to embrace rich experiences and honor the land and people they come into contact with. We promote longer stays in one place to ensure that all local experiences we share afford guests the full African Bush Camps experience.

The Best Storytellers

Though African Bush Camps takes sustainability, conservation and community responsibility very seriously, when it comes to sharing Africa’s wilderness and culture with travelers on safari, we believe strongly in having a great time. ABC is known for its welcoming traditions and guest personalization: Our staff and guides go out of their way to make travelers smile, laugh from their lips to the belly, and thoroughly enjoy themselves.

 

The uniqueness of ABC is that “Beks is one of us,” and this inspires everyone to get involved collectively play, and work hard with equal passion.

 

Distinct from other organizations that expect their staff to perform as efficient shadows in the background, our culture is to be all-inclusive and provide opportunity and freedom for all staff at each of our camps to be storytellers. We believe in the richness of our diversity and in celebrating it with people around the world. Through this dialogue and interaction, the warmth of the people of Africa is what our guests take back as their soulful journey and experience. The uniqueness of ABC is that “Beks is one of us,” and this inspires everyone to get involved, play, and work hard with equal passion.

Eyes on the Future
Every brand needs a goal, and African Bush Camps has several. On conservation, we aim to make each of our camps plastic-free by 2025 and are currently working to dramatically reduce the use of plastic: There are no plastic water bottles or straws at camps and lodges, and the goods we procure are packed in as little plastic as possible.

There is no better designer than nature, and ABC knows that the beauty and power of the natural world must be respected and protected. All of our 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 instead of bleach to ensure potability before being released into the environment. Amenities and cleaning products at most ABC properties are biodegradable and eco-friendly.

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