Wilderness Safaris had its origins in Botswana in 1983. It is here that we started our love affair with the wilderness and where we offer our guests exclusive access to wilderness areas and wildlife of unparalleled quality.
Over 30 years ago we fell in love with remote and wild places in Africa. We realised that unless we acted soon, some of Africa's – and the world's – most unique areas would be under threat and lost to future generations. Our dream was to protect these places by enabling people to visit them and earn a living for ourselves at the same time.
We then realised that we too are part of this wild place, that as custodians of our planet we need to do all we can to protect these places; that there are real choices we can make.
Wilderness Safaris was thus established in 1983 by a group of individuals who had a dream: to share some of the most remote wilderness areas on the African sub-continent with guests from all over the world, in a way that lightly touched the environment, but left a big imprint on the soul.
The fulfilment of this ideal began with a single Land Rover and plenty of enthusiasm.
In the early 1980s, Botswana was a little-known safari destination. Photographic safaris were generally restricted to using the national parks, while hunting safari companies controlled large tracts of the Okavango Delta. Safaris usually began in Johannesburg, with guests being driven all the way through Botswana and Victoria Falls and back to Johannesburg.
It was at this time that two guides with an ardent desire to improve the way in which safaris were operated started Wilderness Safaris. They both had an intense and intrinsic love of the environment and the country and believed fervently that time was ripe for change.
The first step was to set up an operation based in Maun, Botswana, so as to maximise the time spent in the prime game viewing areas. Next, better Land Rovers were used and Specialist Safaris were introduced, and the business began to grow. Likeminded guides joined and Wilderness Safaris began to spread out into neighbouring countries. By the nineties, Wilderness was a well-known mobile camping safari company and had begun to build a few permanent camps.
Around this time, the government of Botswana reviewed the use of land in the Okavango and superb areas outside the national parks became available for tender. This single act changed the face of safaris in Botswana forever and allowed Wilderness to develop and grow in a meaningful way. Similar developments took place in other countries – Namibia and Zimbabwe developed lodge and camp circuits, which changed the emphasis of the business.
An important development at this time was the introduction of meaningful community involvement in both ownership and operating of concessions. Although this had already taken place at Rocktail Bay in South Africa, the model that was developed between Wilderness Safaris Namibia and the people of the Damaraland area was to set new standards for the industry. So successful was this project that the area was declared a Conservancy by the Namibian Government, and Damaraland Camp won the international "Tourism for Tomorrow" award in 2005.
Today, the scope and variety of areas that Wilderness currently manages is beyond compare, having grown to over 50 exclusive camps and lodges in eight African countries. But while we may have increased in size, our culture and values have remained the same. Our aim is (as it has always been) to operate in the best wilderness and wildlife areas in all countries in which we are present, while we seek opportunities to enter fantastic new locations with significant conservation needs. Our mobile camping safaris – Explorations – have also undergone much development in that we are able to operate largely in our concession areas, allowing greater privacy and exclusivity than we had when the company was started.
In a sense, this has taken us back to our source, which has been pleasing for a group of people who take so much pride in where they have come from and seek to remain true to their origins.