Wilderness Safaris: Highlights of 2017

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It’s that time again… We are getting ready for the Festive Season and wrapping things up as we wind down to the end of 2017. We’ve also been reflecting on our highlights of the year and the moments that stood out for us over the past 11 months.

Below, and in no particular order, are just a few of the moments that we are proud to have shared with you during 2017:

The Long Ride to Free Them – Rhino Ride 2017

In April this year, lifelong environmentalist Matt Myer took to his bike to promote a cause close to all our hearts: raising awareness and funds for rhino conservation. From 17 April to 17 June, Matt rode a distance of 3 000 kilometres (2 000 miles) along the West Coast of the USA. He did this while towing a life-sized fiberglass rhino called Lunar; an unforgettable symbol to bring the message of rhino conservation to people in a tangible way.

The campaign caught the attention of the public and news media and our aim of raising awareness was quickly realised along the way. The campaign was a resounding success raising a total of $151 631 shared among three incredible organisations: Save the Rhino Trust Namibia, Care for Wild Africa and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Dreams do come True… The Opening of Bisate Lodge

In June 2017, Bisate Lodge, our first ecotourism venture in Rwanda, opened its doors. In our Why of Wilderness booklet we discuss how our brand of responsible ecotourism will make a difference to both local Rwandan people and threatened Albertine Rift species: “For many years, we contemplated how our ecotourism model might contribute to the conservation of rainforest ecosystems and iconic Critically Endangered species like the mountain gorilla.” With Bisate’s opening, this dream is now being realised. To date over 17 000 trees have been planted at Bisate in an ongoing reforestation project to bring back indigenous plants to the area.

Sustainability and Conservation Achievements in a Nutshell

• The Wilderness Wildlife Trust participated in 62 active research projects in the 2017 financial year

• 10 million Pula injected into conservation through the Wilderness Wildlife Trust in 2017

• Carbon emissions have decreased by 18% from 0.097 to 0.080 tonnes CO₂e (carbon-dioxide equivalents) per bednight since 2012

• Bottled water usage has decreased to 0.46 litres from 2.06 litres in 2012

• Wilderness raised, managed and administered community development funds amounting to 4.03 million Pula and contributed 51.2 million Pula to community partnerships and staff

• 2 580 staff employed in 2017 with training, development and talent management being a key focus.

• 2 718 training courses were presented to staff across the Group during the 2017 fiscus

Sensational Sightings – No Ordinary Bird

We had a number of sensational wildlife sightings during the course of 2017 and one particular sighting we named: “The twitch of a lifetime”. When news trickled in that a rare vagrant Ross’s turaco was spotted at Kings Pool, birders from all over the continent flocked to the camp. One such birding enthusiast was Robbie Engela who shared his reflections on this once in a lifetime moment…

Clash of the Cats

Birds might have made some noise but the cats clawed their way in, making headlines in publications such as the Daily Mail. One such article, ”Clash of the Cats” featured in a number of online publications. Read more about the impressive photographs and story behind them here.

A Remarkable Rhino Rescue

The year began with the heart-warming story of Vincent, a two-week old rhino calf, who had been badly injured. Due to the severity of the calf’s injuries and the importance of protecting rhino populations, the Botswana rhino team dedicated the next few weeks to saving the young calf. Vincent’s ears had been torn off (most likely by a hyaena clan) and he was very weak. What followed was a remarkable rescue documented in this three part series .

Nedbank Tour de Tuli – Biking for a Better Tomorrow

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli celebrated its 13th year of operation and 10th year of riding through the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation area (TFCA) which encompasses the Limpopo Valley areas in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The annual mountain bike event organised by Tour de Wilderness is the main fundraiser for Children in the Wilderness.

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is an incredible experience, not only for the wonderful organisation it supports, but for the amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride in pristine wilderness areas along with friends, family and colleagues.

We are proud to say that this year’s Tour raised an impressive R2.4 million for Children in the Wilderness.

Wilderness Moments Photography Competition – A Stunning Showcase

On 10 September we opened our Wilderness Moments Photography Competition – a chance for our guests and staff to submit their favourite images from their journeys taken over the past 34 years with Wilderness Safaris.

The competition entries blew us away and the judges had a hard time choosing their favourite images and stories from the five categories. Our overall competition winners will be announced on Friday 15 December. In the meantime take a look at the top ten photographs from each of the categories.

Children in the Wilderness Joins Elephant and Rhino Conservation March in Gaborone

In October this year, nine Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Eco-Club Members and three Eco-Mentors from Shashe, Tubu and Beetsha Primary Schools took part in the first-ever Botswana leg of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. It was heartening to see our future conservation leaders doing their bit to promote the greater protection of Africa’s elephant and rhino.

During 2017 Children in the Wilderness hosted 427 children in CITW camps and supported 2 706 children in Eco Clubs.

Read more about CITW and the highlights of 2017 here.

Out of this World Sleep-Out Experiences

2017 saw a number of camp refurbishments and these three thrilling sleep-out experiences introduced in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya:

The Scott’s Pan Star Bed – a truly authentic way to experience this wildlife-rich area

In May we opened a Star Bed at Linkwasha Camp in Hwange National Park, overlooking the beautiful and productive Scott’s Pan. This sleep-out adventure offers an exciting experience for guests wanting to get closer to nature and experience a night under the stars. Read More.

DumaTau’s stylish and elegant Star Bed

What better way to immerse yourself in nature than by sleeping under the stars? The opening of the new Star Bed at DumaTau Camp in September this year was a major highlight for guests. The sleep-out is located in the heart of the Linyanti, Botswana, about 45 minutes’ drive from the main camp. The Star Bed has front-row seats to the spectacular Zibadianja Lagoon, a pristine wilderness area that teems with elephant, hippo and other impressive wildlife. This is the ultimate romantic escape – think honeymoon or just a romantic night together; also ideal for small families. Read more.

Fancy a night in a bird’s nest?

October saw the opening of the much-anticipated NAY PALAD Bird Nest at award-winning Segera Retreat in Kenya. Built alongside a river teeming with wildlife, the NAY PALAD Bird Nest offers a breathtaking escape in the heart of Laikipia – one of Kenya’s most iconic safari locations. Renowned for its sheer luxury and bespoke service, Segera focuses on creating the most intimate and private experiences for its guests; the new NAY PALAD Bird Nest offers just that, and more. Read more.

The Opening of Qorokwe

It was with great excitement that we opened Qorokwe Camp, a new Wilderness Safaris Classic Camp in Botswana, in the wildlife-rich 26 180 hectare (64 692-acre) Qorokwe Concession in December. The beautifully designed camp aligns perfectly with our commitment to operating camps with as a light an eco-footprint as possible. The camp is 100% solar-powered with water heated by means of thermodynamic solar geysers, further helping to mitigate carbon emissions. Qorokwe is located in a highly productive mix of fertile Okavango habitats. View our safari album showcasing our very first pictures of the camp.

Thank you for being a part of this journey – we look forward to sharing many more exciting updates with you in 2018.

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By Kate Collins

Kate grew up exploring the bushveld on her family rose farm, living among Nguni cattle, geese, warthogs, ostriches and horses. After completing an Honours degree at the University of Cape Town, Kate began working at Wild magazine as a journalist and as the Digital Editor of the Wild Card website. Kate has travelled to destinations throughout southern Africa, enjoying the many rich offerings of our country. Her work at Wild magazine helped secure her next move to Londolozi Game Reserve where she worked in their Creative team managing online communications and assisting guests with their wildlife photography. Kate now lives in Johannesburg and is proud to be a part of Wilderness Safaris in her role as copywriter. “I am very excited to work for a company that makes such a huge difference to people’s lives and to the wild places throughout our incredibly beautiful and diverse continent.”

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