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Wonder Women

7 min read

Updated 01 March 2022

Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

This International Women’s Day (8 March 2022) Expert Africa is championing the talented women of the safari industry. We’re focusing on the fearless women who commit themselves to conserving Africa’s wilderness and wildlife every day; the insightful women who educate, entertain and care for us on safari; the dedicated women striving to improve lives in their communities; and the young girls watching, learning and aspiring to great things.

In an industry which has always been dominated by men, it is vital that we strive for gender equality and champion the women and men working so hard to redress the balance.

We are fortunate at Expert Africa to have a team of intuitive, conscientious, well-travelled women. And we work alongside some formidable women across Africa; people driving major tourism and conservation initiatives; running remote safari camps and smart lodges; managing complex logistics and navigating personnel and bureaucracy challenges from the bush; and raising families and building communities with courage, skill and heart.

Next Generation Girl Guides

African Bush Camps

Across Africa, safari guiding remains a heavily male-dominated profession. Male guides outnumber their female counterparts by 9 to 1. The reality is that most women in local communities simply do not have the same professional opportunities as men. Myriad historic and social reasons account for this and there is still very limited investment in women to help them pursue aspirations to work as guides while having families. It can be a challenging career choice.

A trailblazing new project is addressing the imbalance. In November 2021, African Bush Camps (ABC) launched a dedicated Female Safari Guide Project in Botswana, aiming to increase female job opportunities in safari guiding and closely linked fields. Teaching wildlife conservation through a combination of classroom, practical, and on-the-job mentorship, with rotations at different African Bush Camps properties, the two-year training programme should enable these women to earn a professional guiding licence and significantly broaden their career prospects.

There is certainly appetite for the scheme: the project launch attracted applications from 300 women from across Botswana. Following interviews, five women have now embarked on their guide-training journey, and ABC aim to train 25 local, female guides by 2025.

With such obvious demand, it would be wonderful to see more operators commit energy and resources into making the path into guiding a real possibility for even more women, and we share ABC’s hope that these scheme acts a catalyst to do just that.

Inspiring Change

Pie Aerts, Conservation Lower Zambezi

This is Kufadza: Zambia’s first all-female, anti-poaching community scout unit. Kufadza means ‘inspire’ in the local Goba language, and these women of the Lower Zambezi region certainly do that. They are strong, brave and dedicated, working tirelessly in a dangerous field, making a positive impact for wildlife conservation, and serving as powerful role models for other women and girls in their rural communities.

With funding from the EU, USAID and the CITES MIKE programme (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants), the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) together with Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) were determined to provide a space for women in the field of wildlife protection. Kufadza was established to encourage more women to become Community Scouts and to offer a conservation career path to women from local communities that was previously impossible.

To join the unit, CLZ and DNPW ran a rigorous selection process, testing physical and mental resilience. Of the 98 women who applied, only ten made it to the intensive training camp in Kafue National Park, where strenuous exercise, weapons training, wildlife understanding and tracking were all taught. They graduated in 2021 and immediately hit the ground running, conducting intense 10-day patrols to de-snare, seek out poachers and monitor the park’s wildlife. Three of the women have already been promoted to join CLZ’s specialised law enforcement units: the Marine Unit, the Rapid Deployment Team and the K9 Tracking Unit.

Each of the Kufadza women have a different story about how they came to join the unit. Financial constraints meant Lisa Siamustantu had to drop out of university and was selling produce in the markets when she saw the advert for female Community Scouts. Molly Grace Ngulube was working at a local radio station but wanted to fulfil her calling to be a ranger because she loves wildlife. Phyllis Makina wanted to be a strong female role model for her young daughter. While all were passionate about conservation and interested in this work, none of them was aware that women could even be rangers. This dedicated female recruitment drive was transformative.

All-female units are increasing across Africa, including Akashinga in Zimbabwe who we covered in Issue 13, and the well-known Black Mamba unit in South Africa. While these teams vary in their approaches and methods, all of them have broken barriers and pre-conceptions in their communities. Through Women in Conservation and World Female Ranger Day they have also had the opportunity to support and learn from each other, building a network of camaraderie that will continue to grow.

Check out the beautiful area protected by Kufadza and the dedicated safari operators in Lower Zambezi National Park. The Zambezi River and its escarpment backdrop offer the most wonderful game-viewing.

Safari Sisters

Dunia Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The Serengeti is a very special place, offering iconic savannah panoramas teeming with wildlife, and it’s the site of some of our earliest human ancestors. Something else rather wonderful has evolved here too, Tanzania’s first all-female-run safari camp: Dunia. In its peaceful spot overlooking the Seronera plains and Moru Kopjes, Dunia has consciously evolved into a beacon of women’s empowerment in the safari industry.

As the world strives for gender parity, moves like this from Dunia’s owners, Asilia Africa, prove the immense capabilities of their female staff. Not only does the camp provide an opportunity for aspiring guides among Asilia’s existing female staff, it demonstrates to the wider industry that this change is possible, and it broadens the horizon for local girls and women.

At Expert Africa, we know from our glowing traveller reviews what a great job is done by the team at Dunia Camp. The warmth of the home-from-home hospitality and the quality of everything from the food to the skilful guiding make this a top spot in the Serengeti heartland.

Girls On Tour

In the spirit of celebrating young, female talent, we bring you these lovely cheetah photographs, taken by two of Expert Africa’s more youthful female travellers – Bella, 11, and Rosalyn, 10 – on their recent safari in Kenya. Thank you for sharing your brilliant shots with us!

If you’re interested in talking to Expert Africa about family safaris, several members of our team have first-hand experience of travelling with children in Africa. We know all the top spots and travel tips, whether you’re thinking of going on safari with babes-in-arms or teens. Check out our dedicated Family Safari ideas and give us a call.

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

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