Q & A with Craig Glatthaar, US Sales Manager, Wilderness Safaris, HQ in Gaborone, Botswana. Safari tours are available to eight African country destinations. WS has been a leading ecotourism provider in Africa since 1983.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO WILDERNESS SAFARIS?
I was familiar with their camps from years of traveling and guide work. I’ve always had a deep respect for the culture of the company and what it does for conservation and community empowerment in some of the most pristine areas of Africa.
I am from Cape Town, South Africa. As soon as I heard that Wilderness Safaris had opened a regional office here I pretty much knocked on their door and told them why they should employ me. I arrived smartly dressed while the three people interviewing me were in their khakis, shorts and flip flops. They asked me to make an opening comment, and I said “At least one person here knows how to dress appropriately for a job interview.” They laughed and I got the job. That was in 2011.
WHO CREATED THE “4 C’s?” AND WHAT ARE THEY?
That goes back to the original founders – they saw the need to launch their business in Botswana because at that time (more than 30 years ago) the safari companies leading travelers into Botswana were all based in South Africa. All the financial gains went back to South Africa. Our founders decided that an ecotourism business should benefit both the rural communities and the wilderness regions being visited. Their vision set the foundation for what developed into our “4 C’s” operating ethos. It is an ongoing commitment to Commerce, Community, Culture, and Conservation.
Africa is a huge continent. Imagine an area 3x the size of the United States of America! The complexity and the number of options can be overwhelming. So I always recommend that you first connect with an African travel expert based in your home country. That person will get to know you and be able to suggest those experiences that will best match your personal preferences and expectations for a first encounter. Also this is not the kind of trip you do in a spontaneous way. Give yourself and your travel mates plenty of time for planning well in advance. You should not come with the mindset that it will be a “one-off” trip. I guarantee that once you have experienced Africa you will become addicted and want to return.
WHAT DOES YOUR “LOW VOLUME, LOW IMPACT, HIGH VALUE” POLICY MEAN?
It means even though we receive over 40,000 guests annually we limit the number of guests coming to any of our camps at any one time. We want to minimize any pressure placed on the areas’ ecology. High value pertains to the experience of wildlife sightings with the help of incredible guides paired with our luxurious and sustainable accommodations in these remote locations.
Correct Deborah. Some locations are most suitable for walking safaris, others for canoe safaris, and still others for ocean diving. We do maintain a fleet of almost 50 aircraft (Wilderness Air) with pilots available to bring guests from one location to another. We also have multiple offices so that a Wilderness Safaris representative will be able to meet a guest upon arrival whether the point of entry is in Botswana, South Africa, or another country.
I WOULD LOVE TO VISIT NAMIBIA – PHOTOS OF THAT RED COAST ARE SIMPLY INCREDIBLE.
Namibia is an amazing place with ancient cultures and unique flora and fauna that have adapted to the desert and mountain wilderness. You will encounter vast open natural spaces because it is a large country with a very small human population. Many conservation projects have been quite successful in Namibia. Your experience there will be like no other – you must come.
The guide is the glue that binds the journey, and a good or bad guide can make or break your safari experience. We’re in quite a fortunate position to be selective. Once hired a new guide will go through an extensive internal training program. Quite a few of our guides have been with us for many years and do an excellent job.
DO YOUR GUESTS ARRIVE WITH A LIST OF ANIMALS TO SEE?
Yes in some cases but most guests are open-minded. They are just excited to be in Africa and to learn as much as they can about the environments in each country and the animals and birds.
Actually Botswana is one place in Africa that has adopted a successful ecotourism model. The government understands that the local people and communities must be involved and benefit or conservation efforts will fail. Their rhino relocation program is a good example of its commitment to both people and wildlife.
PLEASE TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR COMPANIES ECO-CLUBS...
I am glad you asked about this. It is a little-known fact that we work with a non-profit partner called Children in the Wilderness. This is an educational program for children - they will be the next generation of decision-makers and custodians in the future. It is about inspiring them to care for their natural heritage. Every year we host on average more than 500 children in our camps. For us this is an internal experience and our way of bonding with our communities. As for the Eco-Clubs, this is our way of injecting a nature-based curriculum externally into the schools. It is also a pathway for guests to become more involved with the rural communities if they so desire.
I could tell you it has to do with our long history or the fact that we operate in eight countries or the seamless journeys we provide…but it really comes down to one point, our raison d'être. We are dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness, wildlife and people. When you travel with Wilderness Safaris, you are contributing to something greater than yourself.
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