Today for the second time in 4 months I found myself with the group I am guiding in front of a Chief of a local tribe that had not had a tourist visit in a long time. In this case, we visited Sankuyo Village, home of the people that own Sankuyo Bush Camp (where we are staying) and Santawani Lodge, and we were the first ever tourists to visit from these camps.
Much like my visit in October with the Elders of Gudigwa Village, this was a fascinating and emotional experience that my clients were raving about. Establishing successful partnerships with local communities is absolutely essential for lasting wildlife conservation, and these visits have been consistently a high point for travelers. In the case of Sankuyo, the community runs a very large hunting concession, separate from the photo tourism concession, but the Head Man told me that when the hunting lease ends in a year that enormous area will be converted to photo tourism! This is because their community ownership model at Sankuyo Bush Camp and Santawani Lodge is working so well.
It is a shame that most safari visitors to Botswana have no interaction with local culture beyond the staff at their camps. I am elated to have pioneered visits to these local villages where visitors are most welcome and receive a remarkable interaction that is off the map and a sincere learning experience that flows in both directions.
Clients of The Wild Source have welcome access by invitation directly to me from the leaders of these communities who want the visits. These are very unique experiences and truly enhance a safari.
I am finding it somewhat ironic that my differentiation as a safari planner has been my expertise as a wildlife biologist but now my great interest and love of Botswana has led me to become the first to establish fascinating cultural visits to these local villages. I am very proud of this new involvement and happy to be able to enhance our clients safari experiences and deliver benefits to local people as well.
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