A new virtual event series from travel outfitter Extraordinary Journeys will bring the magic of Africa’s last wild places to life with stories from the bush—while also informing them about new concerns about conservation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Live from Africa,” which launches on May 19 and runs through summer, will feature leading field experts ranging from big cat filmmakers to Maasai conservationists. The purpose of the talks, which are open to the public via registration, is to entertain wildlife lovers with firsthand encounters from Africa’s savannas, shrublands, forests, and deltas, while also shedding light on the wildlife conservation issues that the pandemic has exacerbated—one of the most pressing of which has been a rise in poaching.
It was the spike in rhino poaching in Botswana in tourism hot spots during coronavirus—a spike many experts believe is a result of fewer visitors to wilderness areas (considered a safer haven for the endangered mammals compared to neighboring South Africa)—that inspired Elizabeth Gordon, cofounder of Extraordinary Journeys, to launch the series.
“It really dawned on me that the whole conservation model linked to tourism was in jeopardy,” says Gordon. “Huge conservation areas and communities have been depending on [tourism] money to survive, and we needed to do something to help the situation.”
While the events are free, Extraordinary Journeys has set up a relief fund for viewers who want to donate to projects that benefit local communities and protect threatened wildlife. The company will give donors a $150 per person credit toward a future trip.
Gordon will interview each guest and plans to let viewers ask questions at the end of each discussion so they can feel closer to the places they can’t currently support with their tourism dollars. “I want people to feel connected to countries that they can no longer access right now, and I’m hoping this series does just that,” she says.
Kicking off the series at 1 p.m. EST on May 19 is author and seasoned safari guide Peter Allison of Natural Selection Safaris.
Cape Town–based Allison, who chronicled his long career in the bush in his book Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide (which includes an ill-fated rafting trip through the Okavango Delta, where he accidentally strolled over a crocodile’s back), plans to share some of his most exciting guiding stories, while also informing viewers of the value of tourism to conservation.
According to Allison, reconsidering humankind’s relationship with nature and wildlife is more important than ever, given that the novel coronavirus pandemic is a zoonotic outbreak, and a safari holiday can both inform visitors and support the very places that they visit.
“I hope viewers take away that their travel [to Africa] is not just something fun for them, but essential if wild places and animals within them are to remain,” says Allison. Also on the lineup:
- 12 p.m. EST on May 24: Mwiga Mambo, a leading primatology guide from Nomad Tanzania, whose chance meeting with Jane Goodall as a teen inspired the pursuit of a lifelong passion
- 12 p.m. EST on May 29: Dereck and Beverly Joubert, conservationists and filmmakers who specialize in big cat conservation and who founded Great Plains Conservation
- 12 p.m. EST on June 4: Joseph Mpoe, a Maasai guide who has an intimate knowledge of the natural rhythms of Kenya’s iconic Maasai Mara
- 12 p.m. EST on June 10: Zimbabwe-born Beks Ndlovu, a top safari guide from Zimbabwe who founded African Bush Camps
For the full schedule and to register, sign up here.