The Conservation Champions of Southern Africa

Climate change, human encroachment, and poaching threaten the survival of Southern Africa’s wildlife. Government officials, non-profit organizations, and private partners are working together to ensure large swaths of land are set aside in order to reduce human-wildlife conflict and provide wildlife with room to roam. Here are the projects and lodges which are working to make a positive difference in the ecosystems they operate within.

Sitting on what felt like the wrong side of the car, shifting with the wrong hand, and driving on the wrong side of the road, I was listening to a CD of local marimba music on my way to Etosha National Park in northern Namibia. I was going on a safari for one! Being an animal lover since childhood, going on safari in Africa had been a dream for years. I wanted to see lions and elephants and giraffes and zebras in their native habitat, not in a zoo. But I prefer solo travel and just never could get excited about the idea of a group safari. Namibia was my perfect travel destination. With amazing scenery and wildlife, it is also considered very safe, even for solo women travelers.

Etosha National Park is a gem of wildlife-viewing in Africa, especially in the dry season from June through November when all of the animals must come to waterholes to drink and bathe. But it is relatively unknown, so not crowded with tourists. I could drive for miles without seeing another person, but couldn’t go far without seeing a springbok, oryx or zebra.

Okaukuejo Camp is near the southern entrance of the park and has a permanent waterhole which attracts an amazing variety of wildlife. Though there is definitely a pecking order - with elephants at the top - all of the animals seem to coexist at the waterholes and share the bounty that is life in a parched landscape.
G4JM+R65, Gucta, Botswana
A recent refurbishment has brought larger tents, Moroccan rugs, and four-poster campaign beds to this woodland property near the Makgadikgadi salt pans. A visit to the nearby meerkat conservation project is a must.

From $430. 27/(0) 11-447- 1605. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image courtesy of Uncharted Africa Safari Co.
R360, Upington, 8800, South Africa
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was created through the cooperation of the governments of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Their cooperation has united several smaller fragmented parks into a larger border-less area for wildlife to roam. Highlights include viewing predators like cheetah, hyena and black-manned lions, along with bat eared foxes, meerkats, wildebeest, and other species. One of the best camps on the South African side is Kieliekrankie. It’s an unfenced campsite located towards the middle of the park located on the top of a dune. Four self-catering cabins come with a kitchen and outdoor grill. There is a ranger on-hand to help check you in and oversee your stay in the event some curious leopards or jackals come to visit your cabin. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a big park and a lot of the roads are corrugated, so a 4x4 vehicle is strongly recommended (but not necessary). Make sure to stop at Twee Rivieren with your passport if you plan on exiting through Namibia or entering Botswana.
Singita Pamushana, Malilangwe Reserve, Chiredzi, Zimbabwe
The opening of Pamushana, Singita’s only lodge in Zimbabwe, signified an important turn in Zimbabwe tourism. Political issues deterred travelers from visiting Zimbabwe through the 1990s and early 2000s, but now, the tides are turning. The lodge is set atop a rocky hill at the edge of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. After a significant design transformation, it now features striking interiors and two-bedroom suites inspired by the local Shangaan culture and surrounding landscape. Guests can also look forward to a cliff-top fire pit and suspended bar with 270-degree views of the reserve. Another highlight of a stay at this lodge is the sunset dinner in the bush among the ancient baobab trees. The villa plus the six suites each look out over the Malilangwe dam.
Chobe Forest Reserve, Botswana
To get away from the crowds in Chobe, stay at Ngoma Safari Lodge. It’s located on the far western edge of the park. The eight thatched roof cottages are completely spacious but cozy and feature decks overlooking the Chobe River. In 2011, the African Wildlife Foundation helped support this community owned and operated lodge in partnership with the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT) and African Albida Tourism. In exchange for their support, the community agreed to set aside land for conservation. The lodge provides the community with additional revenue through conservation fees plus employment opportunities. It has also created a larger corridor for wildlife to have room to roam freely throughout the region on their ancient migration routes.
Ombika, Namibia
If it’s rhinoceros you want to photograph, you can’t miss Ongava Game Reserve just south of the border of Etosha National Park. This private breeding facility has black and white rhino and plays a critical part in conserving this species. When staying at Ongava, there are several options for accommodation including the three luxury suites at Little Ongava, the air-conditioned chalets of Ongava Lodge and the traditional safari tents at Ongava Tented Camp. Best of all, because Little Ongava is so small, guests share a private guide and 4WD vehicle. This allows you maximum flexibility for exploring both Etosha and Ongava’s reserve.
Kleintuin Rd, Simon's Town, Cape Town, 7995, South Africa
There’s a different way to see the African wildlife in their natural habitat than a safari and it’s called Boulder Beach. We ventured to the Eastern side of the Peninsula (Indian Ocean) to meet and spend time with the locals, Cape Town‘s penguin colony. Following the wooden boardwalks, you gain access to Foxy Beach, a sheltered cove with soft white sand, crystal clear water, massive granite boulders, and birds in butler-style tailcoats. Its nothing short of an Instagram-worthy photo op but I recommend climbing atop a boulder and spending time to take it all in. It’s impossible to capture how majestic this destination truly is.
andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, 3936, South Africa
The landscape surrounding Phinda Private Game Reserve is totally different from what you’ll experience in Kruger, Madikwe, or the Kalahari. Here, moisture from the Indian Ocean breathes life into gently rolling hills; flat, grassy wetlands attract hippos, antelope, and far too many bird species to list; and dense forests house the Big Five and even cheetahs. The 25 rooms at &Beyond’s Phinda Rock Lodge sit atop a granite outcropping, overlooking these lush surroundings. No matter which one you’re in, you’ll feel as if you’re hovering high above the treetops and the valley below.

A stay at Phinda Rock Lodge is all-inclusive, complete with twice-daily safari drives, a Zulu village tour, bush walks, and other conservation experiences. Since the lodge is so close to the Indian Ocean, guests also have the unique opportunity to explore South Africa’s marine life. In the summer, you can join a nighttime excursion to watch leatherback and loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the beach, or go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore the coral reefs near Sodwana Bay. While Phinda is approximately a two-hour drive from Richards Bay Airport, Airlink flies direct from Nelspruit to the lodge’s private airstrip, making it easy to connect a safari in the Greater Kruger National Park with a visit to Phinda.
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