Five years in, I moved to Kwazulu-Natal as a research fellow and completed my Ph.D on the ecology of two more antelope species. By this time there was no going back – Africa was all I imagined and much, much more – it was home!
Since this early introduction, I have been very fortunate to have worked in several East and Southern African countries, and travelled to many more. The roles I have had in wildlife research and management have been as varied as the locations where I was recruited, including 5 years in Ethiopia as WWF’s country representative at the height and end of a prolonged civil war. My time there showed me that for many parts of Africa, conservation efforts are more likely to succeed if wildlife can be shown to have an intrinsic commercial value (as opposed to competing with other potential revenue streams) and that in order to be successful, conservation programmes should provide tangible and sustainable benefits to the communities surrounding the protected areas.
These beliefs led me to become intimately involved in the most successful form of non-consumptive wildlife utilisation, namely wildlife-related tourism or eco-tourism at a time when it was less fashionable to be “green” and consequently was not without challenges. I have developed and managed several privately-owned game reserves where real consideration has been given to sustainable visitor use and where expectations have been exceeded without compromising on conservation goals. With the focus clearly being on wildlife as the product, my activities inevitably brought me in to the hospitality realm and now my management capabilities were not just confined to wildlife but, through newly acquired skills, to people too. I progressed into general management and have since managed a variety of upmarket properties in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa ranging in size from large internationally-owned lodges to small family-run tented camps in iconic areas such as the Masai Mara and the Serengeti as well as exclusive private reserves. My strong connection with the safari hospitality industry is cemented by the pleasure I get from interacting with guests and teams alike who share the same genuine passions and interests I have always had.
Joining SafariStaff International recently was another natural progression – using my passion and experience in helping owners and employers to hire candidates who will fit perfectly in to their new roles while achieving their dreams, just as I realized mine!