Back in June, we launched our 10FOR50 Campaign celebrating our 10th and Botswana’s 50th anniversaries. In celebration of this, one of our major goals was to donate a total of 500 Hours to Community Service.
When Lorraine initially announced this during a staff meeting there was a silent pause (cue cricket sounds…) as our staff body absorbed the enormity of the challenge. Now, anyone who has ever visited the SD offices knows that there is no such thing as silence here…
Fortunately, volunteering to assist the community is part of the culture at SD and the silence was actually attributable to a collective intake of breath before declaring Challenge Accepted – Game On!
The months have rolled by and looking back, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved: we’ve organised winter clothing drives, renovated the reception for a Woman’s Shelter, spent hours visiting and assisting the destitute elderly, helped out at charity events, hiked across the Makgadikgadi Pans for Charity and even participated in a Charity fashion Show. Phew!
And then came the final two big events of the year…
First up was organising a fun day at Bana Ba Letsatsi (BBL) – a day centre caring for orphaned and vulnerable kids. One thing you can say with certainly about SD staff is that we love kids. We love them more than delicious warm sticky magwinya’s (a savoury/sweet, deep fried donut-ish traditional food, which-we-know-we-shouldn’t-eat-but-Eish-they-are-delicious) we even love them more than we love planning that super awesome Delta Trip. We simply love kids.
It therefore goes without saying that a fun day for BBL would be well supported by our team.
Through the generosity of our agents, we support BBL under the TFI levy; we sponsor their full time Physco-Social Counsellor, contribute to food and running expenses and also provide free scheduled transport through the SD/TFI Community Bus. All of these are crucial support to BBL but they’re not “fun” for kids.
We decided on a Fun Day, purely because all kids need to have joy. They need to have a day where they can simply be kids and have fun!
We started off with face painting accompanied by a snack of magwinya’s (have we mentioned these before?) followed by a round of games and fun: egg and spoon races, sack races, cup cake decorating, jumping castle and the surprise all-time favourite – tug of war! The kids then attended a graduation ceremony while the SD “Safari Chefs” cracked on with a massive braai (barbeque). Everyone enjoyed a superb lunch and we ended the day by handing out party bags to all. What a super day
Something else you probably already know about SD is that we don’t do things in half measures. Yep, half measures are for sissies, we like to go all out! So as if planning and hosting a fun day for a 100 odd kids and guests was not enough, two weeks later we were back in action – this time assisting with an Annual Christmas Lunch for 400 Elderly members of our community.
AGLOW International Maun is another beneficiary from the TFI Bed Night Levy. They are an organisation committed to caring for the destitute elderly in Maun. We sponsor monthly food parcels as well as the volunteers who provide daily visits. Transport is also provided by the TFI/SD Community Bus.
We are long term sponsors of their Annual Christmas lunch for the elderly and this year a contingent of 10 SD volunteers descended into what can only be described as a food cooking marathon. Forget Masterchef, if you want to see a bunch of amateur chefs dropped in the deep end in a foreign kitchen then this is the event to watch! If chopping 2 sacks of cabbages for 4 hours sounds like fun, feel free to join us next year…
All jokes aside, Team SD did a super job, worked well together from prep to cooking and served a delicious feast to a very enthusiastic audience – not a scrap of food was left over.
And that’s how we achieved our community hours. Often chaotic, usually sweaty, sometimes smelling of cabbage but always with a sense of achievement and proud to be able to give back to our awesome community.
Thanks to the incredible support and commitment of our staff in under 6 months we have not only achieved our goal of 500 community hours, but we have exceeded it to achieve 563 community hours!
What’s our target for next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
I’m sure we are planning on going large…
…Do I hear crickets?
Why are safaris so expensive in Botswana?
Since my beginning with Safari Destinations this question haunted me on many occasions. Especially people who visited East Africa or travelled to more mainstream safari destinations like Namibia or South Africa before, are surprised when finding out how much more a safari to Botswana costs.
In order to get our head around the “price tags”, we first need to understand the philosophy behind Botswana as a tourism destination: The strategy follows a high cost – low impact approach.
Low tourist density. The restrictions on allowed beds per concession area are quite strict compared to other countries. This means that a camp can only host a certain number of guests and only operates on a small-scale vehicle operation in order to minimize the human impact on nature. This automatically leads to a lower number of tourists in Botswana and makes the experience of the guests much more exclusive.
But please note: there is a difference between national parks and private concession in terms of accessibility and tourist frequencies!
Environmentalism & high costs: In order to run a camp in Botswana, the camp operator has to pay the government quite high conservation fees and leases for the areas. Together with the governmental restrictions, it encourages sustainable constructions in wildlife areas. The idea is that every camp is built in a sustainable way so that it can be removed completely after the lease expires, without leaving any traces in the landscape. And I think every person who has swapped from standard electricity to solar power knows how cost intensive the installation of such renewable energy sources is.
Both points have a convenient effect on the tourist experience on safari:
- On game activity, tourists in Botswana (normally!) face fewer other tourists and have an exclusive wildlife sighting – meaning they only share it between fewer vehicles whereas in other destinations vehicles already queue to a certain extent in case of an exciting predator sighting.
- Landscape is mainly impacted by natural forces and not by humans, which often goes along with strong photo opportunities. Moreover, most camps and mobile operators are perfectly equipped with open vehicles to make a photographic safari a success (no window-/vehicle frames, better light effects). This also creates a distinction between Botswana and other destinations, where only closed vehicles are allowed. Besides the clear commitment to photographic safaris by the companies, nature also does its part by providing unique undisturbed sceneries for its visitors and local people.
You don’t believe me? Check out the following hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to get an idea of the beauty of Botswana:
#lostinbots & #whyilivehere & #thisischobe
There you have a proof of the diversity of landscapes Botswana has to offer: massive rivers (e.g. Chobe), dry savannahs (e.g. Savute), fascinating river systems (e.g. Okavango Delta), impressive salt pans (e.g. Makgadikgadi) and the vastness of the Kalahari desert.
- The diversity in landscape is not only an opportunity for landscape photography. It also provides different habitats and is therefore home to a wide range of animal species. Botswana boasts itself with “quality game”, not “quantity game”. Obviously we also count large herds of elephants and buffalos as well as comparably high numbers of predators (lions, leopards & cheetahs) in Botswana. But what other destinations can’t compete with is the high number of rare species like: wild dogs, brown hyenas, leopards, sable and roan antelopes to name a few. Normally these animals are hardly ever seen on conventional safaris. Botswana however provides the habitats for them and therefore increases the chances of witnessing these rare species on safari.
All those points lead to an exclusive safari experience, which is reflected in a higher price tag. But behind the tourist experience is a mostly unknown enormous logistic expenditure. And these need to be taken into consideration before labelling Botswana as “expensive”.
Food delivery and waste management: Botswana is a landlocked country, most supplies are imported from South Africa, by the time the food arrives in Maun it has travelled more than 1000 km already. From Maun the journey continues. Most camps are located in remote areas. In order to provide a culinary experience for guests during their stay, every single food item and can or bottle of beverage needs to be brought into camp. Due to most of them being inaccessible by road this is done by aircraft, which is not only a tremendously logistic operation but also results in high operational costs for the camps. And not only the fresh food is getting delivered, also the reverse transportation of waste out of wildlife areas takes place by aircraft.
High staff guest ratio: The staff members of the camps need to be flown in and out of camp (duty, leave, doctors visits,. ..) as well, and in order to deliver such a remarkable customer service the camps operate on high staff numbers. Normally 3 or more staff members are in camp for one guest.
High maintenance costs: The location in the unspoilt wilderness also results in high maintenance costs for a camp. Water pipes break regularly because of animals impact, wood constructions or canvas need to be replaced several times – not only for the visual effect but also to be functional e.g. in keeping the heat out of a guests unit. The same applies to safari vehicles. They need to undergo frequent maintenance because of the “unhealthy” combination of water, heat and sand which quickly leads to signs of wear and tear. Additionally, spare parts need to find their way into camp which again involves logistical costs.
This shows that there are many visible and invisible components for the price tag.
Botswana – one of Africa’s best kept secrets!
Here at Safari Destination, the sheer number of women in the workplace means that women’s issues receive attention. Our two Managing Directors, Carina and Lorraine, are fantastic role models of what women working together can achieve. And they are both working mothers, having to cope with the reality of work-life balance. In response to this reality, the company provides a kiddies’ house on the company premises. Mums are responsible for hiring their own caregivers who then look after the children in a safe and secure environment. These caregivers are very special women. In the month of May, Safari Destinations celebrated the contribution of these ” women behind our women”. Each working mother shared a few words. These words were printed in our bi-monthly newsletter and each caregiver was also given a copy of the photos with the words below. It was a special moment.
Roxanne, Boineelo and Kyle: I am quite an over protective mom, so I truly appreciate that there is someone watching Kyle throughout the day. I know that Boi really cares about him and always takes good care of him. She can be both gentle and stern with Kyle. He has someone caring and gentle when he feels sad or scared. We make a good team as we raise Kyle together. I think of Boi as Kyle’s office mummy.
Karen, Komotso, Nikita and Courtney: I am so lucky that Komotso cares for my children and so I trust her with them. Komotso to me is a life saver. Without her, I would not be able to achieve what I do at work. I’m grateful that I am in a position to provide Komotso with a job, which helps her support her family. Having 6 children of her own, Komotso treats both Courtney and Kita as her own. She loves my little girls and looks after them well.
Kim, Lillian and Tate: I would not be able to cope without Lillian. Tate absolutely adores her and when we go on holiday, he misses her so much he sometimes cries for her!! Lillian has been with Tate since he was 2 weeks old. She is also teaching Tate to speak Setswana, as he is a Motswana.
Lorraine, Bea, Megan and Taylor: Bea is an extension of my family and I could not manage without her support. I trust Bea with the lives of my children – her honesty, loyalty and patience is invaluable. I would not be where I am today without her support. I often envy the time that she spends with the kids but I am also grateful that they have a second mum in their life to look out for them and meet their needs.
Ramona, Otshephe and Isabella: I am really glad I found Otshephe. I can go to work and have little Bella close to me. It is a great relief to know that my daughter is in good hands while I am at the office. I am looking forward to a long working relationship.
Thelma and Thuto, and her twins, Kgotla and Kgosi: Thuto has become so close to my kids they ask for her when we are home. Kgotla goes to the loo and calls out “Mommy where is aunty? I have pooped.” J I am happy to have found her.
Verena, Evelyn and Leila: Evelyn has only been with us and looking after Leila for 4 months, but it’s amazing how quickly she has become pretty much a part of the family. She is so much more than Leila’s Nanny. She is just my life supporter in every way!! It is great to have her helping me!
Ashley, Helen and Bella: Helen is a great help so that now I can go to work and relax with peace of mind that she is taking good care of my daughter. Bella is always happy to see her and I know that she is in safe hands.