Safari Soiree – March 11th 2020
This year’s Safari Soiree was a phenomenal success. We owe it to not only our 6 featured speakers, but to our past and prospective clients in attendance.
The Africa Adventure Company’s annual Safari Soiree is an evening marked equally by learning and celebration. It’s a celebration of what African eco-tourism has accomplished in thwarting the demise of Africa’s stunning wilderness and wildlife. It is also a celebration of the key contributors to this effort though our featured speakers. Over the years, these speakers have included key conservationists, researchers, guides, and other important figures in the African safari industry.
As mentioned before, our annual Safari Soiree is also an evening of learning. Attendees are presented a bevy of opportunties to learn about the African safari experience. Whether its from a speaker explaining eco-tourism’s essential role in funding and coordinating anti-poaching and community sustainability initiatives, discussing trip ideas with one of AAC’s safari consultants, or chatting with other attendees who have been on safari with AAC before, there’s no shortage of information and inspiration at an AAC Safari Soiree!
Below are a selection of photos and a recap of this year’s Safari Soiree
2020 Safari Soiree: Before the Speeches
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts proved to be an excellent venue for our nearly 300 attendees.
Guests were welcomed by several smiling AAC employees and some appropriately African decor to remind them of the night’s theme! From there, attendees had the chance to mingle with AAC employees, our featured speakers and guests, or other attendees. Many of the attendees had been on safari with AAC before!
2020 Safari Soiree: Speeches
Gradually, the nearly 300-person crowd transitioned from the courtyard to the ballroom to listen to the night’s 6 featured speakers. The following people were this year’s safari soiree speakers:
Luke Bailes – Singita Group
Nick Murray – Bushlife Safaris & Bushlife Conservancy
Wendy Panaino – Researcher at Tswalu Pangolin Project
Rod Cassidy – Owner of Sangha Lodge & Director of the Sangha Pangolin Project
Paul Telfer – CEO of Odzala Discovery Camps
Map Ives – Director of Rhino Conservation Botswana
At this time, AAC President Mark Nolting kicked off the evening by thanking all the attendees. “By going on safari, you’re majorly contributing to the continued preservation of Africa’s wilderness and wildlife,” said Mark.
Kyle Witten, AAC’s Sales Manager, proceeded to introduce the night’s speakers one by one.
Luke Bailes – Singita
The evening’s first speech began with a disquieting quote from the CEO of African Parks:
“In a very short while there will only be 100 well protected areas left in Africa that are greater than 240,000 acres. The rest will have disappeared.”
Despite the best intentions of conservationists and members of the eco-tourism industry, they’re losing the war to preserve Africa’s wilderness and wildlife.
However, that’s not to say that there have been no victories at all. Luke Bailes pointed out that Singita has made noticeable progress in wildlife preservation and improving relationships with local communities in the areas it operates. The latter is particularly attributed to expanding their access to health care and education.
In addition, he highlighted Singita’s newest lodge, Singita Kwitonda, in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. For those who want to experience the majesty of gorilla trekking in the lap of luxury, this is a superb option!
Luke ended his speech with announcing Singita’s goal: to double their footprint across Africa within the next 7 years. Clearly, he wants to avert African Park’s grim prophecy; with Singita’s past success, we believe Singita will be vital in ensuring this prediction does not become true.
Nick Murray – Bushlife Safaris & Bushlife Conservancy
Next, the following speaker is familiar to many past AAC clients: Nick Murray of Bushlife Safaris & Bushlife Conservancy.
Due to Zimbabwe’s inadequate logistical and financial resources, the country is unable to properly manage many of its wildlife areas. Nick Murray is a leader among the several private conservation initiatives to help.
In Mana Pools National Park, Nick divides his time between guiding guests on walks, game drives and canoeing, while also directing anti-poaching efforts in the park and its vicinity.
One such example of his anti-poaching initiatives is the collaring of 3 bull elephants and 2 cows in the summer of 2019; read about it here to learn more.
Nick has many more collarings planned for the future, as the collarings provide vital information for both research and conservation. He also showed that his, and other efforts in Mana Pools has made a transformational effect in preserving its elephant population.
Furthermore, his efforts also extend to Wild Dogs. One of Nick’s proudest moments was accompanying Sir David Attenborough as part of the Dynasties TV Series episode on Mana Pools’ wild dog pack dynamics.
Wendy Panaino – Tswalu Pangolin Project
Most people don’t know too much about the various species of pangolin that inhabit Africa. What a treat it was then to have Wendy, an expert on pangolins, come and speak at our soiree about these fascinating animals.
First: despite the scales, pangolins are not reptiles, but are in fact mammals.
Second: these scales, combined with pangolins rolling up into a ball when in a dangerous situation (as shown in the photo above) makes virtually impervious to all predators – except one: humans. If you have heard of pangolins, there’s a good chance you know that they are the world’s most trafficked mammal, then. When the pangolin rolls into a ball, a poacher wills imply pick it up with a net and go on their way.
What was interesting about Wendy’s speech was she went beyond these points and into the fascinating behavior of pangolins themselves. Pangolins’ diets primarily consist of termites – thus, she made the thought-provoking point that if pangolins were to disappear overnight, there would soon be an overabundance of termites, which would push nature off-balance.
She also showed the audience some never before seen thermal imaging footage of a pangolin at night – super cool!
Additionally, Wendy commented on Tswalu Kalahari Reserve where she conducts her research on pangolins. This arid reserve in the north of South Africa is not only arguably the best place to see wild pangolins in Africa, it is also an incredible wildlife destination in many other aspects. AAC safari consultant visited Tswalu last September: read it about here to learn about her incredible wildlife sightings!
Rod Cassidy – Sangha Lodge & Sangha Pangolin Project
Over the years, the African Safari industry has expanded its borders from beyond the traditional hot spots of East and Southern Africa into Central Africa. Rod Cassidy’s Sangha Lodge is a bold pioneer in the Congo Basin.
Sangha Lodge remote location means it has exclusive access to some of the world’s last remaining “pristine” rainforest. The animals that inhabit are also extremely unique and extremely difficult to find outside of this region. Take forest elephants, bongos & sitatungas (two different kinds of antelope), and of course, the main draw: lowland gorillas.
Different from the mountain gorillas that inhabit the highlands of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the lowland gorillas of the Congo Basin have different habitats, diets and appearances.
What is also unique about the Congo Basin is that the local population has lived conflict-free with the forest and its wildlife – only until recently. One of the activities available at Sangha Lodge is to visit a Ba’aka tribal village and accompany them while they hunt or gather (a Ba’Aka can be seen in the photo above). With the increased presence of commercial logging, the Ba’Aka’s lives are about to dramatically change.
Undoubtedly, it’s the hope of people like Rod Cassidy and Paul Telfer, the evening’s next speaker, to help mitigate future human-wildlife conflict through expanding educational, occupational, and health care opportunities in their little parts of the Congo Basin region.
To learn more about Dzanga-Sangha, read about AAC Safari Consultant Szilvia Hegyi’s trip there back in November.
Paul Telfer – Odzala Discovery Camps
Odzala Discovery Camps’ Paul Telfer operates three safari camps in and around Odzala National Park.
An American by birth, Paul’s passion for primates was initially the main motivator in his interest in Central Africa and the Congo Basin. But once seeing that this region’s wildlife was more than simply lowland gorillas and chimpanzees, he created the Congo Conservation Company. Here, guests could experience the unique wonders of wading through swamps for lowland gorillas and waiting at bais approaching forest elephants, antelopes, birds and more.
In fact, he compared the experience of visiting the Congo Basin to the sensation the African explorers of old must have felt.
Additionally, Odzala Discovery Camps role expanded to community sustainability, providing employment and both educational and health care infrastructure in a region with an acute shortage of all three.
Paul is a major reason why AAC so passionately promotes the Congo Basin, and up-and-coming safari destination, to our past and prospective clients.
To learn more about Odzala, read about AAC Safari Consultant Szilvia Hegyi’s trip there back in November.
Map Ives – Rhino Conservation Botswana
The decades Map Ives has spent as a safari guide and conservation in Botswana culminated in his founding of Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB).
As the RCB’s director, Map is responsible for directing Botswana’s rhino relocation, anti-poaching and research policies. For many years, Map translocated rhinos from heavily poached wildlife areas throughout Africa into the peaceful sanctuary of the Okavango Delta where they could be effectively monitored and protected.
But in recent months, Map has had to dramatically change course in his policy. Botswana’s north is no longer a sanctuary for rhinos: rhino poaching has alarmingly sky-rocketed in recent months.
Map was contrite in admitting that he was caught off guard by this onslaught of organized poachers. But no longer keen to play on the defensive, he decided to go on a tour across the United States in a desperate plea for financial resources to combat this harrowing rise in rhino poaching.
It was a great privilege for the Africa Adventure Company to host Map’s first stop on his countrywide fundraising and awareness tour.
2020 Safari Soiree: In conclusion…
We’d like to once again thank our featured speakers and all other attendees for coming to this year’s soiree.
But in particular, AAC would like to thank two couples for their significant donations to Rhino Conservation Botswana and Bushlife Conservancy. These two organizations have accomplished a lot over the years. Nevertheless, they’re still in dire need of assistance to help preserve their parts of Africa’s wilderness and wildlife.
If you would like to donate to either of these organizations, click one (or both) of the links below:
We look forward to next year’s safari soiree with great optimism! After all, it will be an anniversary celebration: 35 years since the founding of the Africa Adventure Company.