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Changes on the ground

The African safari experience has diversified at a great pace in recent decades. But what have been the most significant developments, and what does this tell us about what it could be like in the future? Justin Fox discusses
LOU COETZER / CNP SAFARIS

The modern safari has its roots in Kenya. When hunting was banned there in the 1970s, the focus fell onto Botswana, with safaris pioneered by Ker & Downey. In 1983, Wilderness Safaris was established and its entry into the market proved a game changer. The company’s initial product comprised a couple of beaten-up Land Rovers, but now it offers more than 50 lodges in eight African countries with access to 2.5 million hectares of wilderness. In the intervening 35 years, the industry has flourished, in particular, the luxury end of the market. Similarly, adventureoriented, educational and experiential tourism is on the rise and improved access has meant that remote areas, such as Gabon and Chad, have come on stream. For the most part, the safari offering in its many forms remains the goose that keeps laying the golden egg for rural Africa.

The number of lodges and camps has vastly increased and the range of services considerably expanded. From a mere handful of lodges in the ‘90s, Botswana’s Okavango Delta now has more than 60. Moreover, where national parks were once the drivers of innovation in the industry, private conservancies and concessions operating in and around the parks now lead the way.

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