Olivier has gained in-depth knowledge of the many regions where Wilderness operates. His passion for the company’s vision to conserve and restore Africa’s wilderness, and his experience in the European sales space will see him extending it throughout the Latin and Inbound markets. Olivier spent his formative years in Mauritius, where his fascination for the great outdoors developed during his free time spent exploring the island’s natural beauty, while his introduction to Africa and its amazing wildlife started with a family journey to Zimbabwe when he was a young child – and thus began a dream to explore Africa’s wildest places.
After completing high school, Olivier travelled to South Africa where he obtained his field guide qualification and spent some time guiding in and around the Kruger National Park, creating lasting memories. His passion for exploring and camping in the wild, especially in lesser-known destinations in southern Africa saw him spending all his available time in the bush before moving to Australia. There, Olivier studied two subjects very important to him, Ecotourism and Wildlife Conservation.
He completed his studies in the UK, focusing on Marketing and Management. After gaining work experience in the travel industry in Paris, Olivier returned to his favourite continent, Africa. In 2015, he began working for Wilderness as the Sales Manager for Europe where he worked hand-in-hand with his travel partners to develop their safari expertise and grow their presence in Africa.
Working for a company whose passion for conservation and the protection of the environment perfectly matched his own, Olivier has gained in-depth knowledge of the many regions where Wilderness Safaris operates. Appointed Wilderness Safaris Business Unit Manager for Latin America and Inbounds in November 2020, Olivier’s passion for the company’s vision, and his experience in the European sales space, will see him extending it throughout the Latin and Inbound markets.
“The Inbounds and Latin spaces are very dynamic, each with their own personalities. I look forward to flying the Wilderness flag in the local South African scene as well as across the Atlantic Ocean, and I cannot wait to bring my experience to these exciting markets, forging strong relationships with our trade partners and growing together with them”, says Olivier. Having visited many Wilderness camps, Olivier has experienced first-hand the difference that low-impact, high-return ecotourism makes in remote and pristine wilderness areas.
With his conservation background, Olivier believes that the best, if not the only way to achieve sustainable conservation of a wilderness area, is ensuring local communities directly benefit from the ecotourism operator’s presence.
“When implemented correctly, ecotourism is key to providing long-term financial and social benefits to an area while simultaneously ensuring its conservation. Wilderness Safaris’ dedication to extending its footprint to remote and lesser-known areas like Zambia’s Kafue National Park, is one of the reasons I am proud to work for this company”, concludes Olivier.
Q&A With Olivier ...
1. How and when did your journey with Wilderness begin?
I first heard about Wilderness in my guiding days back in 2008, and that’s when I started following this great ecotourism and conservation company on social media. But I officially joined in 2015, first as a reservations consultant in the EU & UK Division, before moving into the Sales space.
2. There’s definitely a French twang in the way you speak. So tell us where you grew up and how you come to find yourself in South Africa?
A twang is putting it mildly. Colleague Roberto Viviani prefers to say that I’m still learning to speak real English! Ha ha, I guess I have a fairly noticeable accent but I don’t mind it, it’s part of who I am. I am actually from Mauritius, this is where I grew up and where my roots still are. Mauritius is a beautiful place, but unfortunately didn’t have enough lions, elephants and incredible wildlife for me. As soon as I turned 18, I made my way to South Africa to follow my passion: Africa and its wildlife! After a Field Guide training course, I headed to the Kruger where I worked as a guide for a while. Those days were some of the best memories of my life, and when I left South Africa for my studies, I knew I would find my way back to this incredible continent!
3. You’ve clearly studied a bit and have a good background for our industry. Tell us about your degrees, experience etc.
I’ve been very lucky to have travelled a fair bit in my adult life. After my guiding stint, I went to study Ecotourism and Wildlife Conservation in Australia. I then headed to the UK where I studied for a Master’s in Marketing Management.
This is where I met my girlfriend, who I followed to France, and where I worked in a small tour operator specialising in bespoke, high-end safaris. I was selling Wilderness camps and journeys long before I actually started working at WS!
Fortunately, we were both passionate about Africa and we moved to SA together in 2015, hoping to make a life for ourselves here. Five years later, I am well settled in South Africa, have married my girlfriend, am working in my dream job, and have met many incredible people along the way. My adoptive country has been very good to me!
4. What do you enjoy most about working at Wilderness ?
This is a tough one as there are many aspects of this job that I enjoy, from working with amazing and passionate people to representing the company across the globe to knowing that by working at Wilderness Safaris, you are playing a role in protecting Africa’s wilderness areas and empowering local communities. I think that what I love the most is taking our agents and partners to our camps: spending time in the bush, seeing first-hand the difference we make on the ground, and sharing this mind-blowing experience with our partners is
5. Out of Wilderness four values – Fun, Leadership, Respect and Dedication – which of these resonates with you the most and why?
All four values are equally important to help define who we are as a company, but Leadership particularly resonates with me. WS has a long history of being trailblazers and setting new standards for our industry, from revolutionary sustainability practices to venturing to frontier wilderness areas like the Busanga Plains and Akagera. I am extremely proud to work for a company that is not afraid to continuously go where no ecotourism operator has gone before! With our ambition to double the amount of land under our protection, I have a feeling that there will be many more exciting new projects to come!
6. You’re shifting your audience from Europe to Latin America and Inbounds. Tell us why you’re excited to “move” continents, and about your new role?
Latin America is an exciting and growing market, with tons of potential. While it has its unique specificities, it also has some similarities with the European market, and I look forward to bringing what I learnt in my previous experience to this new challenge. Plus, I will get to practice mi español!
7. Favourite Wilderness area/camp?
I get asked this question a lot by our agents and it’s so hard to pick just one.
Camps: The Premier camps are simply stunning and are, I believe, the most breathtaking on the continent. But I also have a soft spot for the small and rustic camps in our collection, like Little Ruckomechi, Chitabe Lediba and Linyanti Tented Camp.
Area: the Okavango Delta has to take first spot for its sheer beauty, absolutely pristine wilderness and amazing game viewing, but Mana Pools is a close second and has a special place in my heart.
8. Any Wilderness adventure that stands out the most? Tell us more.
Too many to choose from! I will always remember my first trip to Botswana back in June 2015. I had dreamt of visiting the Okavango Delta ever since I was a little kid. When we flew over the Delta and landed on the Jao airstrip, it was like living inside an actual National Geographic documentary!
Since then, I’ve had the incredible luck of going on many more adventures: canoeing down the mighty Zambezi, swimming in the Delta, volunteering at the CITW Nedbank Tour de Tuli, tumbling down Big Daddy (the dune) into Dead Vlei, tracking lions on foot at Chikwenya, or flying on a heli above the Linyanti fault line with my colleague Thato, to name a few. A powerful and humbling experience was spending time with the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit in Hwange; these men dedicate their lives to protecting the park and its wildlife, they are real conservation heroes.
9. Favourite hobbies?
I love being outdoors: camping, hiking and playing sports. I love diving and windsurfing, and when I’m visiting my wife’s family in France, I spend all my time snowboarding.
10. One thing you cannot resist?
11. What are you reading right now, and do you have any good reading recommendations?
I’ve been reading a lot more since the lockdown begun. I like to read a variety of genres, but lately have been getting into classics like the Lord of the Flies, A Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men. A good reading recommendation would be To Kill a Mockingbird, a powerful story still very relevant today.
12. If you could swap personas with anyone in the world, just for a day, who would you choose to be, and why?
That’s an easy one: Sir David Attenborough. He is a hero and role model of mine; he has done so much for conservation! His ground-breaking wildlife documentaries are what have made me, and countless other kids across many generations, develop a passion for nature and wildlife. Still today, aged 94 years old, he is a leading figure in the fight against climate change and the preservation of wild places. What a legend! His latest documentary, “A Life on Our Planet”, just came out on Netflix, a must-watch if you have the chance.
13. Married, kids?
Kinda married, we were supposed to get married in April but the pandemic cancelled our plans. We just got married civilly in September while we wait for the “real wedding” with our friends and family once the pandemic is over. No kids yet!
14. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
There is more than one path to reach your goals. Even if things don’t go as expected or planned, don’t give up; start to plan alternative paths to get to where you want to go.
Let’s plan your next journey
When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.