They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. The world has changed immeasurably in 40 years… the way people think, act, travel. But when it comes to our goals, our purpose, our ultimate ambition, we are still driven by the same things – investing in precious wildlife, land protection, and community initiatives, for the better of the planet and its people.
But the Africa we began exploring in 1983, is not the Africa of today. In many ways, the change has been good; our model of ecotourism has helped inspire an entire industry. We set the bar high in the conservation and hospitality spaces. So far, we’ve operated exclusively in Africa, but that’s changing too, as we plan to extend our custodial mission across the planet.
And while we’re eager to step into this exciting new era of Wilderness, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary we also want to take time to reflect on all the progress we’ve made. We’ll never forget our humble beginnings in the Okavango Delta; and as we move boldly forward into the future, we look back fondly on our past, and all that’s transpired in the last four decades.
Our team of expert safari guides, at the heart of the Wilderness experience, continues to grow
Wilderness was the brainchild of two forward-thinking guides back in 1983; two intrepid individuals fiercely passionate about the environment, called to share their knowledge of the wonderful ways of the wild. Expert guiding has always been central to the Wilderness experience; now, more than 250 qualified guides proudly wear the Wilderness badge. Highly trained and knowledgeable, our industry-leading guides continue to inspire, immerse, and narrate nature’s most thrilling moments.
From tiny tents to world-class safari lodges in Africa’s wild places
It all started in the Okavango Delta, a place that remains close to Wilderness’ heart. After humble beginnings running overland adventures to remote areas of the Delta and camping in the wild, the first fixed tented camps were established in 1985. In 1990, Wilderness acquired Mombo, the mother of all camps that still proudly holds the flagship title. Situated in a particularly beautiful area on the northern tip of Chief’s Island, the area had been heavily hunted. As photographic safaris began to replace hunting, it became renowned as a wildlife haven. Thirty-three years later, Mombo has maintained its reputation as the Place of Plenty.
Over time our reputation and operating experience allowed us to expand into key areas in seven countries, resulting in the unrivalled suite of camps and concessions we offer today. From Botswana, Wilderness expanded into Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, and most recently Tanzania. Now, 60 award-winning camps across Southern and East Africa continue to prove that low-impact, high-value tourism is the future of Africa’s wild places.
Making mokoro rides sustainable
There’s nothing more symbolic of an Okavango Delta safari than a peaceful ride in a mokoro. It’s a quintessential Botswana experience, one that has been practised for hundreds of years by local communities, and enjoyed by travellers for decades. For centuries, local communities in and around the Okavango Delta have used the wood of the sausage tree (Kigelia africana) to craft these traditional dugout canoes. Early Wilderness guests will remember being poled through the channels in these solid mekoro, but with the tremendous increase in tourism to the region, it became apparent that this ancient craft would not be sustainable forever.
So, we made a change. A traditional carved mokoro needs to be replaced every four to five years, while the alternative fiberglass mokoro in use today has a lifespan of approximately 10 years. Added to that, fibreglass mekoro are lighter, more stable, and have no impact on the Delta’s magnificent tree population.
From a single Cessna to Wilderness Air’s impressive fleet
Flying in a small bush plane over sprawling, wild land, while wildlife gathers and gallops below is one of the greatest safari thrills. In the early 90s Wilderness Air (known as Sefofane back then) boasted a fleet of one: a single Cessna 206 which serviced two camps in the Delta.
Thirty years later, Wilderness Air has expanded into Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and gained a stellar reputation for dependable operations and excellent guest service. Under the expertise of a team of passionate and professional pilots, Wilderness Air’s fleet of over 25 strong fleet of light aircraft transports guests, staff and supplies, in safety, comfort and style.
Once upon a time...
African skimmers, tailor-made safaris and a reimagined Wilderness
What set Wilderness apart in the early 80s, was the pursuit of the specialist market. Avid bird watchers responded to specially tailored safaris, where Pel’s fishing owls, wattled cranes and most symbolically, African skimmers were sought-after sightings. It was out of this focus that the original logo was born. Requiring pristine conditions to thrive, African skimmers represented all that Wilderness prized above all else; untouched, untamed, wild land.
Forty years later, that hasn’t changed. In the meantime, we’d gained millions of hectares under our protection, partnered with countless conservation groups and made significant strides in ecotourism. We are more focused on our goal than ever. So focused, we felt we needed to do more, expand more, direct our attention to all of Earth's ultimate, untamed places.
Sporting a brand new logo and a shortened name, a reimagined Wilderness emerged in 2022.
We stripped it down to what’s at the core of our purpose: increasing the world’s wilderness. Although safaris will always be an important part of what we do, our name now reflects our diversity and our ambition.
Inspired by the unfenced, the untamed, the unpredictable, our logo inspires exploration of these wild habitats we conserve, it dares us to part the grass and see what lies within these iconic wild places. It’s an inspiration for our entire collective – current and future, an invitation to explore the raw and real wilderness, together.
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.