At one time, indigenous rural communities received very little direct benefit from Zimbabwe’s booming tourism industry. For the rural villager living next to a national park, wildlife was by no means an attraction; elephants ate their crops and lions killed their livestock. The animals were problematic and not something to encourage let alone protect. Tourists were strange looking people that travelled past in buses and planes who sometimes waved but spent their money elsewhere.
Imvelo Safari Lodges goal and long term vision is that by building some of our safari lodges and camps within the communal lands and peripheral areas around our parks and bringing people closer to nature, a symbiotic relationship between conservation, responsible tourism and local communities can grow. This in turn promotes conservation of the local wildlife and natural resources, and encourages sustainability for these village communities while at the same time adding significantly to the experience for the responsible safari enthusiast.
Our journey started with proposals to Rural District Councils through Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE program and developed into negotiations with excited local communities, ultimately paving the way for Gorges Lodge to open in 1996, which at the time was the largest safari tourism development ever undertaken on communal land.
Since then, Bomani Tented Lodge, Camelthorn Lodge, Zambezi Sands and Jozibanini have opened, Gorges has been extended and the luxury tented Little Gorges is now open, and we acquired the beautiful Nehimba Lodge in the North West of Hwange National Park. Our program has blossomed into a showpiece and model for actual successful community-based ecotourism. With funds and support reaching the communities directly, the results are tangible and the quality of life for tens of thousands of villagers in the huge area in which we operate has dramatically improved. Their response has exceeded our expectations. Visiting guests are welcomed with open arms in local villages and at our lodges, locally employed staff have real smiles and provide an extra measure of hospitality.