Green Safaris Indaba: A Milestone Gathering at Ila Safari Lodge

Natasha Parker | February 18, 2024

In the heart of the Kafue National Park, a momentous event unfolded recently, marking a new chapter for Green Safaris, Ila Safari Lodge, and perhaps the world of sustainable travel entirely.

The Green Safaris Indaba was not just a meeting of great minds (though we don’t feel it is wrong to say that our Green Team can be pretty brilliant); it was also a celebration of the passion and dedication of our teams, who have prioritised sustainable, ethical travel during a time when the challenges have been piling up. And what is more, it was a chance to share and action some fantastic ideas, and to be genuinely forward-thinking as Green Safaris plots the future of sustainable safaris.

A Historic Gathering Amidst Rebuilding

For the first time ever, the entire management team of Green Safaris, encompassing members from Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and even the Netherlands, congregated in one location. This historic gathering, long delayed by the Covid pandemic and recovery, signified a momentous occasion for our team. Hosting the event at Ila Safari Lodge added a powerful symbolic significance: Ila was the first Green Safaris-built lodge and recently endured the tragic loss of its Boma to fire.

Despite the lodge’s recent challenges, the Indaba was held within the new (still unfinished) Boma as a testament to resilience and renewal, mirroring the spirit of the Indaba itself. It was especially moving to have so many of the original Ila Safari Lodge team there – from Francis (the first ever Green Safaris employee!) to Linda (who pioneered the original Ila Safari Lodge with her husband Jacques and our Founder Vincent) and Leah, who fondly recalls arriving at the first Ila site in 2016 in this video.

Empowering Women in Leadership

One element of this gathering, of which we are particularly proud, is the representation of women in leadership roles. Of the 37 team members present, 21 were women. Moreover, over 60% of our management team were born or raised in Zambia or Malawi (where our lodges are found). This not only highlights the inclusive ethos of Green Safaris but also underscores our commitment to empowering women in the tourism industry and training talent from within our communities to take on management positions. Timothy and Chiyeso are two inspiring examples – they joined Green Safaris as friends and bartenders, and now they are managing two of our lodges!

Fostering Team Spirit and Innovation

The agenda of the Indaba was as diverse as it was engaging. Core values of Green Safaris were revisited, with each Lodge Manager presenting recent changes and unique selling points of their respective lodges. Frank and Kosam had the room in hysterics with their dramatic yet deadpan presentation about Kaya Mawa, but they also shared some truly brilliant facts – did you know, for example, that Lake Malawi is known as the ‘Calendar Lake’ because it measures 365 by 52 miles? None of us did!

The focus was not just on operations and updates, but also on our pillars of sustainability, conservation, and community empowerment, and concrete deliverables were outlined to ensure that Green Safaris, as a company and team, can fulfil our mission and remain true to our values as we grow.

However, it was far from all business. Team bonding exercises – masterminded by our Guest Experiences Manager, JC – may have been creatively linked to hospitality skills, but they also became incredibly competitive. From designing a perfect gift for our guests to rating and guessing wines, the Green Safaris Team took each contest very seriously, even questioning the judges several times.

These activities not only enhanced team spirit but also honed the skills essential for delivering exceptional guest experiences.

Experiencing the Silent Safari

A highlight of the event was the Silent Safari experiences. Whilst most of the Green Team work in Green Safaris lodges where we offer Silent Safari game drives (such as the Shawa, Chisa, and Ila teams), our recent additions from Sausage Tree Camp and Potato Bush Camp, for example, had never experienced an electric game drive or river cruise. They were thrilled to embrace the magic of a truly immersive wildlife experience, and stopping for sundowners by a lazy hippo at the end didn’t hurt either. This experience underscored Green Safaris’ commitment to eco-friendly tourism practices. We suspect they will be even more excited by our e-Vehicles coming to the Lower Zambezi this year, now that they know what the fuss is all about.

Learning from African Parks

As a rare and magnificent privilege for our team, African Parks agreed to host us at their main headquarters in the Kafue. They provided incredible insights into the scope of their conservation efforts and the importance of environmental stewardship, and our team left with a renewed sense of purpose. We look forward to the many new ways in which our lodges will be enabling and supporting our neighbouring conservation projects.

Celebrating Achievements and Looking Ahead

The Indaba culminated in a festive night featuring the first-ever Green Safaris Awards, where we had the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of our team members, and to recognise hard-earned achievements. This joyous occasion not only marked the end of the gathering but also symbolized the unity and shared vision of the Green Safaris family, as everybody cheered each other on, proud of their sister lodges and the greater Green Team.

As the team members returned to their respective lodges, they carried with them renewed energy, innovative ideas, and a deeper sense of connection. The Green Safaris Indaba at Ila Safari Lodge was more than just a meeting; it was a catalyst and a promise for a more sustainable, inclusive, and innovative future for eco-tourism.

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