The famous Hwange National Park in north-east Zimbabwe, is ‘home’ for Bekezela (“Beks”) Ndlovu, one of the most informed wildlife guides you will find in Africa. Born near Hwange and educated at an elite private school, Ndlovu went straight into guiding as soon as graduated. He guided and ran camps for Wilderness Safaris for years both in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and has won many guiding awards, including the full Professional Guides License in 1998.After his success as a guide then took the plunge and started African Bush Camps, a successful portfolio of 8 luxury tented camps in Zimbabwe and Botswana and a foundation that supports rural communities around conservation areas. He has won a Safari Award for ‘Best Personal contribution to Safari Tourism in Africa’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism Awards for his personal contribution to Tourism in Zimbabwe.Today he is not only actively involved in selecting and training the guides who work at his properties but still acts as a private guide himself. We got him to answer a few questions for us on his experiences as a guide.
When and why did you become a guide?
I became a guide in 1995 after being inspired by time spent visiting older friends in the business
Your most memorable experience as a guide?
The first time I saw lions hunting a buffalo
Safari moment you were most thrilled to have helped a client experience?
Tracking black rhino on foot in the rugged hills of Matusadona and coming upon a mother and her calf that was only a few weeks old.
Top 3 favorite properties
- Somalisa Camp (Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe)
- Kanga Camp (Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe)
- Khwai Tented Camp (Khwai Concession/Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana)
Top 3 favorite national parks
- Mana Pools (in Zimbabwe)
- Matobo (in Zimbabwe)
- Tarangire (in Tanzania)
Your favorite trip?
A 3 day walking safari in the Zambezi valley.
Somewhere you have always wanted to take guests but never have
Gorongosa (Ngorongoza) National Park in Mozambique
What’s on your bucket list?
Ngorongoza, Bengwelu Swamps and Diving in Pemba in Mozambique
Two things you always tells your guests to bring when traveling?
A good pair of binoculars and an SLR camera
Two things you think guests should know about Africa (or Kenya, South Africa etc)?
That the choice of a good specialist tour operator to book your safari is vital and equally key is who you have as a guide on safari.
Camera or binocular recommendations?
Leica 8x32BA and Nikon D5000 or similar with a 80-200 2.8ED lens
Do you have a specialty?
Walking and Tracking
“Beks Ndlovu”, as he is known in the Tourism Industry, started his career as a Professional Safari Guide immediately following his completion of his Advanced Level studies at Plumtree School in 1995.
Having worked as a Guide and Manager, as well as having gained exposure to Operations and Marketing, for over 6 years within two safari organisations, including the well-known Safari giant – Wilderness Safaris – Beks decided to break away from working for other people and in 2001, he embarked on a new venture offering Bespoke privately guided Safaris throughout Africa. This new venture afforded Beks the opportunity to experience a variety of camps throughout Africa, and it was through this that his desire to build a portfolio of camps focused on the guest experience came about.
Beks’ dream was to create a portfolio of camps, which not only epitomised an “Old Untouched Africa” but also allowed for guests to experience an essence of the privately guided safari. His dream materialised in 2006, when Beks was granted the Somalisa Concession in the famous Hwange National Park. Somalisa Camp, essentially the heart and soul of African Bush Camps, was opened later that year.
Since then and in less than 10 years, Beks has grown the African Bush Camps portfolio to incorporate 9 camps between Zimbabwe and Botswana, with plans to further develop the portfolio into Livingstone in Zambia this year and other areas in coming years. In addition, in collaboration with his wife Sophia, the African Bush Camps Foundation was formed in order to ensure that the communities in the areas where African Bush Camps operate are benefitting positively from the Tourism Dollar. Under the African Bush Camps Foundation, Sophia Ndlovu runs a number of community orientated projects which are focused on Sustainable Tourism Development through education, conservation, resource management and community empowerment.
In 2012, under the umbrella of the African Bush Camps Group, Beks began “Safari Logistics”, a new initiative to open up cost effective air access to Zimbabwe’s prime safari destinations. Having realised that costs of Safaris to the country were increased substantially by logistical challenges and were limited to Private Charters, Beks introduced the “Safari Logistics” Seat Rate Service. Through this service, African Bush Camps was able increase the marketing potential for Zimbabwe as a competitively priced destination in Africa.
Today African Bush Camps stands firm as a strongly established and well-recognised brand, both locally and internationally. African Bush Camps currently employ up to 125 employees between Botswana and Zimbabwe, and have a positive impact on over 4 different community areas.
Beks is currently the CEO of the African Bush Camps Group, but continues to privately guide groups on special request. His strengths are in, but not limited to marketing; project identification, development and management; entrepreneurial skills and negotiating. (Negotiating for leases and operating rights with Government and local communities has been a big contribution to the growth of African Bush Camps).
Recently labelled by Conde Naste Traveller Magazine as “one of the Zimbabwe’s most successful black operators”, Beks Ndlovu is proving to be one of the most enterprising new players emerging in the Tourism Industry today.
Beks Ndlovu‘s spectacular home in beautiful Matopos in Zimbabwe!
Professional Guide & CEO
African Bush Camps Group