Vincent Kouwenhouven is the Founder of Green Safaris as well as the Managing Director. Green Safaris is a company that are passionate about eco-tourism in Africa, operating Malawi and Zambia. The company aims to set the standard by minimalizing the impact of tourism in itself.
When asked how, Vincent says “by using, where possible, only natural building materials, coming from the immediate vicinity, demonstrated with building the Ila Safari Lodge Boma and staff houses using sandbag building, and minimising the use of concrete and steel. Other steps we have taken include installing a solar plant, to harvest the sun’s energy instead of using diesel, and carefully taking out the existing flora during the build but the replanting everything afterwards.
Vincent is most passionate about sharing his love for the wilderness of Kafue and the rest of Zambia and Malawi with other people, and in doing so, attracting more visitors to secure the future of the parks.
Vincent is someone you need to get to know, and here is why.
What is your job description and what does your role involve?
My role involves finding locations where our particular brand of eco-tourism can bring vital support and funds to wild, precious spaces, then co-designing our new lodges in these spaces. I also innovate green/ sustainable operations processes and technologies, and I guide the Marketing and HRM. General operations and finance are handled by my co-founder, Daniel Allcock.
Which parts of the travel industry do you work with?
I work with travel agents and travel professionals interested in exploring Malawi and Zambia, specifically those who are passionate about sustainable travel. I also engage with journalists from around the world to promote Zambia as a top destination for travellers.
What do you love most about your job?
My favourite part of the job is creating a family feeling amongst all of the > 500 staff at Green Safaris. Interacting with individuals at each of our lodges, getting to know their stories and their skills and goals for the future. I also love hosting when I am in camp, and I try to make sure I do this as often as possible as I am very motivated by positive feedback from our guests.
What are the challenges of your role?
There is never a dull moment when working in the safari industry, but this can be tiring. There is always a lot to juggle, and I am very aware that what we are working towards is so positive and so important, which makes it harder when we have to deal with setbacks.
What do you wish the travel industry did more of?
The relationship between conservation and tourism. The pressure on our last pristine wildernesses in Africa is so immense, and there are a number of wonderful companies doing the vital work, like engaging local communities in conservation initiatives, creating work opportunities in isolated villages, supporting education, and innovating sustainable practices from the ground up. But we need more of this, and we need it to be expected from everyone, from properties on the ground to agencies and travel companies, and even from our guests.
How can the travel industry work with you?
The travel industry can encourage their clients to engage genuinely with the places they visit, and can spread the word about the many ways travellers can have a positive impact whilst also having an unforgettable holiday. Pack for a Purpose is one example, so is supporting Conservation Foundations, visiting projects on the ground, and interacting in a genuine and respectful way with local communities. Inspiring guests to do this has to start before they arrive at our properties.
What is your favourite African experience and why?
Camping by myself in a small dome-tent, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by game and without cellphone signal. Do I need to explain why?
Where is your next African adventure to?
I spend most of my time in Malawi and Zambia, of course, as this is where we operate our Green Safaris circuit. I am hoping to explore the many places within these two countries that, even after many years working here, I still have not discovered.
What are your top tips for travelling to Africa?
Whether you travel along with your love or with family and friends… engage deeply in the places you visit, rather than skimming a luxurious surface that could be anywhere in the world. Speak to people, visit communities and experience the good work being done, support the things you believe are important. You will have a much more unforgettable experience if you truly embrace Africa, and trust in the ability of the staff and communities to look after you, and travel with openness.