Lion Camp, Zambia - A success story of sustainability
We spoke with Vicky Nel, part of the on the ground management team of the famous Lion Camp in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park
Operations & Marketing Development
17 Nov 2020
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We love to share good news stories and champion partners who are actively doing good work, not only to provide clients with the best experience possible but to also go above and beyond when it comes to being as sustainably minded as possible.
We spoke with Vicky Nel from the wonderful Lion Camp which is located deep in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park about their sustainability projects and ambitions. Lion Camp’s ethos ensures that sustainability and conservation are at the heart of everything they do.
Vicky made the move from a corporate job into the hospitality industry in 1995 with husband Wayne after deciding to go in to safari lodge management as a team.
Since then Vicky and Wayne have worked in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and lastly, Zambia. Throughout their safari career they have been very involved with training and development and soon realised the need to make safari properties more sustainable, protecting the very fragile environment and animal kingdom. Their achievements have been developed from the ground up through constant awareness and training programs with their staff being key to their success. At Lion Camp, they are very involved with their staff and the communities from which they come. They believe very strongly in the education of the younger generation and have assisted local community schools with school fee funding during this difficult Covid period.
Q. What are the main reasons behind Lion Camp wanting to become sustainable?
We wanted to become more environmentally friendly by reducing our carbon footprint and also to be more transparent and attractive to travellers who have an ecological mindset and concerns about responsible travel which in turn helps to save and maintain the environment.
Q. What were some of the main obstacles you’ve had to overcome on your path towards being a sustainable camp?
Our location. Situated in the far northern reaches of the South Luangwa National Park, it is very difficult to transport any equipment needed. Getting our solar panels and batteries to Lion Camp was an incredible feat. Bringing a Tri-Axle, 30 ton truck, 40 kilometres into the park through sandy river beds, thick bush and along roads that were designed for game viewing land cruisers, was not at all an easy task.
Q. Small measures can make a big difference, what is/was the most ingenious/outside the box initiative that has been put in place?
I think the smallest, but most effective initiative was to train the staff to think green. Turn off lights, don't waste electricity, conserve water, use what you need and close the tap, make sure there are no leaking pipes or dripping taps. It’s often these small considerations which have some of the biggest impacts.
Q. Sustainability isn’t just a destination or a target to reach but a continuing journey – are there any new projects which Lion Camp are working towards on your path to becoming more sustainable?
Lion Camp has this past year doubled our electricity production. We have doubled up on our solar bank and installed batteries that are more effective and also a lot more environmentally friendly, we have done away with our old world Lead Acid batteries and installed an entire new bank of Lithium Ion Batteries.
Q. How important do you feel it is to educate and empower younger minds about the importance of living sustainably?
It is vitally important that training and awareness starts at a very young age, that is why, one of the projects we support, the Chipembele Project have programs in place to train and teach the younger generations about the importance of sustainability and saving our environment.
Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust is a charitable organisation which focuses on conservation education for local school children in the area of South Luangwa, Zambia - Read more about the Chipembele Project
Q. Wildlife conservation is obviously a core fundamental to Lion Camp – how important is it to work with local communities, educating them how to conserve the wildlife and wild-spaces?
As mentioned above, it is vitally important. Lion Camp is focused on sustainability and hospitality, it would be amiss for us to branch out into a training field as this would distract from our core business, that is why we fully support the training and awareness programs already in place with professionals that have the capability and the capacity to do it properly.
Q. Lion Camp are partnered with several sustainability projects, all doing good in different areas – is there one area of sustainability which you feel needs more exposure to the public?
Schools and education, definitely. The condition of the schools in the rural areas is often shocking. They have very little, if any, proper sanitation, often with no running water in the close vicinity. The condition of school buildings and classrooms is absolutely deplorable, if they are lucky enough to have a classroom. Some kids get taught under a tree with a very rudimentary chalk board propped up against a tree. How are we going to raise, teach and educate the leaders of tomorrow if these are the conditions they have to learn in.
Q. If there was three pieces of advice you could give any lodge/camp who is unsure how to become more sustainable, what would it be?
If your lodge is already built and operational you do not have to break it down and start over. Make small changes, it is often the smallest changes that bring about the biggest differences.
One definite change I would suggest is changing your water heating for clients to gas, it is clean, efficient and extremely water saving and it doesn’t break the bank.
Number 2, I would put more effort into your staff, training them to become aware of what is happening around them. It sounds petty, but without training and guidance, many people will walk past a leaking tap, they will not notice a damp patch on the ground which could be a sign of a leaking pipe, they wont notice a light on in the middle of the day and they wont notice that little piece of paper lying on the ground.
Thirdly, my advice would be, don’t over think it! Keep it simple! And most of all, have fun!!
Below are examples of the sustainability work done by Lion Camp
Lion Camp recently underwent a major refurbishment and rebuild, only a few professional trades-people where brought on site to work closely with the normal team to ensure they all continued being employed during the re-build. This meant that after the completion of the project the entire team had a new skill set as most carpentry work, all building, creating the canvas suites, producing mosquito netting and ironmonger work was completed on site.
The previous foot-print of the camp had been maintained, causing minimal damage to the vegetation in and around the camp. The re-build of the lodge was completed with “Rhinowood” walkways and decks which is a fantastic sustainable wood product All removed wood such as Mukwa and Rosewood has been re-cycled into furniture.
An advanced and efficient water purifying plant has been installed to purify all borehole water on site. The camp offers 24 hours electricity and is fully self-sufficient in their supply.
Only bio-degradable laundry materials, cleaning materials and room amenities are used.
The wood-burning “donkeys” used to heat water have been replaced with more efficient gas burners.
Lion Camp are partnered with a local farmer, Thomson Zulu, in Mfuwe who grows all required fresh vegetables, salads and herbs. This has a two-fold benefit. As a remote safari lodge they are able to serve guests beautiful healthy salads and vegetables on a daily basis and Thomas has a thriving business supporting his family with 9 children.
Lion Camp are actively involved with the Mkasanga school in the community where most of their staff come from. Several upliftment projects, such as supporting the development of a computer facility at the school is key to our contribution to the education of these children. Several such programs are currently in the development stages and they look forward to supporting several more in the near future.
If you would like to learn more about Far and Wild's commitment to promoting sustainable travel and championing those who are leading the way - head to our SUSTAINABILITY PAGE. We're dedicated to empowering our clients to make more sustainably minded choices when it comes to their holidays.