Russel Friedman Wins PURE Award for Contribution to Experiential Travel

September 2018 – The late Russel Friedman – one of Wilderness Safaris’ co-founders, a pioneer of sustainable ecotourism, a champion for vulture conservation and a true safari industry stalwart – has received the 2018 PURE Award for his enormous contribution to experiential travel. The awards were announced at an exclusive ceremony held during the PURE Life Experiences travel trade show in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 11 September 2018.

Russel FriedmanRussel played an instrumental role in the growth and success of Wilderness Safaris and its non-profit partners, Children in the Wilderness and the Wilderness Wildlife Trust

Now in its sixth year, the PURE Awards are held annually to celebrate excellence in the field of high-end experiential travel. After the judging panel selected a shortlist of finalists for seven categories, PURE attendees voted for the most deserving initiative in each one.

“It is an honour to accept this award on Russel’s behalf and we’d like to thank PURE and our valued network of travel trade partners for giving him this esteemed and much-deserved recognition”, said Wilderness Safaris Chief Sales Officer, Dave Bennett. “Although we were deeply saddened to say farewell to Russel in February 2018, we are proud to celebrate his legacy and to receive this recognition for the numerous achievements he made to sustainable ecotourism in Africa”.

In the 1970s, Russel had been instrumental in founding the Vulture Study Group and pioneering a change in attitudes to these birds (hence his nickname ‘Vulcha’), and by the early 1980s was running the country’s most influential natural history book dealer and publisher. It was through the book business that he met Colin Bell and Chris MacIntyre, the other two founding partners of Wilderness Safaris. He supplied them, and a host of other naturalists, with books and material for their overland safaris into Botswana and Zimbabwe from Johannesburg. It wasn’t long though before he joined the fledgling business – in 1984, quickly making a substantial impact not only with his conservation ethos, but also his considerable business acumen.

Russel’s enormous contribution to the development of Wilderness Safaris is one that is not widely enough known. As its longest-serving co-founder, Russel played a pivotal part in its growth and development, over the years taking on roles of Trustee of the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, Chairman of Children in the Wilderness (CITW), while still being a core member of the Vulture Study Group, an avid mountain-biker and passionate patron and cyclist leader of the annual Nedbank Tour de Tuli mountain bike fundraising event; not to mention an adventurous traveller and fun-loving, loyal and committed friend and family man.

Through all Russel’s travels, he made friends with guests and donors far and wide, spreading the Wilderness story and raising thousands of dollars to ensure the sustainability and success of CITW, as well as for the Wilderness Wildlife Trust. Russel knew that in order for conservation to be successful, it was vital to ensure that the people living in or adjacent to wilderness areas directly benefitted from ecotourism as well.

He made an incredible contribution to the empowerment of Africa’s people and the protection of its wilderness areas and is enormously missed, not only by his family but by many in the vulture conservation community, the book dealer and publishing world, the cycling fraternity and of course, several generations of CITW and Wilderness Safaris employees who he mentored and guided.

“To this day, after some 34 years of passionate commitment, Russel was still an integral part of our Wilderness family and business. It is with deep gratitude that we remember him and the role he played in our lives, the life of the company and to experiential travel as a whole”, Dave concluded.

Wilderness Safaris Partners with Governments to Move More Rhino to Safety

Wilderness Safaris Partners with Governments to Move More Rhino to Safety

March 2015 – Wilderness Safaris, in partnership with the Botswana and South African Governments, is delighted to announce the next phase of its pioneering rhino translocation programme, which began as far back as 1999. The project partners have signed the purchase agreement for a further significant addition of both Critically-Endangered black rhino and Near-Threatened white rhino to bolster existing Botswana populations, with operations taking place in the first half of 2015.

Since the project’s first reintroductions, under this joint programme, of white and black rhino into the Okavango Delta in October 2001 and November 2003 respectively, populations of both species have grown and the country has proven its credentials in being able to provide a safe habitat for these charismatic and dramatically threatened species.

While white rhino have generated the majority of media attention in the last few years of intense poaching pressure in South Africa and certainly continue to bear the brunt of this assault today, black rhino are far more threatened, totalling a global population of less than 5 000 individuals (white rhino number around 20 000 individuals). “As a result of this, and on the back of a very healthy white rhino population already in existence in the Okavango, we have focused our recent efforts over the last few years on black rhino in particular. During the course of 2014, we were honoured to have facilitated the reintroduction of further black rhino into the Okavango Delta in several complex and delicate operations”, says Wilderness Safaris Group Conservation Manager, Kai Collins.

Following the next phase of translocations – valued at well over R7 million – Wilderness Safaris will have moved nearly 1% of the continent’s remaining black rhino population to Botswana through its Rhino Reintroduction Project, the success of which has already been measured in the number of calves born in the wild. (Please note that specific figures and locations are not mentioned in order to avoid drawing unwelcome illicit attention and to ensure the ongoing safety and security of the rhino.)

“With South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis showing no signs of abating, it has become absolutely critical that we continue to take decisive action in ensuring the ongoing survival of the species. Together with our long-standing partners, we are in the fortunate position of having the necessary relationships, infrastructure and people in place to expedite this process, and in doing so, continue to make a meaningful impact on rhino conservation. With each operation, we gain invaluable experience and insight that shape our strategies and plans for the future – not only in terms of moving the rhino, but also in ensuring their ongoing safety”, adds Collins.

Once released into the wild, the rhino are constantly monitored by Wilderness Safaris’ Rhino Monitoring Officers, the Botswana Defence Force, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ specialised Anti-Poaching Unit and officers of Rhino Conservation Botswana, in order to ensure that they are not exposed to any potential threats.

“We are extremely thankful for the ongoing support of our partners in the Botswana and South African governments and their respective conservation agencies – especially the unheralded efforts of the guys on the ground in the Botswana Defence Force and the Wildlife Department’s Anti-Poaching Unit. We also could not have achieved this without our sponsors, including the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, International Rhino Foundation, the Tiffany & Co Foundation, Empowers Africa, and a number of very generous anonymous individual donors, to name a few, who have enabled us to embark on this next phase of the project and ensure its success”, concludes Collins.

Click here to watch a short, inspirational video on the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project.

Zeros for Rhinos – a Fundraising Safari with Great Plains Foundation

Zeros for Rhinos - a fundraising safari with Great Plains Foundation


Great Plains Conservation has committed alongside industry partners to undertake a relocation of rhinos on a magnitude never done before – to relocate no less than 100 rhino from South Africa to safe havens in Botswana. By mid-2015, this relocation operation will take place with an assertive and elaborate anti-poaching force and strong commitment to save this species.

Our fundraising campaign, Zeros For Rhinos, will ensure this relocation initiative is a success; striving to rescue this treasured species from spiraling to extinction. What is gained is the knowledge that we all collectively stopped a species from meeting its maker. Great Plains Foundation, our non-profit partner, will raise the funds to do it, and every dollar counts.

As a fundraiser, Great Plains Conservation has contributed a limited number of safari bednights to the Great Plains Foundation. The cost of your stay in these three camps goes to the fundraising efforts of the Zeros for Rhinos initiative!  

Join us at Zarafa, Selinda or Selinda Explorers camps
an exclusive way of experiencing Africa while contributing to this tremendous initiative!
Included in this limited offer are value-add surprises in camp.**

For more information, contact Africa Discovery at:
1 800 886-7321, (415) 444-5100
or Email us


Can’t come on safari? We’ll miss you, but you can still contribute to the Zeros for Rhinos campaign. Any amount counts and matters – $10 from many people will very quickly add up.

Want to know more about this initiative and how we will do it? Read a Q&A with Dereck Joubert here.

**Applicable seasons: Now – 31 May 2014 and 01 Nov 2014 – 31 May 2015 (excluding 19 Dec ‘14 to 10 Jan‘15). A 20% non-refundable reservation is required upon confirmation reservation. Cancelled travel is subject to cancellation penalties, as funds will be committed to the Zeros For Rhinos effort. If the Zeros for Rhinos reserve is not met then funds may be applied to other projects administered by Great Plains Foundation. Full Terms & Conditions available.


andBeyond and Great Plains join forces to translocate up to 100 rhino

andBeyond and Great Plains join forces to translocate up to 100 rhino


With rhino poaching at an all-time high in South Africa, two of Africa’s leading conservation companies, Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond, have joined forces to safely translocate up to 100 rhino from South Africa to the safe haven of Botswana.
“There is a battle for Africa’s wildlife raging as we speak. Rhinos are being poached at a rate of one every nine hours and the official number is 1 004 dead in 2013 alone. The unofficial number, because we simply do not find them all, is well over 1 000. Like everyone, I’ve been watching this desperate situation worsen, which is why Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond have decided to take action. This is not a Great Plains Conservation project or an &Beyond one, it is a global one that we can all play a role in, small and large. I don’t believe in branded conservation — it needs to be something we all get behind to save a species,” says Dereck Joubert, Great Plains CEO.
“Botswana has an excellent security system in place to protect these endangered animals and will be a safe haven for the relocated rhino. Translocations are fundamental to secure the ongoing survival of endangered species and this groundbreaking project aims to protect the species for future generations to enjoy. A project this size requires a strong partnership and a huge resource pool to pull it off. We are therefore very pleased to be joining forces with Great Plains Conservation for this mass translocation. We share the same mission and operating ethos and together we believe we can make this happen,” says Joss Kent, &Beyond CEO.
Having successfully translocated six rhino from South Africa to Botswana last year, &Beyond’s conservation team will lend its expertise to the project. Up to 100 rhino will be captured and safely transported from South Africa and released in Botswana’s remote wilderness. Each rhino will be tagged and microchipped for research and monitoring purposes. A dedicated anti-poaching team will then work in conjunction with the Botswana government agencies to monitor the animals using the latest technology.
This operation will cost USD8 million and both Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond will announce specific fundraising initiatives to enable tourism stakeholders, travel partners, tour operators and guests to help save this iconic species and ensure Africa’s Big Five remains for future generations to enjoy.

The battle to save the rhino from extinction won’t be won tomorrow; however, with joint initiatives such as this, the battle won’t be lost tomorrow either.

Great Plains wins at PURE Awards 2013

Great Plains Conservation - Africa Discovery


Great Plains Conservation is thrilled to receive the award for Most Life-Enriching Experience at the inaugural and prestigious PURE Awards 2013 last night at the close of the PURE Life Experiences show at the Palais des Congrès, Marrakech.

The award is described by PURE as “truly transformational, thought-provoking and perspective-shifting travel experiences that help the individual reconnect with both themselves and the world around them.”

The selection process is rigid, starting with initial nomination by ‘PUREists’, a collection of the world’s elite buyers and sellers of experiential travel services. It is then judged by a distinguished panel of visionaries in travel: oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle; actor and director, Edward Norton; environmental entrepreneur, Colin Bell; award-winning author and adventurer, Richard Bangs; and sustainable architect, German del Sol.

On describing Great Plains Conservation’s co-founders, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Sylvia Earle commented: “The Jouberts convey their passion and deeply held conservation ethic and respect for the natural world that is unsurpassed, no matter what the setting, but especially in their beloved African plains. This is conveyed to those fortunate enough to travel in their presence.”

Dereck Joubert, Great Plains Conservation CEO, feels particularly honoured and says the award “encapsulates exactly what we set out to do at Great Plains Conservation: create experiences which spotlight the spiritual, personal, cultural and environmental Africa. Through these experiences we change lives and create conservation ambassadors – a positive outcome in the face of many challenges on the continent.”