Wilderness Safaris celebrates the women changing the face of nature-based tourism in Africa

To celebrate some of the extraordinary women who have helped shaped the success of the business and who have played an important role in changing the face of nature-based tourism in Africa, Wilderness Safaris presents a selection of inspirational stories below. Personal accounts of deep-rooted passions and ambitious goals combine to form a group of stirring tales and remarkable women who make a daily contribution to the conservation of Africa’s wilderness areas and community empowerment.

Pascolena Florry
Damaraland Area Manager, Namibia

Fondly known as Lena, Pascolena Florry grew up on her family’s farm in Namibia’s Torra Conservancy where she protected her parents’ livestock from predators. Joining Wilderness Safaris as a waitress in 1997, Lena rose through the ranks, training as a chef, housekeeper and Assistant Manager, before being promoted to General Manager of Damaraland Camp. Now Area Manager, she was awarded the Hospitality Association Namibia Personality Award in 2003. A critical link between Wilderness Safaris and the local communities, Lena is fundamental in organising local projects, hosting journalists and informing people about the camps and local community developments.

Dr Sue Snyman
Group Community and Culture Manager; Children in the Wilderness Regional Director

When she joined Wilderness Safaris in 2008, Dr Sue Snyman already had over a decade of experience in ecotourism under her belt. Completing a Master of Business Science at the University of Cape Town, followed by a PhD in Resource Economics, Sue’s outlook on protecting the future of wildlife while benefitting the communities continued to develop. This outlook fits both positions she holds: Regional Programme Director of Children in the Wilderness and Regional Community and Culture Manager of Wilderness Safaris. Sue is currently learning to speak isiZulu at the University of Witwatersrand to strengthen her ability to communicate with the local community.

Natsai Chiremba
Wilderness Air Bush Pilot, Zimbabwe

Natsai Chiremba is a pilot for Wilderness Air in Zimbabwe. She grew up in a rural village and dreamt of becoming a pilot like her older brother. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, which only increased her desire to follow her dreams. In 2012, she began working for Wilderness Air Zimbabwe as a receptionist while she completed her Instrument Rating on her Zimbabwean licence. Finally, in September 2013, she took to the skies.

Trish Baloun
Wilderness Air Bush Pilot, Namibia

Trish Baloun joined Wilderness Air in 2013 and is currently working as a bush pilot in Namibia. Growing up in Canada, Trish followed a long road to get to this point, working in road construction, waitressing and operating a floating fishing lodge before completing her private and commercial pilot’s licences. When people ask Trish what it is like to do “a man’s job,” her response is always, “Women have been designing, building and flying airplanes for over 100 years!”

Mary Hastag
Children in the Wilderness Community Development Coordinator Botswana

Mary began her career as a Secondary School Teacher, before joining the Botswana Red Cross as a National Youth Coordinator, and then working for the Botswana Family Welfare Association. Joining Wilderness Safaris in 2011, Mary leapt at the chance of working with the local community as CITW’s Community Development Coordinator in Botswana. In just three years, Mary has been instrumental in setting up Eco-Clubs in schools, organising teacher and mentor training along with developing educational schemes to strengthen people’s untapped potential.  

Onneetse Mazunga
Wilderness Safaris Kwedi Concession Manager

One (pronounced Onay) grew up in Botswana dreaming of being a teacher, but her stars sent her in another direction. She began her career as a hostess at Mombo Camp and moved from one promotion to the next, often seeking out the next training course to improve her knowledge and broaden her horizons. Before she knew it, she was General Manager at Kings Pool Camp and Little Vumbura before taking on her current position as Khwai Concession Manager where she ensures standards are maintained and that Wilderness Safaris’ overall guest experience is at the highest level possible.

Buhlebethu Ncube
Manager: Little Makalolo Camp, Zimbabawe

Buhlebethu, known as Buhle, was born and bred in Bulawayo but spent all her school holidays at her rural home in Kezi, close to the Matobo National Park, where her love for the bush began. In 2011, Buhle decided to “reconnect” with her childhood dream of living in the bush, beginning at Wilderness as a trainee manager. Buhle has proudly risen through the ranks in a short space of time to becoming Manager at Little Makalolo in Hwange. Buhle says, “Managerial jobs are still rare for women in this country but women like myself are working hard to remove the stigma that only men can be in such high-ranking positions.”