Wolwedans & NamibRand Nature Reserve

Wolwedans & NamibRand Nature Reserve

Namibia
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

NamibRand, one of Southern Africa’s largest private nature reserves, originated as a dream of extending the desert frontiers through the integration of a large number of sheep farms. The aim was to build a sanctuary free of fences, so that the wildlife could once again roam their habitat unhindered. The main objective of NamibRand Nature Reserve is the conservation of this beautiful land on a self-sustainable basis.
The Wolwedans Collection of Camps sits in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve and each is limited to 20 beds each. The park is governed by a strict code of ethics and the number of guests Wolwedans can accommodate is restricted. Despite the tremendous potential for more tourist development, it was decided that in theory every bed must be surrounded by 1000 hectares of nature – now and forever. This means that every guest at Wolwedans has one million square metres to themselves. This luxury of space makes the Reserve the pristine destination it is today and guarantees that it will remain so in the future.

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

36 Bismarck Street, PO Box 5048

City

Windhoek

State/Province
Postal/Zip Code
Country
Year innovation began

1994

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourism management and impact on the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location

Desert.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Corporate monolithic approach to tourism

Main insight addressed

Incorporate sustainable practices

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

To create and conserve a nature reserve with a healthy and functioning ecosystem whilst promoting an ecologically sustainable and high level tourism product.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

NamibRand, one of Southern Africa’s largest private nature reserves, originated as a dream of extending the desert frontiers through the integration of a large number of sheep farms. The aim was to build a sanctuary free of fences, so that the wildlife could once again roam their habitat unhindered. The main objective of NamibRand Nature Reserve is the conservation of this beautiful land on a self-sustainable basis.
The Wolwedans Collection of Camps sits in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve and each is limited to 20 beds each. The park is governed by a strict code of ethics and the number of guests Wolwedans can accommodate is restricted. Despite the tremendous potential for more tourist development, it was decided that in theory every bed must be surrounded by 1000 hectares of nature – now and forever. This means that every guest at Wolwedans has one million square metres to themselves. This luxury of space makes the Reserve the pristine destination it is today and guarantees that it will remain so in the future.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

The Wolwedans Collection is more than a group of camps – its ethos lies in setting an example in responsible tourism, the empowerment of its employees and its commitment to the conservation of NamibRand Nature Reserve.
With this is mind, the design of the structures and interiors were created – very importantly adhering to and maintaining a soft approach to the surrounding nature, and the principal of ethical simplicity – a blueprint that sets the benchmark for all Wolwedans camps.
Without the use of concrete, our camps are built using the pole structure, elevated wooden decks and roll-up canvas walls that have became synonymous with Wolwedans.
All of our structures are designed in such a way that they can be dismantled easily. Within a few months the nature it resides on can restore itself and there will be no trace that the camp ever existed.
The Camps are also solar powered and water is recycled where-ever possible.
Every guest helps to sustain NamibRand by paying a fixed daily park-fee which is channeled directly into the conservation of the reserve.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

We already have made some close affiliations, teaming up with the ‘Classic Safari Camps of Africa’ group (a like minded group within this exclusive market)
Also, Namibia is in dire need of upliftement in areas of education, training and social development

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

To promote sustainable and responsible tourism whilst empowering and developing the local work force.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

Innovative approaches to resource management ensure that this critical area bordering on the Namib Naukluft Park is effectively conserved. The Reserve maintains a conservation policy of minimal interference with constant monitoring, implemented through an environmental management plan. A new monitoring system has been introduced which includes population census methods.
The Reserve is a member and contributor to the South African Avi-Faunal Atlas and the Large Carnivore Atlas of Namibia. Local outreach efforts focus mainly on predator –livestock management on neighboring properties.
Namibrand Nature Reserve supports the sustainable utilization of its resources through the following activities:
• High quality, low impact tourism including accommodation (Wolwedans) photographic safaris, walking trails and hot air ballooning.
• NaDeet (Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust) an environmental and sustainable living centre for Namibian School Children.
• Capture and sale of living game (mainly Plains Zebra, of which many have been donated to community conservations)
• Development of a horticultural project to grow indigenous medicinal plants for commercil production, creating local jobs and earning funds for conservation.
• Nice (the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education) a training school for Namibian chefs and a stylish restaurant
• Hotel School – Wolwedans DesertAcademy (see next point for details)
• Due to be completed this year, Kiddies Camp Orphanage will provide safe accommodation for young disadvantaged children in nearby Maltahohe.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Wolwedans and therefore the Namibrand Nature Reserve provide guests with a truly eco-friendly desert safari experience. Wolwedans has recently founded its own charitable foundation which funds many projects but one example of which is the Desert Academy- a hospitality school on site at Wolwedans. Now in its second year, DA provides education and hands-on experience for bright local youngsters who are unable to fund further education for themselves. Part of their hands-on experience obviously includes serving and interacting with the guests at the Lodge who are always extremely keen to find out more about the school and other Foundation projects.
Wolwedans has a strict ethos around employing local Namibians wherever possible and are extremely proud of the fact out of over 100 employees we only employ 2 foreign nationals.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

With the Wolwedans Foundation we are supporting three key areas:
Education: we are totally committed to human resource development through education and training for both employees and members of the local community. To this end we have founded the Wolwedans Education Support Programme (Which funds previously mentioned projects like Desert Accademy, Nice and Kiddies Camp)
Conservation: Partnered with Namibrand Nature Reserve we support and fund projects that will benefit and enhance our local environment.
Social Development: In tandem with out Education objective we are committed towards the social development of our local community. We endeavour to ensure better and more respectful living conditions and promote positive lifestyles.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

All visitors to Wolwedans are assigned a fully trained and qualified (local) guide, who acts as host during their stay. They are highly knowledgeable in all aspects of NamibRand including the amazing and diverse collection of flora and fauna, large mammal population, local predators and over 100 species of bird. The guides are responsible for bringing this inhospitable desert to life, educating our guests on many topics from how the ancient bushman hunted and flourished in this area, and explaining the still unexplained fairy circles to sharing with guests our policy on responsible and sustainable tourism (our building ethos, water and waste recycling and solar power)

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Absolutely. Wolwedans as a tourism facility charges a daily park fee to anyone entering the NamibRand Nature Reserve. This fee is channeled directly into the funding of the Reserve. Last year, we collected on behalf on NRNR park fees exceeding N$1million.
In addition, to support the objectives of the Foundation and to effect positive change, funds need to be made available. Wolwedans has committed to contribute 2% of its annual turnover, which equates roughly to 10% of our net profit.

The aim is to attract additional funding, both institutional and private, for a number of projects the foundation aims to realise.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

We have a N$15 million annual turnover with our 44 beds, that is after N$1million in park fees have been paid to the Reserve. We consequently make a net profit of 12%.

Over the last 15 years no dividend has been awarded, and all profits have been channeled backing to Wolwedans and its projects.

NB: The NamibRand Nature Reserve is funded solely by the park fees paid by our guests.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

For the time being, there are no plans for any new camps at Wolwedans. It was decided that while the opportunity for development was huge, we would cap tourism development, and have committed to allowing 1000 hectares of nature for every bed at Wolwedans. To maintain growth, the time has come to scout for opportunities outside of the Reserve.
One of these projects that got off the ground in 2006 is the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education (nice) situated in Windhoek. Offering a first class restaurant and stylish bar, the Institute is a ‘living classroom’ training aspiring chefs to polish their skills and further their careers in the hospitality industry.
Another plan is to create another lodge/estate with a hotel school in Windhoek (the capital) pending funding and political stability.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

• Lack of qualified staff/capacity
• Lack of funding
• Lack of systems infrastructure due to the remote location
• Extremely inhospitable environment which causes a strain on maintenance (extremely high costs)

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

In the early eighties, a businessman was offered a piece of land in the desert. To cut a very long story short, he then bought six other farms, took down all their fences and allocated waterpoints. This man had a vision and his name was Albi Brückner.
Albi’s vision was simple. He wanted to create a nature reserve, to conserve the beautiful land and to protect the animals that inhibited it. He looked for like minded individuals to help him finance this project, but sadly, non were forthcoming. He believed in this project so much that he ended up totally financing it himself. So started the NamibRand Nature Reserve.
Stephan, Albi’s youngest child, on returning from studying in Berlin where he completed his Masters in Business Communications, was asked by his father if he’d like to help set up the Reserve. Stephan’s dream on the other hand, was to have an international jet-set career, but he said he’d help his father out for one year……… the rest, as they say, is history.
Stephan realised his dream was to create a tourism facility that would not only contribute to and support the conservation ethics of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, but also to provide much needed employment opportunities in the local area.

So in 1994, building of the first 8 bed Dune Camp began. Stephan masterminded the whole construction down to the design of the structures and interiors, very importantly maintaining the principle of ethical simplicity, which still holds true.

The Dune Camp was so successful that in less than a year it had expanded to 12 beds. Over the years it has consistently been upgraded, but its original charm remains.

Demand was growing as was the economic pressure to provide more beds, so in 1999 Stephan and his team built the 20 bed Lodge and in 2002 Private Camp first opened its doors.

However tragedy struck in 2003 when the entire main complex of the Lodge burnt down in dreadful accident. Thankfully no guests or employees were hurt.

But Stephan and his team wasted no time in rebuilding their beloved Lodge. As with all the Wolwedans sites, construction of the new Lodge took a soft approach to the surrounding nature. Without the use of glass or concrete (except for the pool), the Lodge was built using the pole structure (dug 1.5 meters into the ground) and elevated decks that have become synonymous with Wolwedans.

Stephan’s dream has certainly and very successfully, become a reality. Wolwedans is more than a lodge – it strongly believes in the empowerment of its employees and is as committed to the conservation of the NamibRand Nature Reserve as it was back in 1994.

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Stephan Brückner, the driver and visionary behind the Wolwedans concept, is a third generation Namibian. Born in 1967, Stephan attended a local private school and in 1986 set off to Europe for further studies. With a Bachalor of Commerce and a Masters degree in Business Communication (both obtained at University in Berlin) Stephan returned to Namibia in 1994 to help his father set up the NamibRand nature reserve project. Once a ‘plan‘ was in place, Stephan started tourism utilization in the form of Wolwedans. Wolwedans grew from an initial 8 beds at Dune Camp to a 44 bed and four Camp organization with a number of off-spring projects and businesses, which today employ some 135 Namibians. Stephan is as hands on with the day-to-day management as he was 16 years ago.

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

NamibRand, one of Southern Africa’s largest private nature reserves, originated as a dream of extending the desert frontiers through the integration of a large number of sheep farms. The aim was to build a sanctuary free of fences, so that the wildlife could once again roam their habitat unhindered. The main objective of NamibRand Nature Reserve is the conservation of this beautiful land on a self-sustainable basis.
The Wolwedans Collection of Camps sits in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve and each is limited to 20 beds each. The park is governed by a strict code of ethics and the number of guests Wolwedans can accommodate is restricted. Despite the tremendous potential for more tourist development, it was decided that in theory every bed must be surrounded by 1000 hectares of nature – now and forever. This means that every guest at Wolwedans has one million square metres to themselves. This luxury of space makes the Reserve the pristine destination it is today and guarantees that it will remain so in the future.