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.
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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.