Motivational Women Who Make Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Published: 9 August 2021

Mother nature is what makes Africa the very best luxury vacation destination. However, once you visit and meet these inspirational women, you’ll realize why guests forget about the rest of the world and return to Africa year-on-year. Yes, we have to admit that patriarchy is still very much a thing, but great strides are being made in the tourism and hospitality industry to balance the status quo and make use of empowered women and the greatest minds in effecting positive change.

Aspirational Asilia All-Women Interview

Mother’s Day had us reflecting on the strength of a woman, a newsletter from Asilia inspired this feature blog for National Women’s Month in South Africa. We simply couldn’t help but share the stories of the fearless women who created the first all-female managed camp in East Africa - Dunia Camp.

Jonesia Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Jonesia “Zawadi” Kazawadi

Meet Jonesia “Zawadi” Kazawadi who “was working in Ruaha when a friend told me Asilia had an idea to start an all women-run camp in the Serengeti, and I was so excited I sent my application off instantly. Luckily I was chosen and, after going through the Asilia training, I was given a full-time position as a guide at Dunia. And here I am, super happy and growing with Asilia every day. I am now the Head Guide!”

Diana Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Diana Mshanga

Talking about what others thought about the all-women team, Diana Mshanga, Camp Manager at Roho ya Selous, noted that “after Asilia opened Dunia, so many companies thought it was a bad idea. I would hear all the time how there was no way a group of women could manage without the help of men. But we proved them wrong. In less than a year the camp had some of the highest service scores and best TripAdvisor reviews in the Serengeti.”

Rose Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination
Kristien Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Rose Lawena and Kristien de Kock

These women have wasted no time resting on their laurels, grasping every growth opportunity within the company. When asked about how she handles challenges and biases, sales manager, Rose Lawena in Arusha says, “sometimes people underestimate my ability since I am a woman, so I have to make sure that I prove them wrong by going that extra mile.” Group Sales Manager, Kristien de Kock, adds that, “sometimes it’s a case of making sure your voice is heard, especially if it’s the only female voice around the table. And that voice is so important as women tend to come to things differently to men.”

Cathy Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Cathy Dreyer – Kruger National Park’s First Woman Head Ranger

Moving closer to Anywhere in Africa Safaris home of South Africa, meet Cathy Dreyer who became Kruger National Park’s first woman Head Ranger on 1 May 2021. This remarkable woman has a background in conservation management, law enforcement, and people and strategic management skills – making her the absolute perfect candidate for the job. Oh and we also just have to mention her being the first South African and first woman recipient of the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa presented by Sir David Attenborough.

Before moving up north to Kruger, Dreyer held the title of Conservation Manager at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. She also spent a number of years working in the Kruger helping protect the black rhino in the park’s intensive protection zone. She even earned the nickname, ‘Rhino Whisperer.’ More like ‘Rhino Mother’ as she protected this endangered species as if they were her own children, implementing aerial surveillance and protection strategies.

When asked by media outlets what she had to say about her latest appointment, she said, “I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity, particularly at a time when the Kruger National Park is vigorously and earnestly working on its turnaround plan. Leadership is a privilege and I look forward to working alongside the dedicated, committed and passionate ranger corps and conservation management teams in the park.” Please join us in raising a glass to Cathy Dreyer, we can’t wait to see how many rhinos and endangered species you save!

Debra Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Debra Stevens, Co-founder of Elephant Havens and Inspiration to All

Debra wasn’t born on African soils, yet she treats this continent as if it were her family - and it’s no surprise. She was adopted and found out later in life that her birth mother lived in Congo as a child. Her grandparents were missionaries there in the 1930s and had rescued and tried to rehabilitate a young elephant all those years ago. This love for elephants was passed down to Debra who has been advocating for the protection of elephants in Botswana since 2000.

In 2013 Debra’s life changed forever after meeting a 6-month-old orphaned elephant named Naledi. They shared a deep connection and a lifelong bond formed. Naledi’s mother died when she was just 6-weeks-old. Stepping in to keep the family together, a 50-year-old matriarch began lactating, attempting in vain to try and keep baby Naledi alive, but sadly it just wasn’t enough.

Handlers in Abu Camp were left with no choice but to intervene and raise Naledi until she was independent enough to be reintroduced to the herd. These heroic handlers lived out in the wild, constantly by her side, with a bottle of milk always in hand until she was weaned.

Debra connected instantly with Naledi when she was still a calf living alongside her human guardian angels in the bush, and since then Debra has never spent more than six months away from her, flying all the way from Texas to Botswana to see her every year. Naledi is testament to the saying of ‘a memory of an elephant,’ as to this day she has never forgotten Debra, always running towards her in greeting when she visits the reserve - even if she is out in the bush with the rest of the herd.

Naledi was the woman with the big trunk, tusk, and heart who inspired Debra and her husband, Scott Jackson to found the non-profit Elephant Havens Wildlife Foundation in 2017. This organization's ultimate goal is to protect and preserve the African elephant, while also empowering and educating surrounding local communities to work together in conserving these majestic beasts too.

Anywhere in Africa Safaris is incredibly proud to be a donor to this wonderful cause, with a percentage of proceeds from every booking benefitting the “new” Naledi’s of Botswana’s bush and local communities. Find out more about Elephant Havens and its mission by clicking here.

Kirsty Making Africa The Best Luxury Vacation Destination

Kirsty Gordon, Our Very Own CEO and Advocate for Africa

Inspired by her belief that, “if you live an ordinary life, you tell ordinary stories, so live a life full of adventure and your life story becomes extraordinary,” Kirsty started Anywhere in Africa Safaris back in 2009. She’s someone who doesn’t talk about things, she actually makes it happen, which is why she’s climbed Kilimanjaro, trekked with gorillas in Rwandan forests, dune surfed, collared rhino, and snorkelled with whale sharks – and this is just the beginning folks!

With over 30 years of planning the best luxury vacations in Africa, Kirsty doesn’t do anything ‘vanilla’ or off-the-shelf. She’s more like salted caramel with bits of popcorn, constantly looking for unique ways to showcase this vibrant continent. Unlike some, her drive isn’t her back pocket. It’s her dedication to ensure that Africa’s wildlife and rich cultures are preserved for future generations to inherit. She wants to leave Africa better than she found it and also to help you leave a legacy too by traveling to this great continent and promoting it to the world.

Africa is calling – and so too are its women who are passionately paving a new continent filled with opportunity, hope and fresh ideas. It’s time for you to meet face-to-face and be inspired.