Mara Naboisha, a conservancy that truly and remarkably brings together community and wildlife conservation to make better places to live in and great places to visit was announced Overall Winner this afternoon at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 in Cape Town, sponsored by Wesgro.

In a special ceremony at World Travel Market Africa, Mara Naboiso Conservancy  in Kenya took the coveted position of Overall Winner from of a selection of 24 finalists gathered from around Africa.

Says Harold Goodwin, Chair of the Judging Panel. “Whilst some of the categories were weaker than others the judges task in determining the winners was more challenging this year, reflecting the development of Responsible Tourism across Africa. All of those longlisted should be recognised as having made a significant contribution and be proud of what they have achieved.  As in the World Responsible Tourism Awards the judges looked for winners who might educate and inspire others, for examples of businesses and organisations which are realising the ambition of Responsible Tourism to use tourism to make better places for people to live in; great places to live are great places to visit.

The judges were mindful of the Awards made in previous years in Africa and in the World Responsible Tourism Awards, of which these African Awards are a part. The Gold and Silver Award winners should be particularly proud of what they have achieved; they have been recognised as being leaders in a Responsible Tourism movement where more is being achieved each year, a movement in which it takes more to win each year. If when reflecting on the winners of these and the World Responsible Tourism Awards you know of others you feel should be recognised then please encourage them to enter, the judges can only choose from between those who enter and complete the extensive application process. We encourage them, and other businesses, to continue to take responsibility for increasing the positive, and reducing the negative, impacts of tourism; to communicate what they are doing to use tourism to make better places and to consider entering the Responsible Tourism Awards when there is an appropriate category for their business or organisation.”

Speaking before a packed audience of over 100 tourism professionals, media, ministers and officials, Heidi van der Watt, managing director of Better Tourism Africa pinpointed what makes the Award winners the leaders in responsible tourism in Africa:

“Our winners have a vision that extends beyond the commercial – linking business success with the wellbeing of local communities and the longevity of their environments. They want to make profits with principles, communicate balance sheets alongside beliefs, and won’t undermine passion in the pursuit of professionalism. They are resilient, determined, humanising advocates for their destinations. They are the future of tourism in Africa.”

The Awards were sponsored by the Wesgro. Tim Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Wesgro, said:

“As the proud headline sponsor of the inaugural African Responsible Tourism Awards, Wesgro is delighted to pay tribute to this year’s inspirational winners. As the official Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, we continue to show our commitment to responsible tourism development both in our province and on the African continent.

We are pleased to recognise the vision of the Award winners for providing leadership in their respective sectors throughout Africa, and effectively contributing to growing tourism in a sustainable manner.  Today, we celebrate their commitment and achievements.”

Read below for the full list of this year’s winners.

Overall Winner – Mara Naboisho Conservancy, sponsored by WESGRO

Winners trophy sponsored by Paul Godard Soul Photography

Contact:  Clarissa Hughes   Email:  Twitter: @AsiliaAfrica

Judges’ reasons for winning: “Prior to setting up Naboisho Conservancy, four years of consultation with the 554 landowners lead to 94% of them signing over their land to a holding company with their own appointed directors who have in turn entered into a management agreement with Naboisho Conservancy. The community gets direct and tangible benefits from wildlife conservation; no other activity provides as much income to as many people as Naboisho Conservancy. With these direct benefits there is less need for the community to rely on other destructive practices such as intensive farming and over grazing by too many cattle. This in turn furthers the cycle for a sustainable future for community driven wildlife conservation.  Naboisho Conservancy pioneered controlled livestock grazing and holistic rangeland management. The co-existence between wildlife and cattle, where the interests of wildlife and traditional Maasai livestock practices are mutually respected and genuinely integrated. The term ‘Naboisho’ literally means “coming together” in the Maasai’s Maa language and this is exactly what Naboisho Conservancy represents.”

Best for Beach Tourism – supported by BulkSMS

Gold Winner: Nkwichi Lodge

Contact: Kim Rossi   Email:   Twitter: @nkwichi

Judges’ reasons for winning: “To help bring the world’s most biodiverse freshwater lake and a 120 000 ha of lakeshore and escarpment under formal protection – in partnership with 16 villages – are remarkable achievements.  Gold Award winner Nkwichi Lodge on Lake Malawi is completely solar powered and plastic-bottle free. It is the engine behind sustainable agriculture and aquaculture farms where skills are built and produce for the lodge and community cultivated, a maternity clinic, schools and boarding house for girls, a range of community enterprises that generate income and reduce travelling distances, and community sport teams and events that also celebrate local culture.”

Gold Winner (Innovation): Sharkspotters

Contact: Sarah Waries   Email:    Twitter: @sharkspotters

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “Sharkspotter’s solution to safe beaches removes the fear factor from enjoying Cape Town’s beaches while working to protect sharks, particularly the Great White Shark – a globally threatened species. This pioneering and innovative approach netted a Gold Award.  Spotters positioned on the mountainsides surrounding swimming beaches look out for sharks near shore and use a series of flags as a warning system. Community members benefit from employment and skills development, and beachgoers get to learn about sharks and their place in the ecology.”

Silver Winner: Baobab Beach Resort

Contact:  Silvester Mbandi   Email:

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “The judges appreciated the wide range of in-house environmental management practices that reduce water and energy use and help to manage waste at Baobab Beach Resort.  Efforts to protect children from exploitation, conserve the coastal forest environment, reach out to communities through tours for guests and a weekly village market, contributed to a Silver Award.”

Best Contribution to Cultural Heritage Conservation – supported by Sustainable Tourism Partnership Programme

Gold Winner:   Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve

Contact:  Verena Neumayr-Howes   Email:   Twitter: @bushmanskloof

Judges’ reasons for winning: “The Gold Award went to Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve, custodian of over 130 unique San rock art sites. At its heart Bushman’s Kloof is about the conservation of this remarkable heritage and culture. Over the past few months Bushman’s Kloof has been one of the main sponsors of a unique troupe of dancers from Wupperthal – a small, impoverished village in the area. Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers has not only been reviving the art of the Rieldans – a traditional dance form – but has also placed Wupperthal on the world map – taking the 2015 World Champions of the Performing Arts by storm. “

Silver winner: Segera Retreat

Contact:  Tarryn Gibson   Email:  Twitter: @SegeraRetreat

Silver winner:  Wilderness Safaris

Contact: Nirvani Pillay      Email:    Twitter: @WeAreWilderness

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “Silver Awards went to Segera Retreat in Kenya for the range of traditional cultures with which travellers can authentically engage to the benefit of local livelihoods and the conservation of diverse cultures and to Wilderness Safaris for their efforts, since 2011, to ensure that their safari camps express and present the cultural heritage of the local communities.”

Best Operator for People with Disabilities, supported by Warrior on Wheels Foundation

Silver winner: ATKV Goudini Spa

Contact:  Reinard du Plessis   Email:

Silver winner: Flamingo Tours

Contact:  Pam Taylor   Email:

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “Equitable access to holidays for people of all abilities and incomes remains a big issue in Africa. The judges’ decision not to award a Gold in this category reveals that much work still needs to be done in the tourism sector.  However, there are two Silver Awards. The judges recognised that ATKV Goudini Spa sets a good example of creating an accessible leisure environment not only for people with mobility limitations, but also people who are blind and deaf.  The resort’s relationship with the disabled community is admirable.  And the affordability of the product is especially important for a people who are burdened by significant financial constraints.   Similarly, Flamingo Tours caters for a wide spectrum of functional limitations, and like ATKV Goudini Spa, is very committed to run an operation that does not harm the environment. “

Best for Poverty Reduction, supported by EDGE Tourism Solutions

Gold Winner: !Xaus Lodge

Contact: Eleanor Muller   Email:    Twitter: @XausLodge

Judges’ reasons for winning: “The judges were particularly pleased to see so many worthy entries on the longlist for this category, as in the World Awards, competition is tough. More and more businesses understand the importance of using tourism to address poverty, in the Awards more emphasis is now being placed on the evidence which businesses can provide of their positive impacts. The Gold Award went to !Xaus Lodge a community-owned, commercially managed lodge in the South African part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The judges were particularly impressed by both the scale of the contribution and the transparent quantification of the economic and social benefits flowing to the economically poor and marginalized communities of the Khomani San and Mier from their lodge.“

Silver Winners:

Contact:  Helene Hamman   Email:   Twitter: @WeAreWilderness

Contact: Russell Suchet   Email:

Contact: Greta FIori    Email:

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “There were three Silver Awards reflecting the strength of the longlist in this category. Chitabe Camp in the Okavango Delta was recognised for its commitment to raising the living standards of their employees to ensure that their whole family is raised out of poverty through higher than inflation annual salary increases, annual school education donations and generous profit share pay outs. Sani Lodge Backpackers and Drakensberg Adventures has made a major contribution to local livelihoods and poverty reduction over many years and by involving Basotho stakeholders created opportunities  for communities to proudly showcase their unique cultural practices, engaging with guests in an authentic manner, thereby earning their respect. The Simien Lodge in the remote Simien Mountains National Park of Ethiopia has adopted a broad approach to addressing poverty by improving livelihood standards and education, by encouraging creativity in sports and contributing to the conservation of cultural and natural heritage, consistently addressing local issues identified by the community.“

Best for Accommodation for Responsible Employment, supported by Thebe Reed Exhibitions

Gold Winner:  Spier

Contact:  Marina Vermeulen   Email:  Twitter: @spierwinefarm

Judges’ reasons for winning: “The judges were looking for examples of businesses able to demonstrate an exemplary responsible approach to the employment and treatment of staff. This was a strong longlist reflecting the progress being made in raising employment standards by an increasing number of businesses. The Gold went to Spier in the Western Cape of South Africa for the transparent reporting and the breadth of their approach to improving the employment conditions of their staff ranging from addressing the issue of safety on public transport to their provision of Individual Learning Spend budgets to support the development of skills and knowledge, for personal development and innovation for the employee and their family for example by using it to pay school fees.”

Silver Winners:

Contact:  James Wilson     Email:           Twitter: @ChobeGameLodge

Contact: Jacquelise de Vries          Email:    Twitter: @leribahotel

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “Silver Awards went to Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana and Leriba Hotel in Gauteng, South Africa. The judges were impressed by the breadth of the approach being taken to improving employment conditions of the staff at Chobe Game Lodge and in particular by their success in addressing gender issues, with a full team of 14 female guides. At Leriba Hotel & Spa there is a broad commitment to upliftment, training and recognition. The Green Diamonds initiative was created when Leriba Hotel Group identified the need to empower its employees above the standard legal requirements. The judges were particularly impressed by their ABET centre which provides continuous staff development training.”

Best Responsible Tourism Marketing Campaign, sponsored by Verde Hotels

Gold Winner: Great Plains Conservation

Contact: Hilton Walker     Email:    Twitter: @Greatplainscons

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “In the Marketing Campaign category the judges looked for an example of a company which had run a successful campaign. The judges gave the Gold Award to Great Plains Conservation operating in Botswana and Kenya for their success in raising awareness of the importance of conservation through traditional and social media and in converting the public into ambassadors for wildlife. In just one talk in 2015 in China the Jouberts reached 195 million and Great Plains Conservation’s social media channels are followed by over 1.5 million daily.

There were businesses on the longlist which use Responsible Tourism well in their marketing but there were none to which a Silver could be awarded for a particular campaign.”

Best for Public Policy and/or Support, supported by Singer Group

Gold winner:  National Department of Tourism, South Africa

Contact: Bekithemba Langalibalele     Email:    Twitter:  @Tourism_gov_za

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “It is 20 years since the new post-apartheid government in South Africa adopted Responsible Tourism as a fundamental part of its national tourism strategy recognising that tourism has a responsibility to make a significant contribution to making South Africa a better place to live in and uplifting the quality of life, particularly of the disadvantaged and economically poor. This was recognised in the Cape Town Declaration of 2002 which launched the Responsible Tourism movement internationally. This Public Sector Policy category was designed to focus attention on those government agencies which have adopted clear policy frameworks to encourage tourism businesses to take more responsibility – we placed less emphasis on “support” because tourism businesses too often look for financial incentives or subsidies. In a period when, internationally, governments generally have been reluctant to regulate, progress in securing private sector engagement and compliance has been slow although some businesses have contributed a great deal, many have failed to respond to the challenge.

The National Department of Tourism in South Africa won Gold for its steadfast commitment over 20 years to the principles of the 1996 white paper, the legislative and policy work and support programmes which have flowed from it, including the Responsible Tourism Standard, Tourism Incentive Programme and the adoption and application of Responsible Tourism principles by provinces and cities and by agencies like SANParks.”

Silver winners:

City of Cape Town

Contact: Nombulelo Mkefa     Email:    Twitter: @RespCPT

Ministry of Tourism, Morocco

Contact:  Nada Roudies   Email:    Twitter: @MarocDurable

Silver went to the City of Cape Town and Morocco. The 1st International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations took place in Cape Town in 2002 and there have been many initiatives to encourage businesses to respond to the social, economic and environmental challenges experienced in the City. In Morocco the Ministry of Tourism has secured support from other government departments, local authorities and the private sector for its Vision 2020. Based on a multi-stakeholder process, using UNEP’s Sustainable Consumption and Production approach, the Ministry of Tourism has taken the lead and created the policy framework – it remains to be seen how the industry responds.

Best for Wildlife Conservation, sponsored by African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary

Joint Gold Winners

Mara Naboisho Conservancy

Contact: Clarissa Hughes    Email:

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Contact:  Sophie Harrison    Email:     Twitter:  @olpejeta

Judges’ reasons for winning: “The Wildlife Conservation category had a very strong range of initiatives on the longlist many of them outstanding. This year the judges focussed on wildlife conservation initiatives which use tourism to benefit local communities and to conserve wildlife rather than on tourism businesses which contribute to conservation. There were two Gold Award winners in the category both in Kenya and both conservancies:  Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.

The judges recognised that these are two outstanding examples of how tourism can be used by conservationists to protect habits and species and to uplift local communities. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy has increased lion density and providing 142 jobs, secure income to 554 local Maasai households and further indirect benefits to ~10,000 local people. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy still maintains a herd of 6,000 beef cattle, it is one of the few conservancies in the world able to cover almost all of its basic operating costs (US$ 6 million) through its own, sustainable, commercially generated revenues from tourism and agriculture.”

Silver WinnerConservation Travel Foundation

Contact:  Birgit Bekker    Email:    Twitter: @UltimateSafari1

Judges’ reasons for winning:  “Silver went to the Conservation Travel Foundation, a non-profit organization in partnership with and supported by Ultimate Safaris in Namibia for its innovative Conservation Safaris where guests pay a premium in exchange for the privilege of being able to interact with those involved in local conservation projects, and get satisfaction from making a significant contribution to conservation.“

People’s Choice, supported by Ticket2Utopia

Winner: Marine Dynamics

Contact:  Brenda du Toit   Email:      Twitter: @MarineDynamics

“Voted for entirely by the public, the People’s Choice in Responsible Tourism Award allows members of the public to vote for the most inspiring category winner from 2015.  Winner Marine Dynamics provide very high quality shark cage diving experiences.  They are industry leaders, a commercial operation which operates to the highest conservation standards,  where every trip has a marine biologist aboard to provide interpretation and collect data for scientific research. An operator that makes a significant contribution to conservation and the local economy.”