FRIENDS OF NATURE
There is no better way to experience East Africa than with an eco-friendly safari company that is deeply committed to preserving the area’s wild beauty. Asilia Africa was founded in 2004 but its roots reach back to the 1940s, and its founders have established a commitment to preserving the untamed beauty of the region, while also benefiting its local people.
Asilia operates in Tanzania and Kenya, creating bespoke itineraries where visitors can get close to iconic species such as the lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe and wildebeest, all in their natural habitat. “Our superbly situated camps give immediate access to extraordinary concentrations of big game,” says co-founder and Managing Director Jeroen Harderwijk. Asilia’s properties include authentic tented camps, such as Olakira and Kimondo, which move location during the year to place guests in the heart of the spectacle known as the Great Migration. Asilia also offers permanent camps such as Rekero, deep within Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, and the new Jabali Ridge in Ruaha, Tanzania.
Asilia’s thoughtful approach to hospitality is underpinned by its guides’ extensive knowledge and the warmth of its staff. “It creates a distinct and appreciated chemistry with our guests,” says Harderwijk. “They are treated like family and many return year after year.”
The work Asilia carries out always respects the local people and their environment, providing jobs and empowering them to learn about conservation. This enables local people to live alongside the animals in a safe and sustainable way. “One activity very close to our hearts is our scholarship programme,” says Harderwijk. “Each year, we conduct interviews in the communities surrounding our camps to identify candidates who will receive scholarships for further education and training in the tourism industry. This project has resulted in more than 50 scholarships being awarded to date – a number that is growing all the time.”
The company’s ethos is not just to show visitors the time of their life but to preserve crucial wilderness areas in East Africa. “Ten years ago,” says Harderwijk, “a critical wildlife corridor bordering the Maasai Mara Reserve was degraded as a result of intensive herding and tourism. The 500 Maasai families that lived in this region were using the land for pastoral activities, unaware of the impact that it was having. Asilia, along with four other ecotourism operators, formed the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. We reached out to the local Maasai and together we were able to protect this precious wildlife habitat.” In 2016 this conservancy was overall winner at the African Responsible Tourism Awards.
Many families in East Africa face rural poverty, living without access to water and electricity. Working with and for Asilia, which nurtures and educates its employees, has brought countless benefits. “We employ more than 800 local people,” says Harderwijk. “We are also very aware of the gender imbalance in Eastern Africa and therefore strive to empower women in the safari industry. Our Dunia camp in Tanzania, the first all-female camp in Africa, is an example of how we are leading the way.”
Asilia is proud of its success stories, from conservation efforts to helping local communities live peacefully side by side with their wild neighbours. “We have thrived,” says Harderwijk, “because we acknowledge that people and nature are inseparable partners.”