Our Story

Natural Selection may be a new company, but our roots in the African safari business run deep. Our founders, Dave, Colin, Jen and James, are old friends who began their careers as guides in the bush many moons ago. Between them, they’ve amassed over a century of combined experience, and are true pioneers of photographic safaris in Southern Africa. And all of them are devoted to the simple premise that safari tourism, when done correctly, is an incredibly powerful tool for conserving and protecting Africa’s last great wild places.

In recent history, we’ve seen conservation of the natural world grow from a fledgling awareness in the 1960s, to a global interest. But somewhere along the way, Africa’s wild places became second best. Animals were poached, and wilderness areas were stripped of trees, eroded and mined. We realised that something had to be done to protect these areas, and help them survive, and that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do. After all, we want our grandchildren’s children to enjoy these wild places, just as we are enjoying them now.

We believe that by simply visiting a wildlife area, travellers are encouraging its continued protection through tourism revenue. For that reason, our deep commitment to conservation is matched only by our devotion to providing you, our guests, with the most unique and extraordinary safari experiences out there.

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What sets Natural Selection apart from other safari companies?

Natural Selection was created as a conservation-driven tourism company.

From its inception, the business model of Natural Selection has been about creating an excellent safari experience that gives back. In fact, its original model was a non-profit that derived all funds through tourism market representation. We soon realized that we’d make a much bigger impact if we became a commercial safari company. This also gives us the opportunity to introduce visitors to the amazing conservation efforts as well as issues across southern Africa.

Natural Selection brings visitors closer to Africa – a feet on the ground connection.

To us the most important part of a safari is finding that connection to the bush by keeping things simple and enriching. When we step out of our routines, typical day to day concerns fade into the background, magnificent environments humble us and values shift, even if just slightly.

Natural Selection is committed to making sure guests have fun.

Conservation, connecting to Africa are all part of Natural Selection, but overall our guests need to have fun! It’s a holiday afterall.

Natural Selection puts conservation before profit.

Our 1.5% donation to conservation comes off of our gross revenue, not our profit. This amounts to 6% of a sales margin, and in our first year of operation, 30% of our profit. We are committed!

Natural Selection creates conservation partnerships.

Natural Selection looks for partnerships that help us contribute towards conservation. This may be towards the expansion of wildlife areas, or a conversion to wildlife-friendly land use, or the upliftment of communities who live alongside wildlife and are committed to wildlife conservation.

Each camp in the Natural Selection portfolio is unique in style and experience.

As the contribution towards conservation is unique in each area of operation, so is the style and offering of each lodge. No two lodges in our portfolio are alike, because each is run by a different partner, providing individual input into the experience.

Natural Selection is committed to minimizing its footprint.

Our newly built camps use local materials, recycled materials and renewable energy. As much as possible, we want each camp to support local environmentally-friendly enterprise, to blend into the environment and to carefully manage and minimize waste.

Our History

1960 - 1963

Jack Bousfield, the legendary crocodile hunter and safari pioneer, embarks upon a lifelong love affair with the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana.


Peter Koep, Director of Natural Selection, begins his guiding career in Cape Town as a driver with Springbok Atlas Safaris with tours to Cape Point, the Winelands, through the city, and along the Garden Route (a mere 46 times!)


Natural Selection cofounder Colin Bell and Chris McIntyre launch Wilderness Safaris in Botswana. The company quickly grew to become a leader in the safari industry.


Hennie Rawlinson, the taller of the three gentlemen and Managing Director of Natural Selection Botswana, builds Xigera, the first Wilderness Safaris Camp in Botswana.


Natural Selection cofounder Dave van Smeerdjik arrives in Africa from Australia and jumps straight into bush life in East Africa. Later he would move to Botswana and start guiding there.


Ralph Bousfield starts Uncharted Africa in memory of his father Jack and Jack’s Camp opens for business in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.


Natural Selection co-founder Dr. Jennifer Lalley arrives in Africa to work in the safari industry but ends up studying sitatunga in the Okavango Delta and lichens on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.


Pete Allison arrives in South Africa and begins his safari career in the Sabi Sands, before moving to Wilderness Safaris.


San Camp opens on the fringes of the saltpans in the Makgadikgadi and quickly earns an enviable reputation as one of Africa’s most romantic camps.


Hyena Pan starts life as a simple camp site.


Meno a Kwena becomes a permanent camp on the banks of Botswana’s beautiful Boteti River.


The World Travel and Tourism Council announces that Damaraland Camp in Namibia's Torra Conservancy wins the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award, with Dave and Klemens from Namibia pictured here.


Colin cofounds Great Plains Conservation.


Dave and Jen develop concept of conservation tourism company and explore opportunities at Meno a Kwena and Jack's Camp.


Colin Bell re-engages with the Mkambati Community Project and meets with Dave and Jen to discuss the idea of Natural Selection. Natural Selection is born!


Natural Selection officially launches.


Pete Allison, celebrated author of ‘Whatever You Do, Don’t Run’ takes his own advice, deciding to stay put in Africa and joining the Natural Selection team.


James Ramsay swaps mountain biking for a more serious job and joins Natural Selection as CEO, bringing with him 16 years of experience in the safari industry.


Ally Karaerua joins Natural Selection as Managing Director of the Namibian arm of the company. Here he is pictured on his favourite beach at the Skeleton Coast (Baywatch it is not!)


Natural Selection launches Sable Alley in Khwai Private Reserve, an area of extraordinary diversity in Botswana’s Okavango Delta region.


As well as Super guiding private safaris, we’ve got plenty more to look forward to at Natural Selection – stay tuned!

Our Partners

Natural Selection are proud to partner with the following companies, communities and individuals, all of whom share our commitment to protecting Africa’s wild places – and our love of all things extraordinary!

Uncharted Africa

Founded by Ralph Bousfield in 1993, in memory of his father Jack, Uncharted Africa is the purveyor of some of the continent’s most distinctive safaris and inspired experiences. Jack’s Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari are the ultimate in unique, stylish camps, and Uncharted’s mobile camping expeditions take off-the-beaten track to a new level of adventurous. After all, who wouldn’t want to quad bike across the shimmering expanse of the Makgadikgadi, or delve into the remotest corners of the Okavango Delta?

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Khwai Private Reserve

It’s no secret that Khwai Private Reserve was formerly a hunting concession. We’ve been working hard to transform the area into a safari destination of note, spending a full year tracking wildlife in the area and habituating the animals to our vehicles. To help us do this, we’ve partnered with the local communities surrounding the reserve, the Lang Family, and Kelly and Greg Butler, long-term Khwai residents and concession managers. All proceeds from staying at Sable Alley go straight back into the Khwai Village community projects.

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Meno a Kwena

At Meno a Kwena, we have partnered with local Meno residents, Hennie and Angie Rawlinson. Hennie built the first camp for Wilderness Safaris, before embarking on a flying career for many years and returning to Botswana to build the first camp for Natural Selection – Meno.

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Etosha Heights Private Reserve

Andre Nel and Leen de Koster are our partners in this former hunting area, which has now been dedicated to photographic tourism, and we’re delighted to be part of the transformation.

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Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge

In a country that’s jam-packed with staggering landscapes and fascinating cultures, there are none quite as spectacular as the ethereal Skeleton Coast. Tucked away in the north-western corner of Namibia, we are pleased to have partnered with the local communities at Sesfontein and Puros, local Namibian businesses, Trip Travel and Journeys Namibia, as well as the Namibian government to establish our projects in the region.

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Hoanib Valley Camp

In the creation of Hoanib Valley Camp, we are delighted to be partnering with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, cofounded by Julian and Stephanie Fennessy, and with the people of Sesfontein, who are the long custodians of this magnificent piece of the Kaokoveld.

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Mkambati Game Reserve

We challenge anyone to disagree that Mkambati Game Reserve on South Africa’s Wild Coast isn’t one of the most beautiful coastal reserves in Africa. In fact, make that the world! A proclaimed provincial reserve, Mkambati is now owned by a Trust that represents the 40,000 local Pondo people living inland from the reserve. This Trust is our landlord, and, we’re happy to say, one of Natural Selection’s esteemed partners.

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De Hoop Reserve

Formerly the chosen holiday venue of ex South African president, FW de Clerk, De Hoop Reserve is one of Africa’s largest marine parks, and home to pods of dolphin and enormous populations of southern right whales. Our co-founder, Colin Bell, has invested in the reserve (along with a few key others), and our lodges are due to open in 2018.

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Namibia Tracks & Trails

When it comes to Namibian safaris, experience counts - and that’s where Namibia Tracks and Trails (NTT) come in. Founded in 1986 by Karl Heinz Grüttemeyer, NTT has spent the last 30 years organising mobile and fly-in safaris to some of the most remote and spectacular areas of Namibia. A true family business (there are no less than three generations involved!), the NTT team now numbers 28, and every single person is committed to the preservation of this vast and beguiling land, just as we are.

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At Natural Selection, conservation is at the heart of everything we do. The loss of any natural habitat, in Africa or other, is a sobering loss for us all, and we want to do something about it. We want to make a difference. To start with, we are pledging 1.5% of our gross revenue to wildlife conservation. Our donations are built into our business model and based on our overall income, not just our profit. We are wholeheartedly embracing our commitment to Africa's wildlife.

In addition to this, we partner with the local communities, governments and conservation organisations in the areas where we operate to help protect (and sometimes even expand) these important conservation areas, and to create long-term benefits. We build camps that best suit the area, working with the environments and habitats that we find there. Camps and lodges shouldn’t be obvious; they should blend perfectly into their surroundings.

Lastly, we intend to keep our guests abreast of Africa’s triumphs, losses and continued challenges, with the hope that we will inspire other wildlife-lovers to make a change. While it’s perhaps only a drop in the bucket of what is required, it’s a drop that we hope will make a difference.

Let us all make a difference.