Remote Africa Safaris’ strapline #atnaturespace sums it up; authenticity, remoteness, inspiration, conservation and community. With Tafika Camp and both the Chikoko Trails Camps in the South Luangwa and Mwaleshi and Takwela in the North Luangwa, guests are truly off the beaten track, this is untamed Africa. We asked Nick, the nearly newest member of the Coppinger family, our 10Q in the 3rd of our partner mini series and hope you enjoy the read:
1. Please introduce yourself by telling us what inspired you to start/work with Remote Africa?
Remote Africa Safaris is a family owned and run operation in the truest sense, and has been since its inception. Jen Coppinger, who is the daughter of the founding directors of the company, has worked with her parents for a number of years and we have decided to make this our future path together.
2. Did you always dream of working in this industry or did you set out to do something else? What led you to where you are now?
Growing up in South Africa in what has become a region filled with private reserves and game ranches, I had always dreamt of being a wildlife vet or game ranger. I spent a number of years studying fisheries and working for a South African government institution which conducted and facilitated marine research. Over the years Jen and I returned to the Luangwa Valley on holidays and it was only a matter of time before we were ready to relocate and make the Luangwa our lives.
3. What has been your greatest challenge(s) along the way with Remote Africa?
Remote Africa’s biggest challenge is probably the seasonal nature of the operation, though it is also the essence of the Luangwa Valley. If it were a year-round destination, it would be far more developed and less ‘real’. There really are very few places left in the world quite like it.
4. What one ‘thing’ has been integral to your journey from the start?
Having a science background, I think one of the key factors to me has always been to look at the bigger picture and maintain a wholistic view and way of thinking. Tourism would not survive without the animals, the animals would not survive without the magnitude of conservation work being done throughout the Luangwa and the communities would not be sustainable were the conservation not successful and if the tourism industry was absent form the region.
5. Do you have a favourite animal or bird and why?
I love lions for a number of reasons. Their size and power yet stealth and caution always intrigue me. They are a species which I believe to be a great indicator – if their numbers are high, conservation efforts are working well and there is sufficient prey in the habitat and there is a respect for the presence of these animals from the local communities. This is a major tick in my opinion with human-animal conflict becoming an ever increasing risk for all wild animals.
6. What is your favourite season or time of year in The Luangwa Valley?
I am yet to spend a wet season in the Luangwa, but I believe that it is impressive – I plan to do it soon though. I really enjoy the late dry season (August-October) when animals are highly concentrated, all interactions (human-animal and animal-animal) are stretched to their limits in search of nourishment and resources and find it SO rewarding when the stability and balance of the Luangwa comes out on top year in and year out. Of course this is the time of year where the frequency of phenomenal sightings is highest which helps when I’m always moving around with my camera. October’s atmosphere is electric as the first rains since April start looming.
7. What are your top three reasons for visiting Zambia?
- Friendly people – along with Malawians, Zambians are generally accepted as being some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in Africa.
- The diversity and richness of the country and its habitats. Zambia has a huge portion of its land area dedicated to national parks and game management areas.
- The real game viewing experiences. Growing up in South Africa, one of the things that I enjoy most about Zambia is the fact that animals can roam the country at their will effectively. Studies have shown that lion genetics indicate mixing between the Luangwa Valley, Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Park.. a distance in the region of 800km with human habitation between these parks. Where else in the world do you find such integration of the people and the country?!
8. What is the most pressing issue for you right now, in terms of the impact of Covid 19?
Balancing the needs and wants of the people and the animals. No tourism means that most operators are unable to offer any remuneration to their staff in the three major parks in Zambia (South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi). With no money, conservation becomes compromised and the regular tourism employees are unable to sustain their families. The pressure on the wildlife and health of the rural communities becomes a massive risk.
9. What can people do to support wildlife conservation and protect communities where you are, during this time?
Food parcels for communities would alleviate the strain on hunger. Conservation South Luangwa are responsible for managing conservation patrols, along with Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). They have started advertising the possibility to sponsor conservation patrols. Eyes on the ground are what the wilderness needs at this stage
10. Is there anything you would like to say to past and potential guests and the wider Africa conservation and interested community?
Hang in there and be true to yourself and the communities that you are part of. For us it is a time that will test the trust of our communities on tourism as they will tempted to poach. But we believe that the relationship that we have fostered with them over the past 30 years will stand strong through this challenge. We hope that the world comes out of this scenario stronger and with a greater appreciation for travel which is responsible and sustainable. Besides, we are a family-run operation and that family extends to the communities in the Luangwa Valley because without them we would not be here.