Wildlife clubs bring Africa to corporate conservationists
IF YOU will consider no other venue but a bush based one when planning your own or your company's entertainment or incentive travel programmes, you are the target of two clubs you can't afford to ignore.
The first is The African Collection, which was launched three years ago and offers special usage rights at a fixed cost for a five-year period at close on 30 game lodges in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The second is Conservation Corporation Africa's more recent and edited answer to it.
The African Collection, conceived by former Southern Sun Resorts managing director Gavin Michelmore, operates in association with the Micor Travel Group, Mercedes Benz SA and five African lodge organisations. Among them is Kenya's Lonrho Hotel Group, operator of the famous Mount Kenya Safari Club.
The African Collection is affiliated to the Wilderness Foundation. Chairman of its board of trustees is renowned conservationist Ian Player.
An individual or corporate membership costs R45 000, which is held in a trust account until the accommodation is taken up. The membership entitles its holder to 36 nights for two people sharing (72 bed nights), including all meals, game drives and other lodge activities. What is important is that this caps the rate at an approximate R625 a person a day, whereas current equivalent lodge rates range from R1 000 to R2 000 a person a day.
Accommodation is subject to availability and a credit system is applied to smooth over foreign currency and seasonal rate variations. But there's no doubt that an African Collection membership is a passport to bush experience riches in Africa's great game reserves.
Apart from the Lonrho Group's five lodges in Kenya, the collection includes the Aga Khan's Serena Lodges in Tanzania, Orient Express Gametrackers Lodges in the Okavango, Landela Safari Group lodges in Zimbabwe, Mowana Lodge in Chobe, Ungava Lodge in Etosha and the Eastern Cape's Shamwari Game Reserve.
Michelmore says excellent itineraries take the sweat out of bullying members - among the corporate ones are Nampak, Nedcor, Ogilvy & Mather, Absa, Firestone, SBC Warburg and Fleming Martin - into using their accommodation allocations. "But now that we are about to enter into an agreement with Club Corporation of America, which offers usage rights to some 250 prestigious clubs worldwide, African Collection members certainly won't have a problem using up leftover bed nights."
The organisation handles all travel and transfer arrangements for its members.
The Varty brothers' Conservation Corporation Africa, which owns Mpumalanga's Londolozi and bills itself as Africa's largest ecotourism group, recently took a cue from the African Collection and launched the Conservation Corporation Africa Membership Programme.
With 19 lodges in southern and eastern Africa, the programme enables members to buy a minimum of 100 bed nights for R85 000 and promises a saving of 55% over five years.
One difference with the African Collection is that the Conservation Corporation Africa Membership programme divides lodges into categories. In the first, one night equals one night's stay at a more upmarket lodge such as Londolozi - if you can get into it - or Ngorogoro Crater Lodge. In the third category, there are two free nights for every one night purchased at Zululand Tree Lodge, for example.
Seeff Properties is marketing the programme, described by Dave Varty as a way of thanking South Africans for giving the group "life in the 1970s".
Overdosing on wildlife has never been as affordable or easier. ý Linda Stafford is a senior editor of the Financial Mail