10 Years of Extraordinary Safaris
It was 10 years ago this year that Natural World Safaris MD Will Bolsover, started the first of his experiential wildlife businesses. Today in 2015, Natural World Safaris is an award-winning company that continues to go from strength to strength by remaining true to the values upon which is was built – extraordinary client focused journeys, informed by consummate expertise of destinations and wildlife experiences, that put you in the right place at the right time.
It seemed only fitting to launch the 10th anniversary by finding out how it all began. This interview with Will reveals what makes NWS different, why ethical tourism is good for conservation and what the future might hold for wildlife travel.
It's been 10 years since you started your first business. Tell us your story; how did you get where you are today?
It’s actually always felt a bit like a natural progression really. At the age of 18 I took the standard Gap year to go and explore and experience the world. After teaching in Kenya for 3 months, I then travelled throughout most of East Africa, finding out what it was all about. On my return to the UK, I decided to change my university and course from European Studies at Northumbria, to French, African and Asia Studies at Sussex University in Brighton. This was a 4 year course and I managed to spend the third year abroad and ran a small independent development project in the middle of the bush in Cameroon. Combining a series of skill sets and being the only westerner involved at the Foundation, I worked on anything from constructing a resource centre, distance learning and teaching in the local school, to animal husbandry and building a local football pitch!
Following university, I applied for a job directly as a guide/tour leader and for the next two years or so I travelled around Africa guiding trips. Destinations varied hugely and included Morocco, Madagascar, Ghana, Gabon and SaoTome.
Major highlights included setting up the first gorilla safaris in Gabon with Emmanuel de Merode
This was in addition to leading safaris in one of the most unusual and wonderful natural world destinations left in the world today, Madagascar.
Guiding soon took it out of me and I was convinced to get a ‘proper job’! Moving into event management I spent two years in sales, learning the ropes. However, the thrill of working in Africa#n remained and the continent kept beckoning, so I applied and secured a job with a specialist gorilla safari operator with properties in both Uganda and Rwanda. Helping to manage the UK office, I learnt a huge amount over the next few years until I finally decided to set up my own company, the only company in the world to specialise in primate safaris…aptly named, World Primate Safaris! From here we steadily grew, creating new specialist brands including World Big Cat Safaris and World Bear Safaris. In 2013 we finally decided to combine the names under the all-encompassing Natural World Safaris.
Tell us about your previous expertise in guiding.
Guiding was always great fun, but also hard work! Being based in a destination from anything from 4 weeks to 6 months, you had to know it like the back of your hand. Trips were often back to back, sometimes with 2 groups crossing over at the airport. This meant you met loads of interesting and fun people, but also a few ‘different’ ones! My personal favourite endeavour was assisting the set up of the first ever gorilla safaris in Gabon with Emmanuel de Merode, who is now Director of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Whereas the most rewarding in terms of wildlife, had to be the time I spent in Madagascar.