A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it captures an unforgettable experience like a close encounter with one of our planet’s most ancient, iconic and endangered species.
And this is exactly what guests at HillsNek Safari Camp, one of the lodges on Amakhala Game Reserve close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, are discovering, thanks to an innovative initiative started by Sebastian van Breemen, a junior field guide at the Reserve.
Sebastian, a 25-year-old from Finland in his final year of studies, started taking photographs during a three-day game drive with the guests of HillsNek Safari Camp. Back at the lodge, Sebastian uploaded the photos onto the electronic screen in the lodge lounge, so guests could purchase the photographs as a picture memory of their trip.
The response was enthusiastic! The first pictures were sold on 5 August 2017 and raised almost R35, 000. 100% of the profits is donated to Chipembere Rhino Foundation to assist with the funding of VHF tracking collars, training and equipping K9 units and APUs (Anti-Poaching Units) with field equipment.
The photographs are printed on either photographic print paper or canvas in four sizes: extra small, small, medium and large, and can easily be rolled up and transported in a tube. They can also be purchased on a USB stick or be delivered via email.
The images capture a real-life experience for the guests, many whom have never been so close to the African wild. “Our guests come to Amakhala to enjoy the African bush, to see our stunning wildlife with their own eyes and to experience the environment first-hand and safely with well-trained and knowledgeable guides,” says Sebastian. “To return to the lodge afterwards and pick the pictures that capture the special moments from their trip, taken by the ranger they spent three days with, is personal, and it’s special. Every picture captures a story and a memory for our guests.”
The photos serve as beautiful souvenirs of an unforgettable experience; a great way to become part of and contribute to rhino conservation efforts; and an excellent conversation starter once back at home.
This initiative is gaining support and momentum among the rangers at other lodges on Amakhala. “Our primary goal is to financially aid CRF in its quest to protect the Amakhala rhinos. Our secondary goal is to create a platform that showcases what Amakhala rangers are doing for rhino conservation and protection,” explains Sebastian.
A “Goal Target Billboard” will be on display at the Amakhala Conservation Centre (ACC), as well as on the Amakhala and Chipembere websites in the near future, allowing the Amakhala ranger team and guests at all the lodges to stay involved and keep updated on the progress of the fundraising initiative.
“South Africa has been my home for the last three years. I love the beauty of nature in this environment, the wonderful people with their unique culture and, of course, the magnificent animals! I’ve found my place,” concludes Sebastian. “To be able to work with the animals, to share with visitors the wonder of nature, and to contribute to a future in which our rhinos are safe and thriving – it is a life I cherish immensely.”