As an avid wildlife enthusiast Paul Klomp travelled regularly to Africa from his home in the Utrecht region of The Netherlands. However, finding that he was, as he puts it, “becoming frustrated with the typical safari experience offered by the famous 5-star lodges around central and southern Africa”, he started to look for an alternative option.
Discovering a private game reserve being developed in Botswana’s Tuli Block in 2006, Paul became one of the first to buy a share in the new development.
“The concept of ‘Africa on your own terms’ really appealed to me and it was not long before I decided to become a co-owner of this unique private game reserve,” he says.
Following the global financial meltdown in 2008, the reserve – still in its infancy – experienced some difficulties from a funding perspective. By this time Paul, now semi-retired, had developed a deep passion for this part of Africa and had been instrumental in convincing a number of other people to become co-owners in the reserve, like him.
With extensive experience in sales and marketing as a director of his family’s publishing, printing and paper merchant business, Paul took it upon himself to set up a new sales and marketing company “to further support the recovery and sustainability of the reserve” – and, in 2014, Part of Africa was born.
But why, of all the places he has visited in Africa, did he want to lay down roots in the Tuli Block? “Tuli is amazing and it’s still, even today, a hidden gem,” Paul enthuses. “Many people, including South Africans, are not aware of it [even though]it is relatively close to Johannesburg and as such very easily accessible. It has everything that the more renowned northern reserves of Botswana have but with a very low footprint in terms of tourists and local communities.”
It’s not just the ability to go on safari without the crowds that attracted him to the reserve. Being able to play an active part in conservation is critically important to Part of Africa, which Paul co-founded with his now wife Sylvia van Kerkwijk.
“Increasingly, African wildlife and wilderness areas are being heavily and negatively affected by the encroachment of people on traditionally exclusive conservation areas,” Paul says. “Our philosophy is to ensure that our reserve is sustainable in all respects. We also strive to regenerate the reserve to be as close as possible to what the land would have been like prior to the settlement of people in the area about 150 years ago.
“Having said that, however, we need to ensure that the land is perceived to be of value to our local communities and, through our support for each other, we hope to make sure that the reserve remains relevant and will last well into the future.”
There is huge competition for land in Africa, whether it be for housing, agriculture, mining or wildlife among others, but Paul believes conservancies have a vital role to play, not just in a monetary sense but also in terms of conservation, tourism and the future for local communities and the region as a whole.
“The perceived conflicting needs of people and our natural resources will always be an extremely complex and difficult balance to achieve,” says Paul. “But the Botswana government is well aware that its wildlife represents a real opportunity to ensure that when the diamonds and other mineral resources are depleted, that its wilderness areas will remain as a critical source of GDP. Education of our local people is critical to achieving this balance. People must see and feel the value of conservation in their pockets and in their stomachs.”
Becoming a co-owner of such properties is one way for Africa lovers to become involved in preserving that future. A way that is a degree above contributing through more traditional tourism, Paul believes.
“Unfortunately, conservation is expensive,” he says. “By buying into such a concept, you are providing financial sustainability to the conservation efforts of the reserve. Tourism can also be fickle – people’s tastes change. They get over safari experiences and go to the sea or visit other exotic destinations. Once you have bought into our reserve, you have embedded sustainable value into the park and into the local community.
“Simply put, being a co-owner is like being part of an extended family. When visiting the reserve, you actually feel that you have come home. Everything is familiar and yet exciting at the same time. Our buzz phrase is that by ‘being a co-owner, you can actually experience wild Africa on your own terms, just so long as you do not negatively impact on the fauna, flora and your other co-owners’.
“It’s truly an amazing feeling to look at a dung beetle or lion or elephant and all of the magnificent trees and you feel like they are yours… that you are the custodian and protector of them.”
Part of Africa is the exclusive sales and marketing agent for a 20,500ha private reserve located in the Tuli Block, in southeastern Botswana. To find out more go to www.partofafrica.com