Ngoko Safaris started life as the pipe dream of two friends who met on safari in Africa in 2001. Fiona was taking only her third safari, along with her husband Graeme, and had tagged on a week in Botswana at the end of a two week self-drive in Namibia. Benson and his wife Noreen had just moved to Botswana from his beloved Zimbabwe where he had been running Little Makalolo camp for Wilderness Safaris. He was soon to take over the guiding and management of Savuti Camp in Botswana but for a short time was based at the old Kings Pool Camp, doing some guide training.
As the story goes, Benson decided to allow the camp guides to select their guests as a one-off. No-one wanted the British couple who were due to arrive in camp and they were “left-over” for Benson to incorporate into his guide training! Fiona and Graeme were arriving into camp from Namibia having had an amazing self-drive in Etosha and wondering how on earth the camp prices in Botswana could be justified (as an aside we decided after the first game drive that even if we didn’t see anything else during our stay we had already had value for money!).
Fate is a strange beast and we often wonder at the circumstances that brought us together at Kings Pool and the intensity of the life-changing experiences over those three days…chasing after a pack of wild dogs hunting, carefully walking into a herd of buffalo, losing differential locking in our 4×4 and getting stuck in deep Kalahari sands, being charged on numerous occasions by stressed elephants and sharing the terrible events of 9/11 with American guests. The friendship formed in those few days, the laughter and the fun and the sadness of saying goodbye, was enough for us to want to meet again. So we did…many times. Benson used his precious leave from work to travel with us in Zimbabwe and Botswana, and he also traveled to the UK for the first time. In 2004 we did a 6 week self-drive through Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. The seed to start a company together had been sown at The Devil’s Cataract on the lip of the Victoria Falls but it was whilst relaxing in Zanzibar at the end of our epic adventure that we decided to take the plunge and follow our dreams by establishing Ngoko Safaris.
The name “Ngoko” translates as “dung beetle” in the local Shona language and we chose this for two reasons. Firstly, it is Benson’s African nickname, signifying “busy, industrious, and conscientious”. Secondly it illustrates our closeness to nature. We like to show our guests the real Africa, up close and in detail.
The early years of Ngoko Safaris were undeniably tough but we were fortunate to have the unwavering support of a few wonderful guests. Some can no longer travel the long distances to Africa but remain as precious to us now as they were then. Something quite incredible has emerged in recent years…An Ngoko Family. We have a passion for what we do and it seems this is shared by our guests, many of whom have become close and firm friends. They are as much a part of Ngoko as we are.
Ngoko is still a small company and that is what we will continue to be. Benson is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and privately guides many of our guests. Fiona is based in the UK and handles all of the reservations. The service is highly personal and flexible. Our bookings are mainly from repeat guests or word of mouth recommendations and we are able to build up long term relationships which enlighten all of our lives.
What are our dreams for the future? Well, for the time being we are enjoying sharing our passion for Africa, meeting so many wonderful new people and discovering new locations to take our guests. This is a personal journey and who knows what the final destination will be? However at the heart of what we do are the people, the wildlife and the African environment in which they live. The education of the African child and the protection of the environment and its flora and fauna are vital. Benson is in the process of building a small orphanage near Victoria Falls, so maybe that will be where the journey takes us…