African Bush Camps will spend the next year building its brands and reviewing its offering and service levels as it expands its operations.

The operator is expanding its footprint in Zimbabwe having just completed the purchase of Bumi Hills Safari Lodge in the Matusadona National Park.

The company also has some big developments underway for 2017, when it will open its first lodge in Zambia and expand its footprint in Botswana with a new camp while the first of its ten camps opened only ten years ago will relocate to a new location.

Several of its existing camps will also undergo extensive refurbishments and upgrades in the coming months, said CEO, Beks Ndlovu.

Ndlovu was speaking to Tourism Update ahead of the company’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Cape Town.

According to Ndlovu, the operator has no immediate plans to expand further into Africa. “We have a very firm grasp of what our footprint is and what we want to accomplish with these properties. Our goal for the next six to 12 months is to really develop our offering and make our brand solid.”

He said expansion into Matusodona was one that had been on the cards for some time.

“Matusadona has been missing from our profile and our expansion here will boost our offering significantly,” said Ndlovu. “As will Thorntree in Zambia. It was critical for us to establish a presence in Livingston if one takes that 90% of our clientele start or end their trip at Vic Falls. Providing that link between Zambia and Zimbabwe and creating that additional space for our clients was important for our portfolio. I don’t however see us expanding much more or into any other countries at present.”

He said they remained extremely cognisant and mindful of retaining a business that had a family-owned and run feel to it.

“Remaining authentic to our DNA is vital for me and that means keeping the business to a size where we can have that level of control to be attentive to the different units and offerings we have. Our ambition is not to be a corporate running remote safari camps in Africa.”

He said with renovations ongoing at Thorntree and Khwai Leadwood, the new sister camp for Khwai in the Moremi Game Reserve, they were also revisiting all of their camps to see how they could improve on their service offering.

“With the ongoing need to tap into new markets and to diversify it is essential that we not sit back, but find ways to improve the experience we offer,” said Ndlovu. “We realise there is a very magic spirit that people attach to our first camp Somalisa and we want to extend that. Our third site in Hwange will be Somalisa Expeditions and will be built in the style of Somalisa."

At the same time Kwai Tented Camp in the Moremi Camp is being rebuilt with a planned re-opening in April next year.

“We are also busy with some soft refurbishings at Linyanti Bush Camp in Chobe,” he said.

But, said Ndlovu, amid all the upgrades, renovations and new openings remained the commitment to deliver an authentic safari experience with exceptional guides at the heart of it. “Our repeat visists are very high as are our recommendations. We believe this is due to the fact that the impact we have on the individual traveller is quite deep. Our guides play a critical role in delivering this experience to our customers. Creating the magic that Africa is known for is ultimately what it is about.”