Mark Butcher, winner of Guardian Travel’s Ethical award for 2014, is helping to rebuild tourism to Zimbabwe by solving local issues in concert with conservation at his Imvelo Safari Lodges
Video: how elephants are being protected by ex-poachers in Zimbabwe
At dawn the bush comes to life. Birds sing, a lion roars and a tiny deer steps gingerly past my veranda. As the first rays of light touch the acacias, there is a soft voice by the canvas and a tea tray is set out. Soon after sunrise, I grab my camera and climb on an open-top Land Rover to set out on the hunt for animals. The safari experience is underway.
I’m in Zimbabwe but you could apply the same paragraph to any one of a dozen African countries and thousands of safari trips. It’s a gorgeous thing to feel so deep in the wilderness, with nature in the raw just a whisker away. But what we don’t see, not very often, is the underpinning behind this ravishing image. Who works there? Where does the money go? What, if anything, does the operation contribute towards the preservation of the wilderness it exploits? And how secure is the long-term future of that wilderness? I had come on a trip that offers just that: a chance to see, clearly, what lies beneath.