The future for sustainable safari tourism in South Africa and what to think about before booking your safari holiday.
We caught up with Colleen Glaeser, Global Marketing Director for AxxonSoft and owner of Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa to talk about sustainable safari tourism in South Africa and how to combat poaching by using artificial intelligence.
L.N Colleen, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your current roles at AxxonSoft and Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa?
C.G A few years back, I helped bring AxxonSoft into the Southern African region. Today, AxxonSoft Southern Africa is considered one of the top surveillance and security companies in the region. The next step was to join the international board of directors as the first female director. It is a role I am privileged and honoured to hold. It was from there that I moved into the role as Global Marketing Director. Over the past two years, we have seen the need to transform the company’s global marketing initiatives as we hurtle through the digital era. Creating this role has enabled me and my team to take the brand to new heights through various digital strategies. It is through AxxonSoft that I came across Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa. I had a meeting with the previous owner about incorporating our deep learning technology within the reserve. I immediately fell in love with the property and all it had to offer. It truly is a magical place. I soon took over management of the villas, and last year, I became the owner of the property. Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa is a passion of mine, and I thoroughly the environment and its unique offerings. It has become home and my sanctuary, and I have a superb team of staff who make Karkloof extraordinary.
L.N What makes Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa such a unique experience?
C.G Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa is unique in many more ways than one. It is not often that one gets to experience the best of bush and countryside side in a single trip. This is what makes Kwa-Zulu Natal so spectacularly unique. From the moment you drive through the gate into the Karkloof reserve and witness prolific wildlife, to expeditions to the Karkloof Waterfall, every moment is special. Our award-winning spa is also unique. It is no ordinary spa, boasting 16 private treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure lounge and hydro facilities. What better way to start the day than with a game drive and end it with a pampering spa treatment? With truly attentive service, fine dining at leisure and safaris on demand, the team endeavour to ensure that the guests’ wellbeing and satisfaction is their highest priority. It’s a spectacular destination for those in search of a combination of rest and restoration mixed with exploration and adventure.
L.N You put a lot of focus on sustainability at Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa how is this reflected in the guest experience?
C.G The lodge and villas are all designed to complement its splendid surroundings and are styled with meticulous attention to detail, embodying the surrounding rich heritage, whilst also exuding a sense of elegance and sophistication. Furthermore, the eco-design of the spa incorporates natural materials, with thatch and living roofs where small animals can graze. As a guest, it’s quite a sight to see. We also source most of our ingredients for the dining experiences locally. For example, visitors can savour the flavours of our famous honeycomb ice cream. The honey is sourced from beehives on the reserve and is quite delicious.
L.N You have innovatively combined both AxxonSoft and Karkloof to combat poaching by using artificial intelligence can you tell us a bit more about the project?
C.G This technology utilises the latest surveillance and security solutions, which incorporates deep learning, which is a method under Artificial Intelligence (AI). This technology has been adapted to tell the difference between humans and animals. Prior to the incorporation of Deep Learning in anti-poaching surveillance, software often failed control rooms and response units in that false alarms were on many occasions, set off by animals, insects and weather. Control rooms were not able to tell the difference between an actual threat and a false alarm, which often resulted in exhausting resources as teams were dispatched for animals who had touched the fence while grazing in their natural habitat. AxxonSoft’s Deep Learning solution now alerts the operators in the control room to an immediate poaching threat as poachers try and breach the fence perimeter to enter the reserve or park. It took us about 6 months to roll out and implement the technology.
L.N At the moment, you are trying to create South Africa’s first safe park, can you share something about the project with us?
C.G Based on my expertise in surveillance, and as an owner of Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa, it is my mission to help create safe parks and reserves across the country and continent. Working together with AxxonSoft to implement our Deep Learning technology in these parks, I realised that we needed to take this initiative one step further. AxxonSoft has successfully rolled out various SafeCity projects around the world. These projects aim to create a safer city and world for all citizens via the implementation of intelligent surveillance technology in public spaces. It is from this that the SafePark idea was born – to create a safe and secure environment for Africa’s majestic animals and those who put their lives on the line to protect them. I believe that through the implementation these technologically advanced solutions, parks and reserves across South Africa and the rest of Africa can justly become safe sanctuaries, alleviating massive threats such as poaching, a disturbing trend that will soon see the extinction of animals such as rhinos and elephants if anti-poaching initiatives are not successful.
L.N What should travellers think about when booking a safari experience in Africa?
C.G Think about what part of Africa you would really like to see. Our beautiful continent is so diverse in its offering, it can be a tough decision choosing where to go. Perhaps you want to experience more than just the bush. Make the best of beach and bush in one stay, it’s worth the trip. Make sure to check which areas are malaria-free and if they are not, ensure you take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the disease.
L.N How do you see the future for safari tourism in South Africa?
C.G Sustainable safari tourism is on the way up. Travellers are looking for more than just a safari experience. They want to know that the reserves and parks they are visiting are conscious about sustainability and are proactively taking steps to prevent poaching while keeping the biodiversity alive and well.
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