Frequently Asked Questions:
Everything you need to know about the Green Safaris and Tongabezi Marriage!
1. Why is this happening?
The most important question of all!
- Tongabezi and Green Safaris are continually evolving in order to move forward as the best possible versions of ourselves.
The short answer:
- This marriage is happening in order to bring exciting and positive changes that will benefit not only Tongabezi and Green Safaris, but also our wonderful friends, guests and customers from around the world, and most importantly the wider communities we live within and the wild spaces we call home.
The long answer:
- Ben and Vincent realised that Tongabezi and Green Safaris have equally quirky personalities and a similar vision for the future, and – and surely this is the best reason for a partnership -- we also have things to teach each other.
- Whilst the other Green Safaris properties such as Kaya Mawa and Chisa Busanga Camp are entirely unlike Tongabezi in many ways – Kaya Mawa is a leggy beach property with miles of sandy shores and Chisa Busanga Camp is literally made up of human-sized luxury bird nests – they and the other Green Safaris properties share Tongabezi’s playful, friendly presence.
- We also both believe that tourism is an incredible opportunity to make positive, sustainable change in the world. We want to commit to running our businesses for the benefit of not just customers and shareholders but for our local communities and for the world that we live in and are responsible for. We feel that this partnership is a wonderful opportunity to create positive, sustainable change for everyone.
Because this is good for Tongabezi:
- Tongabezi is about to celebrate its 30th birthday (we know, we don’t look a day over 21!) and this partnership allows us to move confidently into the next stage of our life just as a wedding might.
- We will be joining a family that we already know we’re going to get along with, and who we can learn from and teach in our turn. It is also a great comfort to know that this partnership was originally initiated by our founder Benjamin Parker, and that he would have been incredibly excited by the community, conservation, and sustainability initiatives that Green Safaris is already supporting and enabling at Tongabezi and around other parts of Southern Africa.
- Ben always wanted Tongabezi to move towards being a truly eco-lodge, but although we’ve made radical changes in the name of sustainability, we know that we could be doing more. What we needed was fresh energy and a better understanding of the ways to go about changing not only the face of Tongabezi but the operations, all the way from the back of house to our river cruises, to ensure that we are being as eco-friendly as possible.
- Green Safaris has the passion and the know-how to take us to that next vital stage without changing anything that makes Tongabezi so truly special.
Because this is good for friends and customers:
- As a destination, Zambia is vastly underutilised by thousands of travellers from around the world. Even guests looking for exactly what Zambia offers (which is a lot!) often spend little or no time here when they come to our part of the world.
- Joining forces allows us to open up itinerary options for our guests, making new transport links and ensuring that current ones become more affordable. As part of the Green Safaris group, we will be able to de-complex and remove costs from many parts of the booking process.
- We will also continue to develop new activities and exciting experiences for our guests, all under the ultra-eco, travel-with-a-purpose umbrella, such as Green Safaris pioneered with their Silent Safaris.
Because this is good for our community and wild spaces:
- For over 30 years at Tongabezi Benjamin and Vanessa Parker have nurtured and empowered local communities in Simonga and the larger Kazangula area. This has been done through the Tongabezi Trust School – Tujatane – and also through the Tongabezi Educare Programme and through training and zero-interest loan initiatives which have enabled Tongabezi staff and local Zambians to improve their own lives.
- This work is a vital part of the Tongabezi story. Each individual Tongabezi Trust School student who becomes a teacher or a lawyer or a pilot or a nurse is the Tongabezi legacy, possibly even more so than the 5-star reviews that our guests leave behind after their stay.
- Green Safaris is passionate about enabling Tongabezi to not only continue this legacy but to take our training, eco, and conservation efforts to new heights. Green Safaris have an established training and development focus that is built upon the Lobster Ink platform and provides training opportunities both inside and outside the Green Safaris employees.
2. Will anything change operationally at Tongabezi?
- Not really! Rudy will still run Tongabezi, Vanessa and Natasha will still be actively involved and living on-site, Gary will still be doing reservations, and our Sales reps are still all in post and available if you have any questions or would like to set up a call.
- Safeguarding the Tongabezi Team was one of the main reasons that this partnership was created!
The longer answer:
- Operationally Rudy will continue steering the ship, and he will do so with Daniel alongside to provide financial leadership and operational support, much in the way that Ben used to.
- Vanessa continues on as a Director of Tongabezi. She will sit on the Executive Committee and provide much-needed guidance to ensure that Tongabezi continues on the path that Ben and Will envisioned for this magical spot they discovered on the banks of the Zambezi. Fortunately for Vanessa, she will become less vital to the financial and investment planning side of things, giving her the time she craves to steer the Tongabezi Trust School which has always been her passion.
- Natasha will continue to run the marketing and coordinate the smiling face of Tongabezi to the wider world. The family home remains at Tangala, so the Parkers will be living on-site in the same way that they always have (which is sporadical, since Tangala will still be available for guests to stay in as they always have. The Parkers prefer living on Sindabezi when there is room anyway, and shall continue to do so).
- The Tongabezi Team (the beating heart and gentle soul of Tongabezi) will ebb and flow as their own lives direct, as usual. There are no plans to adjust the structure at Tongabezi or their roles, except to make new training programmes available to all. The Tongabezi Team is very happy together and very excited to become a part of a larger hospitality family, knowing that they are more valued and cared for now than ever before.
- We are so happy to confirm that our Sales Reps will also remain in their posts as the more regular smiling faces of Tongabezi. Please do send them any questions you might have or drop them a call!
- The only real/ new focuses will be completing the Green House as a priority, and identifying a programme to bring Tongabezi up to a carbon-neutral position as well as kick-starting the Lobster training programme for the staff and the communities around us.
3. Will the ethos and quirkiness of Tongabezi (i.e. Ben’s vision) continue?
- Absolutely! If you ever see anything that makes you think otherwise, then please tell us in the strongest possible terms. Vanessa and Natasha know that they aren’t quite Ben, but they and now Green Safaris want to carry on his legacy in his name as much as they possibly can.
The longer answer:
- We think that the Tongabezi and Green Safaris match makes such beautiful sense because of our existing shared ethos and the fact that our spirits are equally quirky and generous. We look forward to building on the unique attributes of each Green Safaris property whilst also letting some of the best bits cross-pollinate… so we’re just like any other family really!
- Alongside this culture and character, one reason why this marriage makes so much sense to us is the desire that Ben always had to take Tongabezi, Sindabezi, and Livingstone Island forwards into a stronger ultra-eco-tourism direction. The Green Safaris’ commitment to solar power, sustainable building, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, and most excitingly to coming up with countless trailblazing initiatives to change the face of tourism for the better is exactly what Ben and Will always wanted for Tongabezi.
- Tongabezi as a character, an aesthetic, a haven, a motion towards a better future for Zambians, and a perfect experience for guests, will never change except to improve according to the new energy and knowledge that Green Safaris brings to the table.
4. Would reservations still be done through Gary at Tongabezi and Mildred for Livingstone Island?
- a. Yes, in 2020 you will see very little in terms of changes in the day to day. We both plan to live together for a little while before making any changes to the house!
5. Can we also book other Green Safaris properties through Tongabezi?
- Yes! Both Tongabezi and Green Safaris are using ResRequest, and by April 2020 we will have combined our two environments so that you can make multiple property bookings very easily through our reservations teams.
The longer answer:
- Until training can be done, any multiple property bookings will be handled by a single member of the Green Safaris team. But the goal is for you to be able to keep your preferred Reservations contact as your point person and that person will be able to organise bookings for you at any Green Safaris property.
- In 2020 we don’t plan on making any large changes to the status quo, so email addresses and contact methods all remain the same.
- In the future, the plan is that all new bookings made, regardless of country or property, will come through one point in the future which will be our General Sales Agent in Mauritius.
- By the end of this year, we will have set up payment points in the UK and Holland in order to save you bank fees on international transfers.
6. Who will make decisions regarding agent rates/ specials/ FAM stays and educational stays? Who will agents need to contact for Tongabezi updates?
- Please continue to contact your normal representative, they will remain your go-to person, and you have an existing relationship with them!
7. Are there any discounted packages?
- Fabulous question. Naturally, there are! Our marriage is very exciting and we want to celebrate with you.
The longer answer:
- Green Safaris operate a Stay 7 Pay 6 Special, which Tongabezi will now be a part of. In addition to this, Green Safaris have initiated a 3-Night Rate at each of their properties, which can be bolted together into packages for even further savings on the day rates. Tongabezi and Sindabezi will be a part of this too.
- Green Safaris also have in place heavily subsidised flight routes to bring guests from Livingstone into Kafue and up to the Busanga Plains.
- Using the offers above, guests can now get a Livingstone/Kafue itinerary including flights from Tongabezi to Busanga and back to Lusaka (perhaps to go onwards to South Luangwa?) for less than $ per person per day all in!
- All other existing Tongabezi Specials will remain available for 2020. In 2021 they are likely to remain the same but this will be confirmed with the 2021 rate sheets.
8. What happens to the Tongabezi Trust School and the Tongabezi Educare Programme and all of the other Tongabezi community empowerment initiatives?
- This is an easy one. With the support, finances, and knowledge that Green Safaris have, they get bigger and better!
The longer answer:
- The Tongabezi Trust School mechanics, finances, and decision making are run completely separately from Tongabezi itself and have been since the school started. Tongabezi will continue to support, donate and empower, and Vanessa will have the time to get back into steering the school that she has nurtured on a volunteer basis for over 23 years now.
- Livingstone Island will continue to contribute generously to the wider Kazangula District area through the Tongabezi Educare Programme, building necessary buildings for education and healthcare and donating money and, more importantly, support to and structure to causes vital to improving Zambia for her wildlife and people.
- We will also roll in the wider-reaching empowerment, sustainability and conservation initiatives that the Green Safaris Conservation Foundation does in so many other parts of Africa.
- It would be impossible to move forward with an exciting step such as this one without giving special mention to Tongabezi’s founder and father Benjamin Parker. This partnership was his next magic trick, the step he believed would take Tongabezi forward and truly safeguard Tongabezi’s people and legacy.
- He had so much respect for the Green Safaris ethos and achievements, and he also wanted a partnership where the Tongabezi way of life might not only be appreciated but learned from and spread a little farther into the world.