Blakeney girl sets up eco-safari company

The Norfolk coast and landlocked Malawi might not seem to have much in common - but growing up in one has helped Kate Ward have a respect for the other.

The north Norfolk coast and landlocked Malawi might not seem to have much in common - but growing up in one has helped Kate Ward have a respect for the other.

For a year, the 28-year-old lived in a tent in the wilds of Uganda running an eco-lodge - a world away from her childhood in Blakeney.

But now Kate and her boyfriend are going it alone in Malawi by starting The Responsible Safari Company, with lessons she learned from tourism in Norfolk behind the sustainable ethos of the business.

'Growing up on the Norfolk coast, I think you really appreciate the importance of conservation and ensuring tourism has a minimal impact on the landscape and lifestyles of the local people. Perhaps this is what led me to follow this path in Africa,' she said.

'We finished our contract in Uganda in July and decided to use both our experiences in tourism

and development work to form a

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new company encompassing a responsible travel ethos.

'The Responsible Safari Company is a culmination of our work at the lodge in Uganda and my work within the local community.

'We realised people/tourists wanted more out of their classic safari experience. Often people wanted to exchange skills, develop a deeper understanding of local cultures and contribute to the sustainable development of the countries they were visiting.'

The couple travelled from Kenya to South Africa in 2005, which is when they fell in love with Malawi.

'The people are so friendly and the landscape is spectacular - it just had more of an untouched feel to it,' said Kate, whose dad is a boat builder in Morston.

Although they returned to the UK, they immediately started to look for jobs in Africa and came upon the roles at the eco-lodge.

Their management duties ranged from accounting to maintenance and cooking and hosting guests, which set them up for running their own business.

Kate also did work in the community in adult literacy and teaching children about conservation.

'The Responsible Safari Company offers unique travel experiences to Malawi and Zambia. It provides a combination of big five game

safaris with short-term volunteer placements, tailor-made to the client,' said Kate.

'We have a strong responsible travel ethos and believe that tourism should positively benefit local communities,' she added.

Kate has just finished a masters degree in education and international development, specialising in the effects of tourism on local communities.

The couple's website is www.responsiblesafari and has been designed by Norfolk man Tom Girling.

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