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For conservation to be successful in Africa, there needs to be an integral and participatory relationship between tourism operations and neighbouring communities which border the reserve. SGR members have long recognised that their greatest asset is staff, the majority of whom hail from local communities and many of whom have been part of the SGR story since the very beginning 40 years ago. Today, there are second generation employees based across the member’s lodges, in both the hospitality and safari spheres.

With this in mind, SGR has always endeavoured to focus its community involvement on projects that benefit and involve staff, their families and respective communities. Our mission is to make a difference by fostering the success and upliftment of our neighbours in the communities bordering the Reserve. To the west SGR borders Ximungwe district of the Bushbuckridge municipality (encompassing the rural Shangaan villages of Huntingdon, Lillydale and Justicia) where many of our staff live. With a high number of employed:dependents in these communities, employment represents a tangible benefit to such communities. The relationship is reciprocal - employees provide a loyal service to the company in all aspects of the operation from the workshop, safari, hospitality and marketing, and the company in turn invests in human resources, recognises talent and believes in promoting its employees on merit and accomplishment. An ongoing internal training programme is in place that promotes and encourages skills development.

Financial benefits by employment are significant, but not the only contributor to benefits. Benefits from the tourism operation extends beyond the boundaries of our protected area and to the people in these communities. The challenge is to ensure that such benefits are sustainable. By supporting various community projects and promoting participation, accountability, transparency, democracy and good governance and ‘putting the last first’ one hopes that this can be achieved and things will come right (‘Swi ta Lunga’) for the legitimate recipients.

Sabie Game Reserve members represents decades of defining and refining this model of successfully integrating these cornerstones (ecotourism, conservation and community) and putting them into practice. Our historical involvement has spanned multiple initiatives. SGR strives to be able to contribute to solving these challenges and to be part of conservation of both community, culture and nature for all future generations.