Our Story
Our Story


To connect people with nature—both fulfilling the dreams of guests on safari and enriching the lives of the communities where we operate.


By offering competitively priced, outstanding, unique safari experiences to the travelling guest, we will innovatively create value from conservation objectives, rewarding local communities, employees, and stakeholders.

Our Drive

At one time, indigenous rural communities received very little direct benefit from Zimbabwe’s booming tourism industry. For the rural villager living next to a national park, wildlife was by no means an attraction; elephants ate their crops and lions killed their livestock. The animals were problematic and not something to encourage let alone protect. Tourists were strangers that travelled past in buses and planes who sometimes waved but spent their money elsewhere.

Our goal and long-term vision are that by building some of our safari lodges and camps within the communal lands and peripheral areas around our parks and bringing people closer to nature, a symbiotic relationship between conservation, responsible tourism and local communities can grow. This in turn promotes conservation of the local wildlife and natural resources and encourages sustainability for these village communities, while at the same time adding significantly to the experience for the responsible safari enthusiast.

Read About Our Journey

Our journey started with proposals to Rural District Councils through Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE program and developed into negotiations with excited local communities, ultimately paving the way for Gorges Lodge to open in 1995, which at the time was the largest safari tourism development ever undertaken on communal land.

Since then, Bomani Tented Camp, Camelthorn Lodge, Zambezi Sands and Jozibanini have opened, Gorges was extended and the luxury tented Little Gorges opened, and we acquired the beautiful Nehimba Lodge in the northwest of Hwange National Park. Our program has blossomed into a showpiece and model for actual successful community-based ecotourism. With funds and support reaching the communities directly, the results are tangible and the quality of life for tens of thousands of villagers in the huge area in which we operate has dramatically improved. Their response has exceeded our expectations. Visiting guests are welcomed with open arms in local villages and at our lodges and camps, locally employed staff have genuine smiles and provide an extra measure of hospitality. Even though Gorges Lodge and Zambezi Sands are no longer part of our portfolio, Imvelo Safari Lodges continues to make great strides in Hwange National Park—see Our Impact for more information on our projects and what we aim to continue to sustain, protect and grow.

Our commitment to conserving our wildlife and natural resources is not only aimed at local communities—Imvelo is heavily involved in a range of wildlife conservation programs daily, particularly in the more remote portions of our national parks.

Our guests can expect to be pampered in exciting lodges by friendly staff with experienced guides who will show them a unique safari experience that gets them involved and does make a difference to wildlife and local people’s lives—connecting people and nature.

Our Story Timeline
First boreholes drilled on community land Ngamo
Gorges Lodge opens—the first lodge on community land
Bomani Tented Camp opens
First classroom blocks built. Bomani Tented Camp burns down. Resuscitation of game water supplies in southern Hwange begins—new equipment at Xibi le Mpisi Pan
Bomani Tented Camp rebuilt and reopens
Employment of ex poachers begins in earnest—Japhet Mlilo maintains a game water supply engine
Water project inside the park (outside of our concessions) begins. By 2019, 18 borehole sustaining pans are available to wildlife in and around the park
Ngamo school classroom block built
The first year of the annual school lunch program
First teacher cottage built
Imvelo’s dental mobile program started. Ngamo Secondary School is built, and an additional teacher’s cottage was built
Construction begins on Camelthorn Lodge. Imvelo Safari Lodges brand forms and Hwange School Books project is started (by 2022 68,000 books delivered!) This year also marks the first local trainee guide recruited (turns full pro in 2023!)
Our first look up blind opens at Stoffie’s Pan! The water project inside the park grows by pumping water for wildlife using solar hybrid pumps
The innovative Elephant Express begins after two years of planning and work and Camelthorn Lodge opens after two years of preparations!
Jozibanini Camp opens and Nehimba Lodge is acquired and refurbished. Imvelo’s optometry program is added to the dental mobile program and becomes the Smile and See Safari
Family tent added at Bomani Tented Camp. We set up the popular Ngamo Lions Soccer Academy and the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative begins (Phase 1 opens May of 2022)
First recruitment, selection and basic training carried out for Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Scouts
20,000 curriculum textbooks distributed to schools. The first cataract surgeries were carried out on villagers living along HNP boundary. Our 18th borehole is completed inside the park but outside of our concessions to benefit wildlife
Onset of Covid yielded rebranding of Imvelo Safari Lodges to consist of our Hwange National Park properties only. First Cobras pass their training
The Ngamo Clinic treats its first patient and Community Rhino Conservation Initiative (CRCI) opens with phase I and the first two rhino brought to communal land bordering Hwange National Park! Ngamo Secondary accommodation buildings built, and 30,000 curriculum textbooks and readers distributed to over 110 schools
Our People
What can we say? It really does ‘take a village’ to accomplish what we do. Every single person we’ve had the pleasure of working with, side by side on myriad levels over the years, has directly contributed to our community and conservation efforts and the incredible safari experience we offer our guests. Our team is comprised of inspired and engaging people dedicated to meaningful and impactful safari experiences—the warm and welcoming chefs and lodge staff ensuring every detail is considered, trainee and professional guides leading the way with quiet confidence and charming personalities, the office crew who keep things efficiently ticking, the mighty mechanics and maintenance men, the Cobra rangers protecting our wildlife, and the devoted staff managing our community and conservation efforts—we are grateful for each and every one of them!

Staff Bios

Mark "Butch" Butcher

Managing Director, and Guide

Even though Butch is Imvelo’s managing director, he still spends as much time as he can in the bush. Butch’s career started as a ranger for the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. He completed a BSc in Zoology and Botany at Rhodes University before moving on to work for Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission. As provincial wildlife officer, Butch was responsible for the wildlife that roamed within 1.8 million acres of indigenous forest. He soon realized that the local peoples’ support was critical to the well-being of the estate, and began to develop programs that would both engage the people and benefit the natural ecosystems. He finally left the Forestry Commission to develop these initiatives through tourism. Butch’s lifelong passion for Hwange—its wildlife and communities—formed the foundation of what Imvelo Safari Lodges is today.

Njabulo Zondo


Zondo is the unsung hero of Imvelo, making things happen by motivating people in meetings at local, provincial, and central government levels. “My passion is achieving rural development by developing the human resources - that has been the focus of my work all my life,” he says. With GCSE passed by private study, and a diploma from the School of Social Work at the University of Zimbabwe, he was appointed project coordinator for a donor-funded program in health, water, and sanitation in Manicaland Province. Four years later he was attached to Hwange District Council by the Zimbabwe Trust, a non-profit developing natural resource management. For five years he trained executives and rural communities in this ground-breaking conservation initiative, while also completing another diploma in Supervisory Management. In 1996 he joined Butch in the private sector, creating the forerunner of Imvelo Safari Lodges.

Sam Moyo

Communities Officer

His career has been focused on rural development by husbanding natural resources—so Sam Moyo was a natural fit as Imvelo’s communities officer, and he has taken a pivotal role as our ‘get-it-done’ guy for many projects. “I will stay in this field for my entire life,” says Sam. “I love the challenges – the solutions are not to be found in any book, but in working with the people. Imvelo has really helped the communities where we work.” With an Honours degree in Geography and Environmental Studies, for eight years he worked for a south Matabeleland Rural District Council, and was responsible for the management of natural resources in the district, including wildlife, forestry, and quarrying. Income from these resources was ploughed back into community infrastructure such as boreholes and schools. The experience he gained here in local governmental procedures would serve him well in his next role with Imvelo.

Harris Mupedzi

Professional Guide

With his unassuming manner, guests readily warm to Harris – he is a great communicator (and speaks five languages to prove it) and has an encyclopedic knowledge of African wildlife, vegetation, and ecosystems. “Guides are the true ambassadors of our country,” he says. Harris started work as a boat crewman for a circuit of lodges in the Lake Kariba area, and worked his way up to guide for the same group for nearly a decade. He later spent almost the same period guiding and managing a beach lodge in north Mozambique before returning home. “I love the variety of Hwange, and the fantastic walking areas,” he says. “It’s really wild and I like very wild places.”

Cuan Rush

Senior Sales & Marketing Manager

Cuan hails from Durban on the east coast of South Africa. As a youngster, he was super keen on becoming a game ranger to protect the natural environment and wildlife. After completing school, he went on to Saasveld College down in the Cape and studied Nature Conservation. Since then, he’s been in the travel and tourism industry for almost 20 years, working in various fields, including managing a lodge in Zambia, a professional bird and wildlife guide touring all over Africa and Asia, and more recently as a travel specialist for a destination management operator in South Africa. With his keen understanding of the safari industry and appreciation of the guest experience, Cuan helps build many more memories like that for our valued visitors.

Siboe Sibanda

Guest Services Manager, Camelthorn

From a simple start in a rural village where as a young girl she helped her mother raise her 5 brothers, Siboe is now part of the management team running a million-dollar lodge. It’s a testimony to her drive as well as her ability. “It was my dream to work in tourism – coming from the community l thought of Imvelo as a world of opportunity,” she says. “Tourism can benefit local people in many ways - nearly all the staff here are locals.” Schooled at Ngamo Primary and Tsholotsho High, Siboe completed a certificate in nature conservation and environmental education and then worked for Hwange Lion Research before starting at lmvelo in 2019. Given her own story, she is keen for other youths from the village to step up. “l like working with motivated and enthusiastic people, and I would encourage young people to work in tourism.”

Hannah Tranter

Project Manager, CRCI

Hannah is our project manager for CRCI and our wide variety of other community and conservation programs, bringing many years of experience in the environmental sciences, sustainability, and education fields. She joined Imvelo in 2019 after five years with Cambridge University managing programs in natural capital management and entrepreneurship. Her experience includes hands-on field missions as well as research and academic programs, working in diverse cultural and ecological environments including Peru and Madagascar, before finding her footing in Zimbabwe. “CRCI combines the whole spectrum of conservation, community development, and project management – it’s a great challenge, but seeing the step-by-step progress is tremendously rewarding,” says Hannah. She holds an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security from the University of East Anglia and a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Sciences from the University of Southampton.

Vusa "Vus" Ncube

Professional Guide

Vusa grew up in Ngamo village near Imvelo’s Bomani and Camelthorn Lodges adjacent to Hwange National Park. As a boy looking after the family’s cattle, he dealt firsthand with the threat posed by elephant and lion from the park. Today, that same dangerous big game represents his livelihood, bringing visitors from around the world. Armed with a diploma in travel and tourism, he was first employed by Imvelo as a trainee guide and a year later he wrote the intermediate guides exam set by national parks. Thus began ten years of dedication before he passed the intense written and practical examinations for Zimbabwe’s Professional Guides licence – he is the first from his community to achieve this qualification. As a local lad, he brings a special touch and remarkable insights when taking guests around his home area, and he has become a role model for the next generation.

Ivy Nxumalo

Stores Controller, Bomani

Ivy Nxumalo is a good example of one of the staff of Imvelo who have their hands full behind the scenes, making sure the wheels continue to turn smoothly. Ivy is in charge of stores at Bomani, our largest property, both ordering supplies from head office and controlling issues. She started working at Bomani as a housekeeper in 2009 and learned on-the-job for her current role; all the more impressive since she only completed primary school because her family could not afford to further her education. Before joining the Bomani team, Ivy was a full-time mum – she has four children with a 10-year age range; two are still at boarding school and she only gets to see them on holidays. “I enjoy my job at Bomani,” she says. “My favorite feeling is being organized and in control so that things are running well!”

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