Interview with Specialist Photo Guide – Edward Selfe
Who is Edward Selfe?
Edward Selfe is a specialist photo guide who has been living and working in the Luangwa Valley since 2009. He started out working as an assistant camp manager and learned all about the safari industry giving him the ideal starting point. He lives there with his wife Kirstie who owns and runs Tribal Textiles and his beautiful daughter.
Edward first came to Zambia in 2004 on his travels and went to the North Luangwa. Having grown up on wildlife programmes and photography, he never believed it could actually become his career until that moment. When you arrive in Zambia, you notice what a welcoming, warm and friendly place it is but the safari experience is also so incredibly special. It is small scale, exclusive and a totally immersive experience but also it’s truly wild and untouched with huge diversity and a strong guiding standard. You just can’t go wrong with Zambia !!
How have you kept busy during this period?
We are living in a rather more wild and remote area with low population density so our experience has been quite different. We can keep ourselves to ourselves and are very fortunate to get out into these wild areas without interacting with anyone else. I feel we have a responsibility to spend time in the National Parks to maintain our anti-poaching presence, monitor roads and wildlife and support efforts here. The other half of my time is, like most of you, spent dealing with guests and encouraging them to postpone their safaris. There has been a lot of sadness and disappointment for us all, but I am so grateful to the camps and operators in Zambia who have without exception been so accommodating during this process with huge flexibility. Everyone is trying to do the very best for our industry and our guests.
Zambia’s South Luangwa during Covid?
May is when the valley really starts to come to life in preparation for the busy season; the hustle and bustle of camp openings, the weather changing, moving into winter months, a general excitement and yet all is quiet. It is hard for everyone, but there is still a feeling of positivity for times ahead and everyone is doing their best. Ensuring teams are looked after protects the local areas in the long run. Conservation South Luangwa is working very closely with the operators to ensure anti-poaching and law enforcement efforts are maintained during this period despite the lack of tourism income coming in. A very different feel this year.
Zambia has a very different economy and population and as such, a different response to Covid 19. Lockdown is hard to enforce in Zambian villages as people live on top of each other with very little personal space making it hard to protect the elderly. An absence of fridges and freezers means you also can’t stock up for 2 weeks so shopping happens every day. Zambia is much more likely to live with the virus rather than locking it down, controlling it and eradicating it. If you don’t have a developed health care service or an ageing population, the implications of living with the virus is less damaging than in say European countries.
Tribal Textiles, Zambia
Tribal Textiles have been busy taking care of the Mfuwe people by being instrumental in producing thousands of double layer cotton masks spreading them out among the local councils and many local organisations are joining the effort. Local tourism operators have put in place salary packages / stipends paid monthly to their staff to help them survive the year and in turn support local communities. This ensures they are secure on food and prevents them turning back to more traditional means of survival living on natural resources, which in turn increases poaching again.
There are many local organisations working together to protect the local communities.
Thoughts for the wider travel industry
Stay safe, don’t risk your own personal health and families but as soon as it is safe to do so and you can, please come to Zambia. I have seen firsthand what happens when the foreign income flow is turned off. The whole industry / economy has been put on hold. The impact has been quite devastating and the knock on effect is huge and we need the tourism to ensure these areas are protected. We can’t wait to see you back again.
What do you love about your job?
The very short and simple answer is Nature. Do listen to Edward’s wonderful interview to find out more.
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