Colin Bell

You could say Colin Bell made his own luck instead of going into the expected world of finance after completing his economics degree at Wits University in 1977, he landed his first job as a safari guide in Botswana. In those days a cold beer came out of a wet long sock, tied to the side mirror of his Land Rover and cooled while hanging in the breeze. That was as good as it got. In 1983 Colin co-founded Wilderness Safaris with one of the best guides in Southern Africa, Chris McIntyre. The two of them ploughed all their enthusiasm, energies and limited savings (and one second-hand Land Rover) into creating what became one of the most successful specialist safari companies in Africa. Over the decades it grew to manage camps and lodges across seven countries and employed more than 2,500 people. Many of these lodges gained their "bush cred" through partnerships with local communities: it was through those negotiations and relationships that Colin started to learn by trial and error what worked sustainably and what did not. Back then there were no blueprints to follow or copy creating safari partnerships with communities was breaking new ground. He sold his shares in Wilderness in 2005 and went on to co-found Great Plains a year later. Colin is now completely independent and this freedom has allowed him to immerse himself in the Africa's Finest book project without any vested interests where they profile the good, the bad and the ugly of the tourism and wildlife industries (www.africasfinest.co.za). Colin's operations have successfully re-introduced rhino into the wilds of Botswana and pioneered sustainable partnerships with rural communities in Namibia that ensure that rhino thrive outside of protected areas.