Zambia’s Superwomen, Working in the Wild

On a bush flight in Zambia, the young female pilot delivered me to a whole host of women in the wildlife business.
On a bush flight in Zambia, the young female pilot delivered me to a whole host of women in the wildlife business.

These Zambian Superwomen are Leading the Way in Guiding and Conservation

By Cindy-Lou Dale

Female safari guides are seldom seen, but despite women having the necessary attributes, safari guiding remains a staunch male bastion. But life in the bush is gradually changing as women break through the barriers across the industry.

Mabel Mwanza: "This isn't a job, it's a blessing as I get to see and experience every day what others only see once in their lifetime."
Mabel Mwanza: “This isn’t a job, it’s a blessing as I get to see and experience every day what others only see once in their lifetime.”

Like Mabel Mwanza, a single mum and trainee safari guide at Zambia’s popular Flatdogs Camp. She sits her exam soon and when she passes, she’ll be one of the only two female Zambian guides in the South Luangwa National Park.

She’s a local girl that draws inspiration from her father, who was a botanist and vet – always protecting flora and fauna.

She goes out on evening drives and also works as a spotter as her eagle eyes can see even the smallest of animals during night drives.

Her fellow rangers like having her around and treat her as one of the gang, instilling her with confidence. She insists she can handle the tough terrain, as it’s not only men that can change a tire.

Deb Tittle doing what she's dreamt of doing since childhood.
Deb Tittle doing what she’s dreamt of doing since childhood.

Then there’s Deb Tittle whose love of wildlife was triggered while watching Tarzan when she was just four years old, at home in England.

After university, she sought a way to explore Africa’s game-rich areas by signing up to drive Overland Expeditions across the continent. Several years, many parks and some great stories later, Deb chose South Luangwa as her intended home.

In the 1990s, after qualifying as a guide, she spent 18 years working for other renowned Zambian guides, establishing fly camps and leading walking safaris. She now has her own walking-only camp, Mapazi, in South Luangwa.

Tayla McCurdy see's natures future in education.
Tayla McCurdy see’s natures future in education.

With near 3,000 bush walks under her belt, Deb has an instinctive approach and a natural connection with the bush but claims her job is 90 percent people and just 10 percent wildlife as she needs to find her clients proverbial hook, tailoring their safari experience towards what they want.

Teaching Conservation in Schools

Dynamic Tayla McCurdy has her own guiding business that has taken her around the world. She wants conservation to be a subject taught in schools and for children to foster an understanding of co-existence with nature and wildlife – and for there to be an emphasis on careers in the industry.

Her long-term goal is to assist in developing other wilderness areas by helping communities learn how to generate an income through conservation and eco-tourism.

Tara Vivian-Neal wants to combine her true love of the wild with writing. Her path traveled thus far has taken her away from a prospective degree in Zoology, to one in English Literature instead, but always has her coming back to the bush, its wildlife conservation.

Tara Vivian-Neal, a wildlife writer.
Tara Vivian-Neal, a wildlife writer.

Tara’s the Front of House Manager at a lodge in the Lower Zambezi, which has inspired her to look at further opportunities in the industry, and a way to share the true African experience through her writing.

An Early Av Geek

While still a child, Besa Mumba was interested in aircraft, wanting to know how they fly. In high school, she decided that aviation was her future and planned to become a commercial pilot.

Once done with schooling, she undertook training and qualified with a private pilot license. The following year, aged 16, she began her commercial pilot training in South Africa’s Flight Training Academy, where she qualified in 2015, the same year she turned 18.

Besa returned to Zambia and was offered a job at Proflight as a first officer on a Cessna Caravan.

Zambian Superwomen: Besa Mumba, an aircraft captain who flies visitors around Zambia, delivering them to their dream vacation.
Besa Mumba, an aircraft captain who flies visitors around Zambia, delivering them to their dream vacation.

She’s now a Captain on the same aircraft at the country’s largest air charter company – ProCharter Zambia, who flies visitors to safari destinations.

Zambian native, Rachel McRobb, formed Conservation South Luangwa, the area’s largest non-profit anti-poaching and community conservation organization in 2003.

She’s one of life’s lucky people who finds fulfillment just being in wild places surrounded by wildlife.

The possibility of losing it spurs her on to fight the daily battles involved in running a wildlife conservation program in Africa and managing an anti-poaching unit.

Rachel McRobb, a wildlife angel.
Rachel McRobb, a wildlife angel.

With first-hand experience at the horrors of poaching and habitat loss, Rachel works tirelessly alongside her Zambian team who make CSL a key conservation organization.

As a woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated sector, she achieved this from virtually nothing, in an extremely challenging environment, both logistical and political, whilst combating severe conservation threats.

Considered a visionary, she works with local community leaders, tour operators, and donors. Her daily inspiration comes from the people doing the endless tough fieldwork, the scouts on the ground fighting the poaching battle, the conservationists educating children, the scientists gathering data to change policy – people who are recognized the least yet contribute the most.

See this Kieran Hodges video for further insight into Rachel’s world.

What’s truly uplifting is the increasing number of women in the wildlife business. From Captain Besa Mumba who transports visitors to remote safari destinations, to female guides like Mabel Mwanza, Deb Tittle and Tayla McCurdy, and professional anti-poaching scouts like Rachel McRobb.

Zambian superwomen: Mpunga Nanyangwe-Boyd, a Lodge housekeeper with guiding plans.
Mpunga Nanyangwe-Boyd, a Lodge housekeeper with guiding plans.

Then there are those who work behind the scenes to make it all happen, like Anabezi’s housekeeper, Mpunga Nanyangwe-Boyd, who has big-game ranger plans and Tara Vivian-Neal who wants to inspire conservation through her written words.

These women all have one shared trait —their love of the African bush. They’re living the dream and in time, together with the government’s drive for female empowerment, will inspire others to take up the challenge.

Visit Zambian Tourism to plan your next dream vacation, you may be fortunate enough to meet one of these women.

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