Makuleke ecotourism project

Current initiative

Published December 2018

Lioness in Kruger National Park.

Lioness in Kruger National Park.

A partnership between the Makuleke community, Wilderness Safaris and South Africa National (SAN) Parks led to the development of Pafuri Camp, a community-led ecotourism initiative in the northern part of Kruger National Park. The camp provides a wide range of activities with revenues used in both community development projects as well as biodiversity conservation initiatives. The initiative is based on the idea that community-based action is often the most effective approach to biodiversity protection and sustainable development, with activities designed not only to generate income but also to raise awareness of the value of protecting biodiversity among the local population.



Pafuri Camp is situated in the 24,000-hectare Makuleke concession in northern Kruger National Park in South Africa. The site sits on the north bank of the Luvuvhu River and is bordered by Zimbabwe to the north and Mozambique to the east.

The region is part of the savannah woodland biome of South Africa, with vegetation including savannah grassland, mopane woodland, mountain and gorge vegetation, and riverine forest.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected African Elephant Loxodonta africana , Lion Panthera leo , Rhinos

The anti-IWT initiative

Having been forcibly removed in the late 1960s, the Makuleke community won back legal title over their lands in 1998, retaining the conservation status and establishing a Joint Management Board for day-to-day management. Ownership of the Makuleke community land was returned to the Communal Property Association (CPA), who held responsibility for the land on behalf of community members and the land itself remains part of Kruger National Park for a period of 50 years (subject to review in 25 years).

It was decided that all commercial benefits arising from the land would be accrued by the community. They devised a strategy that would provide a sustainable source of economic development and income for the community and, at the same time, ensure the protection of the land and endemic wildlife species. To help with conservation management and commercial development, a partnership was formed with the SAN Parks and Wilderness Safaris, and together they created Pafuri Camp.

The primary objectives of the camp are to protect the surrounding ecosystems and provide alternative livelihood opportunities and sustainable sources of income to the local communities. Alongside partners, the Makuleke community is involved in environmental management of the area which includes anti-poaching operations and reintroductions of endangered species.

The Makuleke CPA is to manage and administer the restored land for the benefit of all 15,000 community members in a participatory and non-discriminatory way. A central component of the partnership agreement was the stipulation that at least 90% of those employed by Pafuri Camp would be drawn from the local community.

In addition, in 2005, Wilderness Safaris and Kruger National Park worked with the community on an initiative called the ‘Makuleke Large Mammal Reintroduction Project’. This involved the reintroduction of zebra and impala, as well as founder populations for other species that had become locally extinct.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Paid in money community scouts
Further detail

The community has mobilised an anti-poaching force to protect wildlife in the territory.

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Further detail

Revenues from the community-run Pafuri Camp are used in both community development projects, as well as biodiversity conservation initiatives.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support
Provision of community-level benefits
Further detail

Funds from lodge revenues have helped launch bed and breakfast businesses and a hydroponic vegetable growing business, which employ and provide incomes for community members. Wages have also been invested into social and community infrastructure in schools, businesses, bursaries, women’s self-help groups, and youth development.

Improving education and awareness

Further detail

The camp hosts seminars on wildlife management and has created education centres on waste management, water preservation and ecological conservation.

In addition, the group runs an environmental education program called Children in the Wilderness (CITW), which involves annual programs run out of Pafuri camp for local Makuleke school children. CITW uses environmental education, recreation, and exposure visits to foster a sense of community pride and awareness of the importance of the environment to human wellbeing.

Environmental clubs have also been launched in follow-up sessions at all five schools in Makuleke village, providing a platform for children to engage with the issues of environmental conservation, wildlife management, human-wildlife conflict, alongside other topics. Club activities culminate in a children’s camp which is hosted by CITW and Pafuri Camp. CITW is complemented by Elderly in the Wilderness (EITW), a program focusing on transferring indigenous knowledge about the importance of wetlands management to a new generation of leaders and thinkers in the community.

Has the initiative made a difference?

The monitoring and surveillance activities of the anti-poaching units have led to the recovery of both herbivore and predator populations. There was a noticeable drop in snares between 2003 and 2007 and a subsequent rise in predator sightings between 2005 and 2007. These conservation efforts in turn improve game viewing, translating to better business for the camp.

Job security and a steady source of income have stimulated investments in education, housing and community infrastructure and there are currently community members employed in operating the eco-lodge and as part of anti-poaching efforts, plus many are undergoing technical training, skills development and vocational training for employment elsewhere. More than 100 community members received temporary employment during the construction phase. Gender equality has also been made a priority and over 50% of staff positions are held by local women.

The community has benefitted from the revenue sharing agreement, with an 8% share of lodge revenues paid into the Makuleke CPA.

What works and why

In particular, the social dimension of the work, and close ties with resident communities, has been crucial to success thus far.

Maintaining healthy working relationships with and strong support from national government authorities and bodies has also been critical.

Factors for success

Supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources

Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

Effective and accountable community-based natural resources management institutions

Transparent and accountable distribution of benefits to local communities

Organisers, donors and partners

Wilderness Safaris, South Africa National Parks

For further information contact (