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Wilderness

The Zambezi River is one of the few places in the world where true wilderness can be found. This is an especially valuable asset in an increasingly developed world. As industrialisation claims more wild lands worldwide, so, the few remaining wildernesses become sought-after commodities as “living museums”. They provide opportunities for “back to nature” escape for stressed urban populations, and inspiration for generations of artists, writers, philosophers, immensely enriching mankind’s creative heritage. The aesthetic qualities and natural resources of wild areas provide livelihood opportunities for local communities and some are valued for their traditional or cultural significance.

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Advocacy for wilderness

The Zambezi Society seeks to ensure that the priceless wilderness qualities of the Zambezi River, which attract visitors from all over the world, are taken into account in all planning and development decisions throughout the region.  For more information on our activities in this regard, see Basin-Wide Planning  and Tourism Impacts under ISSUES on the drop down menu.

Wilderness Training

The Society works in partnership with the WILD Foundation and the South-African Wilderness Action Group to help train decision-makers, planners and Park managers in wilderness awareness, planning and management techniques.  In 2006, the Society, held its first 10-day Wilderness Management Training seminar at RIFA camp on the Zambezi River near Chirundu.  Twenty management personnel from the National Parks Authorities of Zimbabwe and Zambia attended the course, which was conducted by the Wilderness Action Group.  Further training seminars are planned.

What is wilderness and why is it important?

Wilderness Survey

The Zambezi Society recently asked a cross-section of visitors to the Zambezi River and communities living in the area, how they valued “wilderness”, and what the term meant to them. Although many of the areas of highest biological diversity along the Zambezi River are considered to be “wilderness” areas, this is not always the case. Our research indicates that visitors and communities alike perceive wilderness as a feeling or a state of mind brought about by surroundings.

This feeling can be inspired as much by a scenically beautiful landscape, as by the presence of “untamed nature” in the form of big trees/wild animals etc. Community perceptions about wilderness are often influenced by traditional, spiritual or cultural beliefs. However, most people’s descriptions of “true wilderness” have several things in common:

  • remoteness;
  • peace;
  • lack of people, their activities and the trappings of their development;
  • a feeling of “being subject to nature’s laws, rather than mankind’s;
  • unpredictability.

With these definitions in mind, the Zambezi Society is:-

  • identifying priority “wilderness” areas for conservation within the Zambezi Basin
  • developing “wilderness-sensitive” guidelines for use by planners, development authorities, tour operators and visitors, seeking to appreciate and enhance, rather than erode the “wilderness” value of Zambezi landscapes
  • creating general awareness of the fact that “wilderness” per se is a marketable commodity which (like wildlife) can bring people financial incentives through eco-tourism for setting land aside for conservation.
  • seeking to reinforce wilderness management in Zambezi wild areas by developing a wilderness management training course for custodians and managers of wild places, including field officers, rangers and guides.
  • helping to establish community-based wilderness areas to provide opportunities for local revenue generation through carefully-managed, sustainable tourism initiatives.

WILDERNESS FUND

The Zambezi river basin contains some of the wildest and most unspoilt landscapes in Africa, all of which teem with an incredible diversity of African plants, wild animals and birds. This fund is aimed at promoting the Zambezi’s wilderness values and at educating people about conserving wilderness and protecting it for future generations. Donations go towards developing and running wilderness awareness and management training courses, producing wilderness-sensitive guidelines for tourism operators and visitors and assisting Zambezi valley communities to develop sustainable income-generating initiatives based on their wild areas.

We depend entirely on project funding and public support to finance our work. Your contribution to our WILDERNESS FUND would enable us to continue our support for this valuable asset. Donate Now!

You can help conserve our wilderness starting today…

Follow the Respect the Wild Code of Conduct for visitors in wild areas, developed by The Zambezi Society as a collaborative wilderness conservation exercise with members, friends and colleagues.

Help us distribute this message widely by displaying versions of the Code of Conduct prominently in offices, schools or workplaces where the maximum number of people can see it.  Put us in touch with other people or organisations who will help us to spread the message similarly.  We are particularly keen to have this information on display in tourism locations where it may be seen and studied by all visitors to wild areas.

The Respect the Wild Code of Conduct is available in three full colour formats (pictured below):

1) an attractive full-colour wall poster (A0 size – 835mm x 590mm) available from our offices in Harare (this can be posted at a small charge to cover postage and packaging ) CONTACT US

2) a condensed,  printable version of the poster (100mm x 210mm)  Click here for pdf download.

3) a small, printable, leaflet (100mm x 210mm folding out to A4).  Click here for pdf download.

 Alternatively, copy the Nine Respect the Wild Principles which are laid out in detail below.

Respect-the-Wild-poster Respect the Wild Poster condensed

  Wilderness leaflet inside

Respect the Wild – A Code of Conduct for visitors in wild areas:

Encouraging an environmentally responsible attitude and a way of life to keep wilderness wild for future generations.

Contains useful information and includes tips and advice on appropriate behaviour when visiting wild areas:

Plan ahead, minimise tracks, camp with care, leave nature natural, remove litter and food, manage waste properly, be careful with fires, give way to animals, enjoy peace and solitude!

NINE RESPECT THE WILD PRINCIPLES

Plan ahead
Plan ahead

  • Obtain a map and find out as much as you can about the geography, weather, access routes, wild animals etc. of the wild place you are visiting.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the area, consider taking along someone who knows it well.
  • Prepare to be self-sufficient and accept that there are risks involved. Plan for emergencies and for how to get help if you need it.
  • Allow time to reach your destination in daylight for your own safety and for that of nocturnal animals on roads and paths.
  • Pack no-fuss equipment and meals to minimize impacts, fire risk and waste (e.g. gas/spirit cooker, pre-cooked meals, small spade, lightweight tent etc).
  • Take precautions against mosquitoes (pills, nets, repellent etc.) to avoid malaria.

Minimise tracksMinimise Tracks

Use existing tracks, trails or pathways.

  • Avoid driving vehicles off-road.
  • Drive slowly and keep to speed limits.
  • When driving or hiking, avoid making impacts on soft soils, wetlands, vleis etc. Rather choose durable surfaces such as rock, sand, compacted soil, dry grass etc.
  • Stand or sit still and wait for animals to come to you rather than walking or driving in search of them.

Camp with care

Choose accommodation that has a minimum ecological footprint and is wilderness-sensitive e.g. basic chalets or camping. Use official campsites if possible.

  • Avoid damage to trees, bushes, soils and rocks if making your own campsite.
  • Avoid camping in places used by large animals (on paths, beside pans where they drink or in favoured grazing areas e.g. alongside river beds).

Remove all litter and food

Never throw litter, cigarettes or food into the wild or from a vehicle.

  • Best practice : what you take in, you take out.
  • Use an empty can as an ashtray.
  • Carry light plastic bags for collecting all litter, cans, bottletops and left-over food (even that left by others) for later disposal.
  • Secure food and rubbish bags away from wildlife in a closed vehicle or tamperproof container (e.g. metal trunk). Wild animals attracted by food may lose fear, become dependent and sometimes aggressive, resulting in them being destroyed as problem animals.
  • Avoid discarding organics that biodegrade slowly (e.g. citrus peels) or contain seeds that could introduce non-wild plant species, (e.g. guavas, tomatoes etc). Bag for later disposal.
  • If you do burn litter, remove remaining plastic, tin cans, bones etc. for carry-out.

Manage waste properly

Avoid soap or chemicals and do not wash dishes in water sources. Fill a container with washing water and discard after use at least 100 paces away from water on bare ground where it will not affect plants or animals.

  • Prevent disease: do not urinate in rivers, lakes or pans.
  • Bury all human waste away from water sources and pathways in a small hole dug at least 15cms deep in soil with plenty of leaf compost around it. Carry a small spade for this purpose. Toilet paper is slow to biodegrade: use leaves if possible, but if not, burn soiled paper in the hole without setting fire to the surrounding bush. Cover carefully with soil and leaves. NEVER leave human waste or toilet paper exposed on the ground this is unhygienic, defaces the landscape, is unpleasant for others and harmful to animals.

Be careful with fires

Best practice: no fires. Use a gas or spirit stove.

Best practice: no fires. Use a gas or spirit stove.If you must light a fire, keep it small and never leave it unattended. Bring your own firewood and use a designated campsite fireplace. If none, make a ring of stones. Clear an open spot away from surrounding or overhanging vegetation. Remove dry grass or leaves and use only fallen, dead wood. Do not break healthy branches.

  • Do not light a fire in a strong wind.
  • Always damp down glowing embers with water at night or if you leave camp.
  • Remove all signs of your fireplace when you leave.
  • Bury dry ashes and cover with sand.
  • Return stones to where you found them.

Leave nature natural

Leave all rocks, trees, plants, animals, pottery, archaeological, historic and cultural artifacts as you find them, so that future visitors may enjoy their discovery too.

  • Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
  • Carving or painting on trees or rocks damages and disfigures nature and is unsightly for other visitors.
  • Never remove or collect plants, as this can damage the whole biology of a wild area.

Give way to animals

Most wild animals and snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them, but they may attack if startled. Walk quietly in the wild with your senses FULLY aware. Use binoculars,  keep your distance, and try to pass downwind of large animals so that they do not catch your scent.


  • If you come unexpectedly close, stand still and stay calm. Try not to scream or shout for help. Wait for them to move off. If they do not, back off very slowly to a safe distance.

  • Learn to tell when an animal is aroused or distressed and get out of danger quickly and safely. If charged, do not run (lions will chase you) unless in extreme situations stand your ground, make yourself look bigger by waving your arms wide and shout loudly. If this fails, seek the nearest cover (tree/anthill etc.)!
  • Never touch the young/nest/eggs of a wild creature. It may abandon them.
  • Never interfere with nature’s course. It may seem hard, but accept that it is natural for prey to get caught, killed and eaten, trees to get felled by elephants, the fittest to survive.
  • Do not swim or wade in water in wild places. Crocodiles are rarely visible and are the Earth’s most successful and longest-surviving predators!

Enjoy peace and solitude

One reason why people seek out wild areas is to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and other people. Respect the need of others who wish to experience the tranquility of the wild.

  • Loud noises and bright lights can be disturbing to animals and other people.Avoid them. Do not shout, do not play radios/music, do not talk loudly on a cellphone, do not sound your vehicle horn.
  • Never use a generator when camping in a wild place. This is an act of extreme selfishness.
  • Do not crowd animals with vehicles or boats. Keep a respectful and safe distance and switch off your engine.
  • Sit still, watch and let your senses become sharpened by the peace and solitude of the wild. You will feel more instinctively in touch with your surroundings than ever before.

There is not much wilderness left in the world: let’s look after it in Africa.

PLEASE RESPECT the WILD!

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