COVID-19 continues to bear down on the tourism industry in southern Africa, affecting livelihoods throughout the region. This lodge in Zambia is a classic example of a business that is hanging on for better times. Peace Parks Foundation CEO, Werner Myburgh, is the first to stay in six months as, like so many other tourist hot spots, bookings have dried up.

Shackleton Lodge is usually full at this time of year. Located in the flood plain region of the upper Zambezi River in Zambia, in the middle of ‘Tiger Country’ there are waters rich with tigerfish only 10 minutes by boat from the lodge. The lodge lures anglers of all levels and ages and is even a relaxing spot for those who do not fish.

Set in beautiful gardens on the banks of a tributary of the Zambezi River, comfortable, rustic chalets surround a central meeting area where guests can dine, drink and recount their great fishing stories.

Howard Shackleton, the owner, is in fact the great-great nephew of the famous explorer Shackleton, from which the lodge takes its name. And the Shackleton spirit and tenacity is being called for at the moment, as the lodge holds its breath for the day visitors return with their rods, reels and enthusiasm.

Trying to find a silver lining to this devastating time for the industry, perhaps this pause in fishing will allow for fishing stocks to be replenished, so the stories will be even bigger and longer when the tourists do return.

Sadly, though, as nature enjoys the break, the impact of COVID-19 continues to play out throughout southern Africa on its people. Here, outside this clinic in Livingstone Peace Parks CEO, Werner Myburgh, queues up to be tested before returning to South Africa after his trip to Zambia.

Across southern Africa, the socio-economic shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic have left vulnerable communities devastated, with countless jobs lots in the tourism sector. Since the first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, Malawi reported more than 35 000 people left without employment. Mozambique is at 5 000 and counting, with thousands of tourism and hospitality job losses anticipated across the Southern African Development Community. The pandemic also threatens to reverse decades of work by governments and organisations, such as Peace Parks, who labour tirelessly to bring about equitable benefits from conservation and related nature-based economies for local communities. Declining visitor numbers to parks are affecting revenue, operations and community-beneficiation

Peace Parks Foundation is grateful for the generous and humbling responses of their donors. The German Government, for example, through KfW Development Bank’s COVID-19 emergency relief fund, donated €4 million for health and employment programmes in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area where Peace Parks is operational.