As we’ve discovered over the past year, virtual events and experiences aren’t just possible but are also an engaging, impactful and effective way to motivate, reward and recognise your teams. Although we can’t wait to get back to delivering face-to-face travel and event experiences, we think it’s fascinating to see how businesses have taken this pandemic by the tusks (excuse the safari pun) and improvised to deliver their offerings through amazing virtual experiences that actually work.
One intriguing virtual experience we had recently come across was a virtual safari at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa planned by DMC, Green Route Africa. Luckily, a couple of weeks ago our Account Executive, Lydia had the opportunity to go on this virtual adventure to seek out the big 5 and to get the down low on how it works - here's what she thought!
Shamwari Game Reserve is a 5* oasis located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is home to five of South Africa’s seven biomes, making it a destination like no other and is dedicated to protecting and preserving its unique flora and fauna.
Today Shamwari comprises of 7 luxury lodges encompassed by outstanding landscape and 1 explorer camp - each perfect for exclusive use for an incentive group. They offer interactive game reserve safaris led by their experienced and very knowledgeable rangers and guides who take the guests into the bush by car or on foot whilst also educating them on the animals and the surrounding vegetation.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis and the shutdown of international travel, Shamwari has understandably been a lot quieter than usual over the past year, so they decided to share the magic of the reserve in a slightly different way – virtually!
The virtual safari was very cleverly structured, ensuring for a smooth, engaging and effective experience for the attendees. Each ranger was stationed in a different area of the reserve and had a camera set up in their vehicle ready to greet the group. Whenever they encountered an animal or an amazing view of the landscape, they would take over the main camera to show us what they were witnessing and tell us a bit about the animal’s characteristics and story.
From herds of elephants, rhinos and giraffes to lions, cheetahs and hippos, we were able to see 4 of the big 5 in their stunning natural habitat in just over an hour… from our homes! My personal highlight was seeing a family of elephants roam the area and graze as we sat and watched in awe. In reality, game drives involve a lot of sitting in silence for long periods of time as you admire the animals every movement, so it was great to see that the virtual safari appreciated this and didn’t rush the experience when there was something special for the group to marvel at.
The virtual safari was wrapped up as the sun began to set in the bush. I was left craving a crisp cold glass of South African Chenin and feeling a buzz of excitement. I’d just been transported to one of my favourite countries and seen some of the most majestic creatures in the world... through my laptop screen - what an innovative world we now live in and what a fantastic experience to share with our employees, friends and family!
Over the years Neon have run several incentive travel programmes that incorporated incredible safari experiences to destinations including Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. Every single time the guests were completely blown away and the feedback was a resounding 100%. We know the impact on motivation and sales performance the promise of such a life experience like this has on people and we can’t wait to get back out to one of these unbelievable countries! Until then, we will enjoy the thrill of searching for the big 5 from the comfort of our homes.
We’d all love to jump on a plane to go on safari right this second however, the rules on travel are yet to be confirmed and we know group international travel isn’t likely to kick back up just yet. Therefore, unique and exciting virtual experiences like Shamwari’s virtual private game drive are an excellent and budget friendly option in the interim to reward your employees for their hard work - it’ll give them that travel buzz they’re all likely to be craving from the safety of their home. Team this with a personalised hamper of South African goodies (think wine, Amarula and biltong) and you’ll have your teams grinning from ear to ear until they can get out to South Africa and see the animals face to face.
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