National Geographic photographer and filmmaker, Beverly and Dereck Joubert, co-founders and owners of Great Plains Conservation, have dedicated their lives to protecting wildlife and wild spaces.
Their philosophy focuses on care and respect, and it shines through in their art, their Relais & Châteaux camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, and their conservation and community initiatives. Step inside their world through our interview with them.
On the role of individual in conservation
Being fearless is important, and speaking out against atrocities requires one of the main character traits of the explorer, a certain fearlessness. Many will shrink away from difficult topics, or impossible projects like moving a hundred rhinos to safety for example, but by being a little bold we are able to achieve what is needed.
On Protecting and Preserving Wild Spaces
The answer is in how we “care.” There is a saying in Botswana: “Botho”—a catch-all word for “respect and caring.” If everything we do is focused on caring, then we will never do anything that is damaging.
On the Great Plains Conservation Camps and Lodges
All our activities should be centered around being environmentally sustainable. Anything which is not environmentally sustainable should be stopped. Tourism is a vital tool for creating passive interactivity with nature, where travelers can experience nature assets, without taking anything away from it. Our experiences provide our guests with new insights, new versions of themselves, new cultures. They inspire creativity, thought and advocacy for the planet.
Our food is an extension of our overall philosophy of “a healthy mind in a healthy body in a healthy environment.” For example, we don’t serve ocean fish at all, except salmon. We don’t hunt and kill; there is no game at our camps. At the Great Plains Conservation, if you can photograph it during the day, you will not find it on your menu in the evening.
It is women that give us hope. Women fight for their home, their circle of trust and if we view the planet as our collective home, then we need women to lead the charge to protect it. This does not mean to say that we think this undermines the work that men need to do, or that they are mutually exclusive, but rather that we are inspired by women and the ways in which they get things done.
On Wildlife Photography and Filmmaking
There is a Latin phrase, Homo nosce te Ipsum (Man know thyself). It’s something we live by. We believe that if we know ourselves, we can know others, and then we can know and care for everything. Our films drive such understanding and present parallels that we hope audiences can see and use to learn more about themselves, as members of a larger community.
Non-disturbance is a strict discipline for us. We are hyper sensitive to what animals are doing and often say that we have failed in what we do if the animal sees us, and doubly failed if the animal stops in its behavior and reacts to us. When we watch TV and see an elephant charge, we know that someone disturbed that elephant and it is not ethical. Filmmaking ethics are the same as life ethics: be truthful, be kind.
We are the storytelling “ape,” but we are also communal beings, where sitting around a meal and discussing things are some of our happiest moments. Preparing meals together and sharing with our community is essential. That is why we have put interactive kitchens in our Relais & Châteaux camps, promote executive chefs and make use of that communal spirit.