Back in 1996, a young Gavin Opie hitchhiked out of his home town Johannesburg in search of a grand African adventure. His plan was to explore Lake Malawi, learn Swahili in Kenya, and end up who knew where?
But within an hour of stepping foot in Zambia, Gavin was in love. Blown away by the country’s wonderful people, its staggering natural beauty, and the amazing wildlife, he never made it any further. And really, what better place for a grand African adventure than Zambia?
The next few years saw Gavin farming crocodiles on Lake Kariba, swimming in Victoria Falls’ Devil’s Pool (before it was a thing) and collecting crocodile eggs along the Kafue River. Luckily, he survived (just!! Ask him about it over dinner…) and in 2007, he made his way to the South Luangwa to pursue his dream of starting his very own safari company.
Around the same time, a young British lass named Rosie came to the South Luangwa on an archaeological expedition, searching lion infested country for early human fossils. Luckily, she survived too (!!) and one afternoon in 2007, after a long day studying ancient artefacts, she spotted Gavin across the bar. They shared an ice cold Mosi and the rest, as they say, is history…
A decade later and here we are, raising our daughter Ciara within a stone’s throw of the Luangwa River and perfecting what we believe is the quintessential South Luangwa safari experience. Everything we do draws on our backgrounds and our love for Zambia. Gavin’s knowledge of the animals, birds and landscape, and Rosie’s knowledge of the first peoples who lived in complete harmony with the natural world. The South Luangwa has so much to teach us, and our passion is to share these experiences with our wonderful guests.
Ian & Lucy Friend
All the best stories start with a Landrover, khakis and a penchant for African wildlife – don’t they? Well, Ian and Lucy’s certainly does and whilst they may have swapped their safari kicks for wellington boots in the wilds of Devon, their love for Zambia is still as strong as ever.
This story begins in 2006 when Lucy arrived in the South Luangwa to take on the reservations for a renowned safari company. Despite navigating complicated bookings and battling with travel logistics that would reduce the rest of us to tears, she quickly became accustomed to life in the bush. Siestas were spent in the kitchen, learning how to whip up a cake when the egg delivery hadn’t quite made it, and evenings were for driving around the park, searching for the elusive Luangwa leopard, a trusty G&T never far away. She returned year after year and fell head over heels in love with the landscape, the wildlife… and a certain Ian Friend.
Safari guide and operational logistics whizz (and the best man to turn to when there’s no water in your shower), Ian arrived in Zambia in 2009. Having spent much of his childhood in Malawi, travelling to places that most people only dream of, he was always destined to return to the bush and it was the South Luangwa he chose. With a background in surveying, Ian turned his hand to building some of the most well-known camps in the South Luangwa before going on to set up a borehole drilling business with Lucy by his side.
In 2015, Ian and Lucy headed back to the home shores of the UK where they now live with their two beautiful children. Today, Lucy heads up the reservations for Gavin Opie Safaris (there’s pretty much nothing she can’t organise – try her!) whilst Ian is our Logistics Advisor and all-round safari guru/consultant/advice-giver.
In 2007 Gavin established Jackalberry Safaris, now Gavin Opie Safaris, offering safaris to Zambia’s incredible South Luangwa National Park.
From the early days, we wanted to offer our guests extraordinary safari experiences that wouldn’t break the bank. As independent travellers ourselves, we know first-hand how expensive safaris can be. So we work hard to offer affordable safaris, inside South Luangwa National Park, without compromising on quality.
Our dedicated guiding team is led by Gavin himself and between them they have years of experience in the field. As a team we’re all committed to sustainable tourism, ethical safari guiding and wildlife conservation. We are proud to support Chipembele Education Trust and Conservation South Luangwa.