About Penwell

Our Story

We first flew to Africa on something of a whim back in the early 1990s, an adventure born of a love for animals and a felicitous viewing of Out of Africa.

Thus began a hobby that became an obsession and then an identity. After traveling to Africa for a few decades, you can’t help but develop a reputation for it both at home and afar. Especially if you’re the kind of busy birds we are—chatting up everyone, making friends, and having an infectiously grand time along the way.

With each return, we did a little more scurrying—we scratched below the surface and did things a little more our way. And we connected with more and more incredible people who showed us how flexible, transformative, and just plain fun a safari experience could be.

We befriended guides who called the animals by name—and knew who was migrating just where and when, who had eaten recently and who was feeling friendly—and who wasn’t. We checked into camps flush with creature comforts and staffed by folks for whom first-rate hospitality was second nature. We sang with the chefs, joined impromptu bush dance parties, sipped sundowners at watering holes next to guzzling elephants—and cackled like hyenas all the while.

As matchmakers at heart, we couldn’t wait to introduce our old friends to our new friends. So we started setting up trips—planning out perfectly bespoke vacations that wove together the best places we had been with the providers we knew personally.

So that’s what we do. We design personalized safari trips from the ground up by getting to know you, and then sending you out with the people we know on a first-name basis.

It all starts with a little chit-chat.

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The Penwell Difference

The boundless possibilities and awesome potential of the African safari: where do we even begin?

We understand the dilemma. We’ve been through it ourselves plenty of times back in the beginning, but that was almost three decades ago now. Since then, we’ve packed a lot of experience (and a lot of suitcases) under our belts, designing trips for ourselves and friends, writing it all from scratch—slowly turning the ramshackle into the refined. And once you start doing safari exactly the way you want to, no other way of traveling will do.

 

With our years of planning expertise and your ideas, we’ll fashion a safari adventure tailored specifically for you.

We’ll get you to all the things you’re excited about and get you around the crowds. We know how best to make all the moving pieces fit together seamlessly for a perfect fit. We’ll handle all the scampering for arrangements—it’s in our nature.

Not that we do it alone. We’re social creatures by design—we’ve found our flock in folks who love the work they do and do it astonishingly well.

We’ve fostered friendships through dozens of repeat visits to our favorite camps and providers, and we’re still heading back twice a year just to hang out. Guides, drivers, housekeepers, cooks—we know everyone we work with on a personal basis. Odds are we’ve shared more than one song, dance, or cocktail together.


We are birds of a different feather, after all.

We like chasing a weird shiny thing every now and again, and have our own funny quirks. Whether you’ve shared with us that you’ve always wanted a pancake breakfast at sunrise in the bush or that purple is your favorite color, we’ll be calling directly to the chef or the housekeeper to arrange for things just so. We’ll undoubtedly scratch up some choice hidden gems especially for you. We'll set you up with a team that provides sensational service by habit, and breaks out the fine china for you.

We think good travel is as much about connecting with destinations as it is about connecting with the right people, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to our Penwell family. You’ll be in good hands all the way.

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Responsible Safaris

“If you're after getting the honey, hey—then you don't go killing all the bees…”
Joe Strummer

We think that doing safaris responsibly and sustainably is all about doing right by the things that you love.

We’ve always been driven by a dedication to the well-being of the animals, ecosystems, and communities we work and play within—a passion that we share with the outfitters we team up with in our adventures. Through our combined efforts, we aim to minimize the impact we have on the local environment, while supporting the people and places around us.

Our friends live and breathe this ethos day-in and day-out—and in various ways—across their camps. Meticulous water management and comprehensive recycling programs. Solar power, locally-sourced food, and eco-friendly supplies. Many camps use neither concrete nor permanent plumbing, making them completely mobile and removable without leaving a trace—some even move seasonally to allow plant life to reclaim the land.

Strengthening ties to nearby communities and supporting local economies provides long-term assurance that the ecosystems will prosper. And so our partners promote scholarship funds and micro-financing for villagers in need, engage children in on-site day camps, and coordinate local clean-up and conservation projects.

When you’re out in the bush with our guides, you’ll be side-by-side with people who love the land and animals as much as we do—and who possess an almost innate knowledge of both. Whether by foot or wheel, our guides know how to encounter without interrupting, how to explore without destroying, and how to party without leaving a mess for the hyenas to clean up.

In the end, it means you get to relax. However you travel with Penwell, you’ll rest easy knowing that your journeys support the efforts of those committed to keeping Africa incredible. We’ve always thought about it as looking out for each other, and taking care of the things we treasure. There’s nothing more sustainable than that.