A graduate of the Children in the Wilderness eco-camp programme, Otto’s association with Wilderness Safaris began on the Jao Reserve, after being invited to attend a CITW annual camp at Jacana, where his mother was working as a Trainee Manager.
But let’s start at the beginning…
A “child of the Delta”, Otto was born in Maun to Tlamelo Miranda Bothma, who at the time, was immersed in the safari industry.
Tlamelo started localisation training as a Trainee Lodge Manager in 2001, where she was exposed to camps like Mombo, Little Mombo and Savuti. In 2004, through her position at Jacana, Otto was invited to attend the CITW annual camp at this lovely “water camp”.
“I did not hesitate as it had always been a dream to see wildlife, since being dazzled by a safari cartoon called ‘The Wild Thornberries’, which promoted the love of embracing the wilderness”, says Otto.
With 19 years’ service at Wilderness Safaris, Tlamelo’s current position is Office Manager and Licencing Administrator at the company’s Maun office.
Through the years, Otto was exposed to other camps in Wilderness’ portfolio, including Mombo, also in 2004, when his mom was working at this flagship camp as one of the managers.
“It was truly a dream come true, and I was fascinated by the guides with their leather hats and belts buckled up, with a Leatherman and hand held-radio attached. I loved the communication by radio, and I guess that’s where my hunger to work in safaris started.
“Inspired by Johnny Clegg and Bob Marley, I grew up with a passion for music, which pushed me to study sound technology at Limkomkwing University, in 2013 after high school. But I was uneasy living in Gaborone while studying, as I was not used to this fast-paced and noisy environment.
“I decided to return home in 2015 and my mom suggested I apply for a temporary job in the bush, to learn something different. She motivated me non-stop to build a great personality and career.
“I started working for Wilderness Safaris in 2015 as a casual and temp, and this is when Jacques Moorcroft (Head of the Linyanti Projects Team) decided to offer me a contract as a trainee carpenter, after he figured I was quick one when it came to working with tools. I never thought I would gain such a skill set, but as time went on I learnt the craft of constructing timber-framed structures under canvas.
“I did this for two years, after which I received an offer from Allen McMaster, then Concession Manager of the Linyanti, to fill a slot as a storeman. Here I was exposed to admin work and took the opportunity to do Lobster Ink in-house training, learning the values of the company and becoming an eco-child from my top take from the company’s 4Cs, Conservation.
“I learnt a lot, becoming an expert in ordering spares, and parts referencing while working for the Linyanti Concession as a storeman.
“In 2019 my Concession Manager mentioned an ad for Management Training, which I did not hesitate to apply for. I was called in for an interview where I was honestly totally terrified, being questioned by the main people I saw in the wilderness brochures I read when I was in primary school – the likes of Cilas and Patience!
“I made the cut and I was introduced to camps like Boabab in the Ngoma area of Kasane. The training was so professional I was able to build a profound lodge etiquette, and the team gave me their full support and the confidence to progress with my training. After my experience at Baobab I went to Kalahari Plains in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where I learnt more about culture, and relieved other managers, including Housekeeping and Maintenance.
“The camp has an Olympus camera that Neumann Vasco (Mombo camp and Kalahari Plains Operations Manager) pushed me to use, with the help of other managers, like Sean Van der Merwe, who had experience in using the lenses and all the settings. Neumann Vasco has been one of my biggest inspirations, apart from my mother.
“Since COVID made its dramatic entrance last year, Neumann advised me to do some serious camp maintenance to prepare for guests, and in between, play around with the Olympus camera. Thanks to him, I got to share my pictures and one of my poems about the hope that I have for our team and our guests through our life-changing journeys, on Wilderness Safaris’ social media”.
Watch Otto read his poem from Kalahari Plains…