Many of our Safari guests want to know more about how and why Will and Carol Fox founded On Track Safaris. We hope this biography briefly tells their story.
Will and Carol Fox created On Track Safaris in 2007 with two aims. First to offer a unique and fresh safari experience that went beyond the run of the mill safaris on offer elsewhere. But also (and as importantly), to help fund their work in conservation.
As Will says, “Conservation and tourism must work hand in hand. If we don’t conserve wildlife now, there will be nothing for tourists to see in the future. The reality is that conservation must be sustainable and that’s where tourism funding comes in. It’s a privilege for Carol and I to be able to enable our guests the opportunity to enjoy our unique wildlife safaris, while at the same time contributing towards wildlife conservation”.
Will was born in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom where from an early age he developed a passion for wildlife. While perhaps not being politically correct today, in those days it was local Game Keepers who were his tutors teaching him field craft, the value of conservation and the need for balance in nature.
Carol was also born in North Yorkshire where the couple met in 1979.
Carol and Will were married in 1982 and their daughter Jennifer came along two years later. After an eighteen month sabbatical sailing their yacht, the couple settled in Dorset on the south coast of England.
Over the next twenty years Will travelled the world working primarily in Oil Exploration but also with the British Ministry of Defence. All the while Carol followed a career in bookkeeping and accountancy.
Both were fruitful careers, but hardly ones that involved wildlife. The saving grace for Will was that this lifestyle of travelling away for work, offered long leave periods at home where Will and Carol had strong ties with local wildlife projects. Every spare moment was spent in the English countryside, where they were hands-on managing many wildlife and habitat programs.
Family is very important to the couple and so the dream of working with wildlife on other continents was put on hold until the time was right. For the time being their involvement in Africa was limited to safari holidays and short visits assisting conservation projects. However, a chance meeting on one such trip in 2003 saw them quitting their jobs and finally moving to South Africa.
By sheer serendipity they happened to briefly meet the then Manager of the INGWE Leopard Project. It was while hearing the details of the issues facing leopards that a desire to make a real difference in wildlife conservation was re-ignited. As Carol says “a light came on, and we knew that our next adventure would be working to conserve leopards”.
Moving to Africa to join the INGWE Leopard researchers wasn’t without its challenges. But Will and Carol threw themselves into those challenges, which took them from rookie researcher’s living in a remote cottage in the bush and camera trapping in the Lydenburg mountains; to becoming managers of the reborn INGWE Leopard Research program. The skills and experiences that they had gained elsewhere came to fruition to make a significant contribution to wildlife conservation.
Along the way they also founded the Leutla Conservancy (a protected area of like-minded landowners), they were instrumental in creating Kudu Private Nature Reserve in 2012(the first such protected area to be demarcated since 1994) and formed a South African non-profit organisation Protecting African Wildlife (PAW) Conservation Trust. Will was the founding Chairman of PAW, and together Will and Carol managed and steered PAW to become an established contributor to wildlife conservation and community education.
As Will (a lifelong football fan) says “being involved with wildlife, and moving from the UK to Africa is like going from playing in the lower leagues to suddenly being picked to play in the Premier League. The basics are the same, but there is a lot more to learn”.
Serendipity again played its part, when Will and Carol met master wildlife trapper Dairen Simpson from the USA, who has since become a great friend. Over a five year period Will trained with Dairen catching Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Hyena for conservation projects. Will learned the intricate and often-subtle field craft, techniques and understanding of animal behaviour needed to capture and work with large predators (either to relocate an endangered animal or for researchers to fit a tracking collar). After years of training alongside Dairen, Will now works independently especially with Leopards and Hyena and is invited to assist with big cat projects worldwide, but he still manages to fit in the odd trapping expedition somewhere in the world with his old friend. “You’re always learning”!
In all aspects of their life, Will and Carol are involved with wildlife. Leopard conservation, is at the very heart of what they do. They are also passionate about wildlife education and telling the real story from the African bush.
In 2010 they invested in, and Will became a Director of, WildEarth Media, producing LIVE wildlife safari TV shows from the African bush. They have also appeared in several wildlife documentaries and Will has directed many of WildEarth’s TV shows, broadcasting LIVE to viewers around the world and especially in North America with the National Geographic channel.
From their first days with the INGWE project it was very evident to Will and Carol that funding conservation required a fresh approach. During what they now call their first careers Will and Carol had gained significant experience in project management and accountancy and knew things needed to evolve and change.
And so, in 2007, they formed On Track Safaris, not only to raise funds for their work in conservation, but as importantly to offer their guests a unique and immersive safari experience. Their aim was to create a safari experience that weaves together all the elements one expects from a safari with a modern twist, offering a real insight into real wildlife conservation. Each itinerary is hand picked by Will and Carol and each safari is (in reality), the safari they would take themselves. Since its inception OTS has developed and grown in standing to become a leader in wildlife safaris. Carol was present at the World Responsible Travel awards in London in November 2014 when they were awarded for their work in wildlife conservation. Will is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a visiting Research Fellow with Reading University and often lectures on wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism.
In 2014 they created the On Track Foundation, a UK charity that receives the net profits from On Track Safaris and under the management of its board of trustees funds wildlife conservation and education programs in Africa and India.
The future looks bright for On Track Safaris and for their work in conservation.
As each element that they are involved in grows and develops, new people are joining their team, bringing fresh ideas but always remaining true to Will and Carols ethos, or better put, staying On Track!