Our Story 2017-06-02T04:48:23+00:00

Foundation Story

It’s impossible to tell the story of Honeyguide without telling of how Damian Bell and Ole Kirimbai became friends back in the early 1990s when they worked at a community-based tourism venture called Sokwe. Even then, while setting up camps in northern Serengeti, they experimented in community programs, like hiring and training ex-poachers to be guards and working with farmers to sell quality crops to tourism camps.

After Sokwe merged with another company, Asilia Africa, Damian and Kirimbai decided to expand upon some of that community work they had started and formed Honeyguide in 2007. Some 20 years after they became friends, the two serve as Honeyguide’s executive director and chairman and continue to keep our organization constantly growing and evolving.

Honeyguide Timeline


Sokwe Camps is established by Honeyguide executive director, Damian Bell.


By 1995, Sokwe had launched some of the first community based tourism initiatives in Tanzania, including those Ololosokwan, Loliondo, just outside of Serengeti National Park and many others. These were the early days of ecotourism in Tanzania, and Sokwe stood right on the frontier with a number of like-minded responsible tourism operators. In many ways, the vision of what would one day become Honeyguide began out on the plains just east of the Serengeti during this time.

2000Sokwe trains ex-poachers to be guards in Serengeti.


In starting community-based initiatives in and around northern Serengeti, Sokwe also helped pioneer ventures in an area once considered to be out of reach for tourism, considered too dangerous and remote. The area now is one of Serengeti’s busiest tourism areas, and Honeyguide has recently returned to the Serengeti to support conservation through its Tracker Dog program.


Honeyguide is established and starts pilot programs in the Serengeti and Zanzibar.


After being officially registered, Honeyguide began training farmers outside of the Serengeti in how to produce vegetables and crops that could be sold to tourism camps to provide communities with much-needed alternative sources of income. Honeyguide also started environmental clean-up efforts in Zanzibar and along marine areas. Community-owned and responsible tourism remain a critical part of Honeyguide’s programs and vision today.

Elephant poaching becomes an epidemic in Tanzania and across much of Africa.


By this time, Honeyguide had already begun to develop community-based natural resource management ventures in northern Tanzania. Executive Director, Damian Bell, and Chairman, Ole Kirmbai, formed the perfect team to ensure that Honeyguide would one day thrive. Friends and business partners since their days at Sokwe together, Damian and Ole Kirimbai had complementary backgrounds – one in responsible tourism and successful leadership and the other in anti-poaching and wildlife management.


Big Life Foundation is established and partners with Honeyguide.


Nick Brandt, who also is a longtime friend of Honeyguide’s director, founded Big Life after witnessing the devastation caused by poaching in and around the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya. He soon then also funded and empowered Honeyguide to develop wildlife protection efforts in nearby West Kilimanjaro and Enduimet WMA for Big Life’s programs there. The Honeyguide-Big Life cross-border partnership remains stronger than ever today.


Honeyguide develops the Tracker Dog Unit to combat poaching in West Kilimanjaro.


Rocky and Jerry, the trailblazing conservation canines of the Tracker Dog Unit, had an immediate impact on the poaching fight, as poachers could no longer guarantee an escape even if they evaded rangers immediately after killing wildlife. As funded by Big Life to this day, the dogs and their handlers helped lead investigations that led to arrests every single month. Today Honeyguide has two dog teams and soon looks to expand the program.


Honeyguide starts Responsible Tourism Tanzania to improve tourism social and environmental standards.


Responsible Tourism Tanzania (RTTZ) began as a project of Honeyguide and eventually spun off and became its own organization. RTTZ developed a certification platform for social and environmental standards for tourism properties in Tanzania. To date, RTTZ has given certification to more than 26 responsible companies and properties in the country and is also linked up with an Africa-wide certification movement.


Honeyguide expands into multiple area and develops an environmental education effort.


Honeyguide’s successful wildlife protection program in Enduimet WMA led to the expansion into Burunge WMA, Natron WMA, and Manyara Ranch all in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem. Honeyguide also produced a film on natural resource management issues and eventually screened it for 27,000 people in Enduimet WMA. The expansion around Tarnagire-Manyara continues for Honeyguide today, as it is critical to continue to support one of the last strongholds of elephants on earth.


Honeyguide tests an intensive and innovative human-wildlife conflict prevention program and continues to expand into wilderness areas in need of support.


Based on findings from post-screening discussions in Enduimet WMA, Honeyguide began to focus on research and development of a human-wildlife conflict (HWC) prevention program, first focusing on reducing crop damage caused by elephants in farms. Honeyguide also began programs in Randilen WMW, the Engaruka Valley, and it officially joined the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI), a coalition of nine partners as led by The Nature Conservancy.


Honeyguide’s efforts lead to three years with ZERO elephants being poached in Enduimet WMA and more than 1,000 human-wildlife conflicts being prevented.


Beyond its achievements in HWC prevention and wildlife protection, Honeyguide also launched programs in better governance and management in Randilen WMA, enterprise development through community-owned tourism in Enduimet WMA, and a mobile system for monitoring and evaluation. These efforts have led to Honeyguide’s five-program comprehensive vision of community-based natural resource management: 1. Human-Wildlife Conflict Prevention; 2. Wildlife & Habitat Protection; Management & Governance; 4. Enterprise Development; 5. Environmental Education.


Honeyguide and its partners in the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI) launch a 5-year project in community-based natural resource management and development as funded by USAID.


Via NTRI, Honeyguide and its partners will expand their impact and increase the long-term positive outcomes for communities and wild animals alike throughout northern Tanzania, with a starting focus on the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem. Honeyguide has also begun to engage with Makame WMA and Ikona WMA for future programs, and is partnering with USAID/PROTECT to help scale some of Honeyguide’s best practices and strategies throughout Tanzania.