The Story of Adrian Gardiner - Mantis Collection Founder - Zambezi Queen Collection

Mantis Collection’s Adrian Gardiner, Owner & Founder, has seen almost everything that can possibly happen in the world to break down or build up the industry he holds dearest – from the over-the-top challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic when keeping costs low and staff salaries paid was top of his agenda, to the memorable experiences at his many properties that keep guests coming back indefinitely.

Those individuals working closely with Gardiner – across his tourism properties and beyond – will know that he values most highly the team he has surrounding him. In fact, building the best team from the outset is the piece of advice he would give most readily to a fellow industry entrepreneur or small-business start-up. Doing it all yourself, and doing it all well, is actually a misrepresentation of the reality.

Where anything could happen

“I love to share my career highlights and lowlights, alike, to fellow industry members and guests because anything can transpire in travel and tourism on any given day! A certain highlight for me was adding the opportunity of a river cruising into our tourism offering – before the Zambezi Queen Collection by Mantis, river cruising was really only possible along the Nile!

When we owned a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape, we had to relocate elephants and other beautiful wildlife from their territorial homes (due to our concern about farmer attacks, hunting and the like) – to other areas. An unfortunate low was that we suffered the devastating loss of some of them in the translocation process.”

This is a travel business built on ongoing sustainability, conservation and community support, which Gardiner explains most astutely when he says: “We strive to empower our general managers, their staff and that hotel’s special guests to explore projects that they can passionately engage in while supporting the surrounding communities. Whether conservation or community focused, these projects provide the kind of Mantis property experiences where international travellers are delighted to take part and make a real difference.

Big five, lovely five

“Through it all, we must acknowledge that if the wildlife are taken out of Africa, there would be less reason for our guests to come here. They are a drawcard and deserve our ultimate protection.”

Gardiner explains that his dear friend and mentor, the late Dr Ian Player, came up with the name “Mantis” back in the day when he had a collection of five special South African properties running. This South African-born yet internationally acknowledged conservationist and environmental statesmen made the suggestion in reference to the praying mantis – an insect that occurs worldwide and appears to look after, even pray for mankind – thereby creating a sustainable future for all creatures great and small.

Gardiner finds it tough to choose a favourite property, as each – for example the Zambezi Queen Collection – is achieving life-changing work within its surrounding communities. “Seeing animals in the water, such as near the Chobe River, adds a completely new and different experience to a land safari,” he enthuses. “So, if you’ve not yet seen wildlife from the water, it’s high time you did so.”

Where the heart is

A last note from this intrepid sustainable travel afficionado, is that our contribution towards local communities and the protection of our wildlife – and wild spaces alike – must at all costs be preserved for future generations. “My wish for our guests is that they may experience the incredible feeling of being home away from home here; and that we continue to inspire them to consider their impact on the locations they elect to stay at.

“Lastly, I’d like to see the kind of conservation-related insights provided within the Stenden University wildlife semester being brought to universities worldwide. Conservation rests, ultimately, on community involvement – and that’s the legacy I hope to leave behind.”


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