The rugged West Coast and the vast landscapes of the Northern Cape were the inspirational, though sometimes frustrating, backdrop of Helen’s high school years. After some time spent overseas, Helen returned to South Africa in 2001, and after a year of wondering where to next, Serendipity Africa was created. Its goal was to assist small tourism businesses that had the potential to become responsible tourism icons, but needed marketing and development expertise. The pilot project was the 5* Grootbos Nature Reserve near Hermanus and went on to include various properties and projects in the Western Cape.
Work assignments have been varied, but often included awareness raising, training, incorporating a successful sustainability model into individual tourism businesses, as well as individual destination development. Work is undertaken with local and national government, as well as tour operators and other stakeholders to examine potential opportunities for building a corporate social responsibility plan and to evaluate environmental constraints within a business.
Assignments in the past have assisted previously disadvantaged communities and African entrepreneurs to develop sound tourism businesses. There is often a component to train communities to recognise the value of responsible tourism, and to link them with potential partnerships thus providing a framework that will enhance market access.
Helen also worked on various conservation and heritage projects across southern Africa, assisting with fund raising initiatives and evaluating economic challenges and climate constraints. She is now the CEO of the Cape Leopard Trust, an active predator conservation working group in the Cape launched in 2004. It uses research as a tool for conservation, finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict and inspiring interest in the environment through an interactive and dynamic environmental education programme.