Africa Travel Week
Holly Budge

Behind the Mic with Holly Budge

As an adventurer, an Everest summiteer and the first woman to skydive Everest, Holly Budge is described as “one of the most accomplished female adventurers” of our time.

As the founder and leader of international non-profit, How Many Elephants and World Female Ranger Week, her work is highly impactful and praised by Sir David Attenborough. As a world-class speaker, she is described as “down-to-earth, funny and incredibly inspiring” by HRH Prince Edward.

Holly has motivated thousands of people to think big and dream bigger. Her honest and engaging style of storytelling, combined with her down-to-earth approach to life, will leave you feeling inspired, rejuvenated and ready to scale your Everest. 

How Many Elephants is an innovative, design-led international NGO, founded by Holly Budge. Using design to bridge the gap between scientific data and human connection, they are educating a global audience about the devastating impacts of the elephant ivory trade in Africa. Their newly launched initiative, World Female Ranger Week (June 23-30 2022) is raising vital funds for female rangers on the front line. Read more at 

What are you hoping could ignite enthusiasm on what you’re going to speak about (without giving away too much) 

I’m excited to share my experiences on the front line with multiple all-female and mixed ranger teams across Africa. These women are bold, changing the game and paving the way for women to stand alongside men at the forefront of conservation, but they need allies.  

I will be sharing my journey of founding and running an international NGO, How Many Elephants, and the recent launch of World Female Ranger Week (June 23-30th). 

What have you missed with regards to face-to-face contact in the events speaking space? 

I’ve missed the positive energy you find when you surround yourself with passionate and positive people.  

How did you come to do what you do, tell us a bit about your career advancement? 

I’m no stranger to adventure, summiting Everest and becoming the first woman to skydive Everest but patrolling with multiple all-female and mixed anti-poaching teams in Africa is a whole different beast. Rewind to 2013, I was studying for a Masters in Sustainable Design and the idea for my NGO, ‘How Many Elephants’, was born. As I began researching the African Elephant crisis, I was shocked by the poaching statistics and set about creating a fresh design-led awareness campaign. I was specific in my goal to create a 100% non-gory and non-political campaign.

For people to see and connect with this data in a purely visual and factual way has proved to be highly successful in terms of engagement and impact. How Many Elephants quickly gained momentum as the exhibition travelled to international audiences, receiving global recognition. My next focus was on supporting female rangers. Why female rangers specifically? I have found the more specific I am about my goals, the greater the motivation, clarity and impact I have. 

Based on your five senses, what are you looking forward to most at the show this year: 

  • See: People 
  • Taste: Cold beer! 
  • Feel: Uplifted 
  • Hear: Inspiring stories of hope 
  • Smell: Beautiful Africa 

What makes Africa Unique? 

The passion, the people, the culture, the wildlife, the colours, the landscape.  

What is the first thing you will do once you set foot in Cape Town? 

I will gaze at Table Mountain for a while, from a good vantage point, with a cold beer in hand! 

Looking back on past events that you have been to, what business connection/relationship stands out that made it truly worthwhile. 

When I started working on my How Many Elephants Campaign in 2013, I made the assumption that tourism and conservation organisations would naturally be working closely together. I have not always found this to be the case, although it is definitely improving these days. Often, I’m the only conservation NGO exhibiting and speaking at travel trade shows. This has been hugely beneficial for me in building strong connections within the travel industry and implementing cross-sector collaborations.  

Tell us a story about a past event where something truly memorable happened (funny or serious). 

It’s 5.45am, it’s still dark as I stand in line with four armed Akashinga rangers in Zimbabwe, ready to go out on foot patrol. “You may not see any wildlife Holly, this is not a safari trip,” says my go-to ranger. I pinched myself as the realisation of where I was becoming very real. These women are fighting a war on poaching and the poachers are not the only threat out there. The rangers load their AK47’s. The front ranger clicked her fingers as a signal to go. I took a deep breath as we moved into the darkness…

More to come in my keynote talk at WTM Africa

Find me at WTM Africa: 

Topic: The Rise of Female Rangers in Africa 
Date: 11 April 2022, 13:30 – 14:15 
Stage: Travel Forward Theatre 

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.