Women in Tourism: Nikki Bolton

  • 17 August 2016 | By Anje Rautenbach

In the spirit of celebrating the sixtieth national Women’s month in South Africa - a day commemorating the 20 000 women who have marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 in protest against the apartheid laws - we are chatting to some of our local women in tourism in Nelson Mandela Bay. Today we talk to Nikki Bolton, who was involved in the One Land Love It Expedition, an expedition that took her husband (and herself) 6000 kms across South Africa on a bicycle to raise awareness and funds for rhinos.


Tell us a bit more about yourself, Nikki?

I am blessed to be me.  I tend to forget exactly how old I am, but I am knocking on 50’s door. So far I would describe my life as a series of adventures, some I don’t care to repeat, while others are memories I often revisit.  They are all good in their own way as they have moulded me into the person I am today, but I look forward to the future and the opportunities it presents to fulfill this exciting journey of life and to keep refining me.

My recent involvement in the ‘One Land Love It Expedition’ where my husband, Wayne Bolton, cycled 6000 kms by mountain bike around South Africa  over 2 ½ months connecting all 19 South African National Parks, with my support, probably stands out as one of the highlights of my life so far.  This adventure taught me new lessons but reaffirmed my conviction that as individuals we have so many talents and gifts, ways to contribute and make a difference in our own lives and the world around us, but often we underestimate that potential or the impact it can make.

We are defined by many things, but “family” is close to my heart and two roles I value are related to my immediate kin. Wife to my partner and soul mate, Wayne, who cherishes and challenges me. Mother and friend to my son, Daniel (22), and daughter, Laura (20), both brimming with talent and character and love.  Students at NMMU – standing on the starting block of their future careers but already young people of substance, living their lives in full and rich ways.

My faith is the foundation of everything that has value and meaning in my life.  I believe that our lives are meant to be lived with purpose and destiny in each step and that we are placed on earth to be a blessing to others.  “Faith and courage” are words my husband often uses and they are written on my heart as I trust in my faithful and loving God for His provision and direction.  This is why I am blessed to be me.

Originally from KZN our path was directed to Port Elizabeth 9 years ago and so ensued a challenging season in our lives as Wayne went through retrenchment with a company he had been with for 21 years.  I stopped my business, Cards by Design, to join him in starting our own new business Alpha Labour Solutions – a permanent Recruitment and Industrial Relations Consulting company with branches in Johannesburg and Cape Town but with our roots firmly in PE.  We have never looked back!

As a family our combined passion has always been “the bush” and our children have grown up with extended holidays in various game parks in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.  For the past 10 years Wayne and I have been Honorary Rangers with SANParks – a volunteer arm for SANparks.  This group of ordinary folk give of their time, resources and talents to contribute in whatever way they can.  We come with serving hearts and a desire to invest in this wonderful natural heritage that as South Africans we have access to so easily.  On moving to PE we were delighted to find Addo Elephant National Park on our doorstep and Addo has become our bush home.  We are privileged to know the wonderful staff who protect and manage the conservation of this exceptional park… home to the Big 7… and to see first-hand their commitment and investment in this valuable resource.

As much as we have dedicated men and women working in our national parks, the role that they play has changed considerably as we see the scourge of poaching impacting on our wildlife.  In PE we are aware of the glaring greed of abalone poachers along our coastline – a help yourself mentality.  Rhino in the Eastern Cape have been targeted as poachers move to new areas since hotspots like Kruger have heightened their anti-poaching tactics and made life more difficult for those who pillage our wildlife.  Our rangers stand 60% more chance of an armed conflict than the South African military.  This is a different role to the one that they signed up for and we expect a lot from them.  The reality is that we could see the extinction of both the rhino and elephant in our lifetime. Tourism is a huge boost to our economy but would tourists be as inclined to visit our land to see the big 3?  Out of a heart for conservation and awareness of the pressure that our parks are under, One Land Love It was born.

This adventure involved 3 generations of an ordinary family from Nelson Mandela Bay and took each of us out of our comfort zones challenging us on many levels but proving that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.  As a family it took us a year to prepare for this journey.  Our retired parents and children played pivotal roles as we aimed to raise funds and awareness around two beneficiaries. 

Care for Wild Africa – a wildlife orphanage taking care of rhino calves orphaned by the brutal slaughter of their mothers – most calves are from SANParks.  This organisation is self-funded and doing a wonderful job of rehabilitating the calves.  Established by Petronel Niewoudt, a South African Conservation Hero, the care and commitment shown by her and her team to these calves is second to none.  We can be so proud to know that we have such women of substance who step up and take responsibility on our behalf to protect and nurture the wildlife victims in our land.

Through the SANParks Honorary Rangers we also raised funds for counter poaching equipment for our Rangers.  The challenges they face, the risks they take on our behalf should not be taken lightly.  We raised funds for equipment that would supplement what they have and make their lives a bit easier in this challenging role that they are faced with.  We also wanted to draw attention to the vital role that our parks play, each one protecting and conserving the flora and fauna that make South Africa so unique.  We focused on our Rangers who are the boots on the ground.  At each of the parks Wayne arrived carrying a Scroll of Unity in Conservation.  We were met by Rangers and given the opportunity to thank them personally for their contribution and a representative of each park signed the scroll.  This represents their commitment to our natural heritage in collaboration with all of those who agree that we have One Land and Love It!  (The Scroll can be seen in the Ranger display at Addo’s Interpretive Centre)

Our ordinary family raised R140 000 towards these counter poaching initiatives and over R2 million in media exposure for our beneficiaries. Under #jointcustody represented by our family, we encouraged collaboration and partnership from individuals and companies in stepping up to be the difference we want to see.  We believe that our defining role was to lead by example because if our ordinary family could do it, anyone can!


Women’s Month in South Africa is…

... a celebration of the diversity of talents represented by women from all walks of life and an invitation to our women to explore their potential.  No woman is ordinary but often we limit ourselves, we don’t challenge ourselves to consider the talents and resources we have at our disposal and the potential we have to make a significant difference in the lives of those around us and in this wonderful land we call home.  

Which women have influenced you to be the person you are today?

I have been extremely blessed to have had wonderful female role models in my life - many of them in my family.  Women of character, integrity and faith.  Women with strong values who love unconditionally. When I consider women who have influenced me, there are three who immediately come to my mind.

Without question my mother, Kathy Snyman. There was nothing my mom couldn’t do - no problem she couldn’t solve or challenge she couldn’t overcome. In hindsight that was probably my childlike perception, but she instilled a sense of confidence and courage in me.  She helped me to be fair, consider situations from different perspectives and not to shy away from doing the right thing. She believed in me and taught me to believe in me.  She loved me. She was a wonderful example of a wife, daughter, mother and friend and I aspire to leave that kind of legacy to my children.

Influence is not limited to age and my daughter, Laura Bolton, 20 years old and a student at NMMU inspires me. At 18 she became a SANParks Honorary Ranger and in addition helps out with anti-poaching patrols at a local game reserve. She also works part-time for Rhino Art. When we started ‘One Land Love It’ she threw herself into fund-raising and single-handedly was responsible for raising R80 000 for our beneficiaries. Her investment and engagement in this expedition revealed skills and talents which she embraced. Laura’s love for the bush and passion for conservation fills me with pride, the difference she has made and her potential going forward excites and inspires me. 

Petronel Niewoudt, the founder of Care for Wild Africa and a Conservation Hero, is a new influence in my life. As I have already said we can be so proud to know that we have such dedicated women who step up and take responsibility on our behalf to protect and nurture the wildlife victims in our land.  Her passion is boundless and her commitment inspiring.  Her future is completely invested in the future of a species your grandchildren may not get to see if not for women like her.  We owe her a debt of gratitude and should be celebrating these unsung heroes.  She inspires me going forward to make a difference and to leave a legacy.

As I have said I am blessed to be me because I believe that we should embrace who we are.  There is always opportunity for growth and it is not too late to become the person you aspire to be.  Sometimes that is as simple as loving and being a blessing to others but know that you are never too young or too old to make a difference or to inspire and motivate others.

What makes you proud to be a South African woman?

Typically we automatically consider role models in South Africa like icons Thuli Madonsela, Helen Zille and Graça Machel, but we are surrounded by women of substance in our homes and neighbourhoods.  In the Eastern Cape we have women like Dr Marietjie van der Merwe who runs Khayalethu Youth Centre for street children; endurance adventurer Kim van Kets who achieved a self-powered  journey of 6772 kms in 148 days (see her book ‘Tri the Beloved Country’); passionate conservationist Megan Taplin who is the Park Manager of Mountain Zebra National Park; and dedicated supermom, Fundiswa Ngontsini, taking care of her two children and those of her late brother on a domestic worker’s salary.  

We are surrounded by women who take on the challenges life presents even if it involves self-sacrifice, women who are not afraid to stretch themselves. Women who pick up the baton and run teaching those who watch to embrace life and be prepared to accept the baton and continue that race.

We are in such good company! 

What message do you have to share with the young women of South Africa during Women’s Month?

The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the word “extra”.  Don’t underestimate what you have to offer the world around you.  Your extra may not be cycling 6000 kms around SA but that doesn’t diminish what you have to give.  Be motivated to consider your contribution to society and the country you live in.  What is your passion?  Look at your talents and resources and consider ways in which you can make a difference.  What is your “extra”?

I imagine that the person who loses their sight or a limb wishes they had made better use of that gift while they had it… live celebrating all the gifts you have been given even the ones we tend to take for granted.

If you have a dream in your heart - explore it.  Don’t focus on the obstacles but rather grab opportunities with both hands and just make it happen!  If the dream is there it is more than likely an indication that you have the talent and ability within you to fulfil it. Be bold… have faith and courage… don’t settle for ordinary!

What is your “extra”?

Compiled by Anje Rautenbach, travel blogger at Going Somewhere Slowly. Follow her journeys around South Africa on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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