Edinburgh-based Aardvark Safaris founder Richard Smith has retired, with co-owner Alice Gully remaining at the helm as managing director and becoming the sole shareholder.

Mr Smith set up Aardvark Safaris in 1999 with co-founder John Spence, creating tailor-made safaris across Africa, run by experts.

Aardvark Safaris said yesterday it had seen a resurgence of interest in tours to Africa post-pandemic, with 2023 on track to be its "best year yet".

Ms Gully joined the business in 2004, becoming co-owner and running the enterprise with Mr Smith, supported by Aardvark's team of 16 safari consultants.

Now in its 24th year, the tour operator now organises between 500 and 600 trips per year on average.

It has run more than 8,000 trips in its lifetime.

Mr Smith said: “After almost a quarter of a century I am retiring and my business partner, Alice Gully, will become sole owner of Aardvark Safaris.

“With Covid in the rear-view mirror and customer confidence returned, the company has the right team in place and supplier relationships to continue to plan great holidays for the discerning clients who value expert advice and superb customer support. After 24 years as a small part of a bigger team, I can step away knowing that Aardvark Safaris is in very good hands.”

Ms Gully said: “Throughout my almost 20 years at Aardvark Safaris, our focus has not changed - to help our guests discover the Africa that we know and love, while protecting African landscapes and way of life. Over the last two decades, travel and tourism has become vital to African economies, accounting for 7% of the continent’s GDP (gross domestic product) and contributing $169 billion to its economy in 2019.

“Our dedicated team have over 115 years of combined specialist experience and have helped thousands of people discover and enjoy the wonders of this incredible continent. I look forward to continuing our work.”

Aardvark Safaris said: “Post-Covid, travel to Africa from the UK took longer to recover than from other inbound markets. However, that is changing this year, with Aardvark’s numbers in 2023 surpassing those of 2019. Approximately 45% of Aardvark Safaris' customers are repeat clients, with between 10% to 15% percent visiting Africa annually or bi-annually.

“All the camps and lodges that Aardvark Safaris work with support conservation and community projects. They protect their local environment, flora, fauna and landscapes; they respect local cultures and try to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism through employment, sourcing of supplies and support of local schools, healthcare facilities and other community projects, as well as minimising their environmental impact.”