About Us

Origin Safaris is operated by Paul Zille. An economist by profession, his interests lie in leveraging the development potential of Africa’s wildlife and tourism economy to create jobs and grow businesses. Origin Safaris represents part of his vision for making this happen – while exercising his love of travel, exploring new frontiers and meeting interesting people.

Vision & Values

Origin Safaris is defined by its authenticity.

This is rooted in the quality of the sites we visit, the calibre of the guides we employ and the integrity of the journeys we curate. If we are not awed and humbled by the stories, the science and the environments that our safaris explore, we won’t offer them.

We are guided by the principles of inclusivity and fair trade. Our vision is to contribute to a tourism, wildlife and knowledge economy in which the value that we generate is shared amongst the people who help create it.

Our tours are designed to be as inclusive as possible of people – specifically youth, students, local communities – who have historically been excluded from the opportunities associated with a thriving tourism economy. We use our tours to expose, mentor and co-fund young people interested in developing a career in archaeology and tourism.

For every associate expert we employ we make a matching contribution to an archaeology bursary fund for historically excluded students and trainees. The fund is managed by Genus, a knowledge hub and network that promotes Palaeosciences in Africa and supports emerging researchers to further their training and careers.


The two lodges that anchor our tours – Pafuri Luxury Camp and Riverhorse Lodge – are entirely off the grid and are powered by solar energy. Neither lodge experiences interruptions in its power supply due to load shedding. Rigorous waste reduction and processing procedures are applied to minimise its environmental impact.

Water is sourced locally at each site and is of a high quality. All waste water is treated before being fed back into the local ecosystem.

Pafuri Camp is operated as a partnership with the neighbouring Makuleke community which receives a share of the net revenues that the lodge generates. Both lodges operate structured training programs to advance the skills and career prospects of their employees.

Associate Experts and Contributors

Our journeys are supported by some of South Africa’s pre-eminent archaeology, history and  biodiversity experts.

Beyond the site visits, we convene talks and presentations by subject matter experts. All are engaging speakers and presenters who will explore and illuminate particular themes of interest and relevance to each traveler groups. The talks take the form of congenial, inclusive presentations and discussions, all in iconic settings, and are typically accompanied by a sumptuous dinner.

Our key associate experts include:

Dr Keneiloe Molopyane 

Keneiloe is an archaeologist and biological anthropologist, and currently works as a Scientific Researcher at the Centre for Exploration of the Deep Human Journey at the University of the Witwatersrand (‘Wits) in South Africa.

Her excavation experience ranges from Iron Age/early farming community sites, underwater archaeological sites, and palaeoanthropological sites from the Cradle of Humankind.  Keneiloe lectured at Wits before joining the team of “underground astronauts” who excavated the Rising Star cave system in the Cradle of Humankind. The discovery there of Homo naledi, the most extensive and complete hominid fossil site in Africa, has changed our understanding of human evolution.

Keneiloe is the former curator of the Maropeng and Sterkfontein visitor centres.  In 2021, she was named as one of 15 National Geographic Society Emerging Explorers.

Keneiloe is the first South African black woman to hold the title of Principle Investigator for Gladysvale Cave one of the palaeoanthropological sites in the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind, site of our Malapa Human Origins Tour. As part of the core team of the Centre of the Exploration of the Deep Human Journey, she is the lead excavator of the Dragon’s Back expedition, at the Rising Star cave system.

Professor Peter Delius

Peter was Professor of History and Head of Department (2006 – 2014) at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg from 2006 until his retirement. He has spent most of his career working on the frontiers of history and heritage in Southern Africa.

He has been a leading figure in the transformation of the understanding of South African History over the last 40 years; in particular exploring the previously neglected history  of African societies in the interior over the period 1500 – 2000. He pioneered  the use of oral history,  and  has worked closely with archaeologists, social anthropologists, economists and political scientist on a wide range of research topics and publications.

Peter has played a key  role in various initiatives to make this new history available and accessible to a wide audience. He also initiated numerous projects to research, promote  and preserve  South Africa’s rich heritage – most notable through the Mpumalanga Heritage Project which he led from 2005-2009.

He has published widely and has scripted and developed a number of films and documentaries illuminating different dimensions of African history. Peter’s current research interests, in collaboration with a team of regional archaeologists, includes a survey of known historical and archaeological sites in the area around Thulamela-Pafuri, to illuminate the extent and nature of settlement, social and economic activity at the time when the Thulamela kingdom thrived.

Dr Tim Forsman

Tim  is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Mpumalanga in Cultural and Heritage Studies. He is a current recipient of the South African National Research Foundation’s African Origins Platform Grant, which will fund his research into forager technologies, innovations, and indigenous knowledge systems during the rise of the Mapungubwe state.

His research interests include forager-farmer interactions, forager economies, trade dynamics, landscape archaeology, and rock art. Tim’s work is carried out under the Hunter-Gatherer Archaeological Research Project.

His most recent publication is a book titled ‘Foragers in the middle Limpopo Valley: trade, place-making, and complexity’. He plans to lead a team of archaeologists and researchers surveying sites in the Livuvhu-Limpopo floodplain in the area surrounding Thulamela.


Professor Amanda Esterhuysen

Amanda is head of the Origins Centre Museum and is an Associate Professor in the School of Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). She has a long history of research and educational support in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (‘the Cradle’ – comprising Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai).

In 1999 she launched the WITS Archaeological Resources Development Project, and wrote and produced six videos (together with WITS TV) for the Gauteng provincial government to communicate information about the Cradle more widely.

In 2002/3 Amanda facilitated the cultural heritage survey of the Cradle and synthesised and edited the final cultural heritage report as well as a public version of this document. Drawing from this work she developed a monitoring and evaluation plan for key sites on the Cradle. She chaired the Wits Story-line committee tasked with vetting the Cradle museum narrative.

She has written papers and books about the Cradle and was appointed to a Ministerial task team by the Minister of Basic Education in 2016 to review the school history curriculum.

Dr Tammy Hodgskiss

Tammy is an archaeologist and Curator at the Origins Centre museum at the University of the Witwatersrand WITS). Her research focus lies in the Middle and Late Stone Age, looking how ochre and pigment use can help inform interpretations of cognitive abilities and social behaviours of early modern humans.

She has worked for various heritage organisations and museums including the South African Rock Art Digital Archive and the Sterkfontein museum. In her role as the curator at Origins Centre, Tammy is responsible for exhibitions, lectures and public programming, and runs interactive ochre paint-making workshops.

Tammy is the membership secretary for the Association for Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) and board member of Pigments Revealed International (PRI), an NPO focused on building a global pigment community.

Professor Dominic Stratford

Dominic is an associate professor and lecturer in Geoarchaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the director of research of the Sterkfontein Caves palaeoanthropological site, which lies in the heart the Cradle of Humankind. He has spent the last 15 years exploring its rich fossil, artefact, and sedimentary record.

Most of Dominic’s work focuses on site formation processes in caves and rock shelters that are notoriously complex and challenging to date. His work applies a broad suite of multi-scale quantitative and qualitative methods to reconstruct the formation history of deposits that range in age from tens of thousands of years to millions of years.

As part of that work, Dominic coordinates a field and laboratory program involving a large international team of specialists working on the diverse archaeological and palaeoanthropological collections from previous and continuing excavations at Sterkfontein.


Dr Christine Steininger

Christine is the Project Director of the GENUS Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, a cross-disciplinary knowledge hub and Palaeosciences network dedicated to research into the origins of species.

Her research focuses on the intersection between the last appearance of species 3-1 million years ago and the appearance of ‘modern’ species that we commonly see in the African landscape. As more sites and fossils are discovered that add to our understanding of hominin and other mammalian evolution, patterns in the fossil record are becoming evident where the magnitude and duration of climate changes are reflected in the fossil record. She researches past climate changes’ effects on those epochs’ biodiversity to understand how animals recover or don’t recover from these events.

Christine has directed excavations of two early human sites in South Africa, Cooper’s Cave and Gondolin. With a fantastic team of researchers, excavators and lab technicians, they have published several papers related to finds from these excavations. Click on this link for more info: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9082-0672

Howard Geach

Howard is the head guide of the Cradle Nature Reserve in the Cradle UNESCO World Heritage Site (‘the Cradle’). A mining engineer by training, he has been a wilderness guide at intervals throughout his professional life. He was a founding director of Conservation Corporation [now &Beyond] and, in the late 1990s, was instrumental in the re-establishment and re-wilding of the Maputo Elephant Reserve (now the Maputo National Park).

For the last ten years he has operated as a guide, specialising in the political, economic and cultural history of Johannesburg and its natural environment. He leads the team responsible for curating and conducting the Malapa Human Origins Tours in the Cradle. These tours include two of South Africa’s most important (live) dig sites, Gladysvale and Malapa Cave, the latter being the site where Homo Sediba was discovered in 2008. This tour is offers unique insights into the geology and biodiversity of the area, with a specific focus on the story of our evolution and its latter-day trajectory in the heart of the Cradle Reserve.




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