Get to Know the Hosts of 'Renovation Wild'
Grant and Lynsey Cumings navigate life and renovating a safari resort in The Lower Zambezi National Park in the African bush.
Grant and Lynsey Cumings, hosts of HGTV’s new show Renovation Wild, know what it’s like to navigate challenges. Since meeting in 1997, the husband-and-wife duo has navigated a long-distance relationship, parenthood and living in the ever-changing surroundings of the African bush. Through it all, they’ve learned to work together to overcome whatever’s thrown their way — whether it’s monsoon season or extreme shipping delays.
Now, as the owners of Chiawa Safaris, they're put to the ultimate test: Update three of their camps — Chiawa Camp, Old Mondoro and Chichele Presidential — to withstand the climate of The Lower Zambezi National Park. Each camp has a number of suites and other amenities the couple plans to update using as many locally sourced goods and artisans as possible, and decreasing the carbon footprint as much as they can.
To learn more about HGTV’s newest hosts, we sat down with the Cumings to hear their story.
Grant Grew Up in Africa
Grant was born in Zambia. “This has always been my home, and having been raised here with access to this country’s wild places and wildlife, I can’t imagine life without it,” he says.
They Met in the African Bush
In 1997, Lynsey arrived as a guest on safari at Chiawa Camp. “We got on well and met up in London a month later, and [the] rest is history, as they say,” Grant says.
Lynsey Fell in Love With the Surroundings, Too
When Lynsey experienced Chiawa Camp in the late ‘90s, she "fell in love with Africa for the natural beauty,” she tells HGTV, noting that her guide (Grant) played a big role in opening her eyes to the romance of it all. “I love the excitement. No two days are the same in the bush.”
While her and Grant’s camps are away from the stresses of the city in the remote, relative calmness of the bush, Lynsey says each day offers her something new. “I love meeting new people, and our guests are always interesting, from all over the world and many different backgrounds,” she says.
They Run the Camp Together
Chiawa Safaris is a staple in Grant’s life — he's been running it for more than 30 years. Lynsey eventually joined Grant in his family business in 2001. Together, they’ve navigated every struggle and success of the camp since.
They Hope to Make the Safari Experience a Comfortable and Sustainable One
For Grant, the safari renovation is an opportunity to simply make the camp better than it was before. “By better, we mean more functional and more appealing using light, space, textures and as much as possible locally sourced goods and craftspeople; and ideally with a lighter footprint than before.”
Speaking of their footprint, Chiawa Safari camps are carbon neutral. But that’s not all. Chiawa Safari also has awards and certifications from Pack for a Purpose, Sustainable Africa, the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust and more. What’s more, the camps all place conservation at the forefront, as one of the Chiawa Safaris’ commitments is “to conserve and protect all species, to operate all aspects of our business with minimum footprint, always seeking to innovate and find a better way.”
Getting Into Safari Renovation Was Par for the Course
While you might not think classic HGTV renovations and safaris go hand-in-hand, Grant says updates and remodels are part of any successful safari camp. “Building safari camps with a light footprint in such a harsh environment means constant repairs and maintenance, [and] the competitive and ever-changing nature of the tourism business means regular updates and even reinventions,” he explains.
Where Lynsey Brings Form, Grant Offers Function
Lynsey and Grant both bring different skills to the renovation table. “Lynsey brings in her flair for texture and visuals — the form,” Grant says. “I bring the experience and practical aspects of the design and execution — the function.”
More specifically, Lynsey specializes in interior design, using decor to create an extension of the bush within the comforts of the camp. “I have an eye for choosing color schemes that work together and blend in with our environment to make our camp as natural in the bush as we can,” she shares. “I can visualize a room coming together, what pieces are needed, colors, rugs, sofas, etc. — which is essential when sourcing items for the lodges. You have to have a good imagination and hope that all the various pieces you have purchased come together.”
They Have Two Kids
Grant and Lynsey have two children who are still in school. Their son, Scott, is 17 years old, and their daughter, Lauren, is 15.
“Although they are not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, they've been coming out to our safari camps since they were 3 months old and have heard just about every conversation that’s been had about the business, so there is very little they don’t know,” Grant says. “We actively involved the children in the remodeling (around school commitments) so they got some skin in the game and feel more of a part of this family business, because one day it will be theirs to run.”
They Enjoy Their Hobbies
Outside of his work with the safari and the renovations surrounding it, Grant enjoys CrossFit, photography, riding dirt bikes and playing guitar, which is something he picked up during COVID lockdowns, he tells us. Meanwhile, Lynsey likes to travel, exercise, shop and watch their children compete in tennis tournaments and horse shows.
Catch Renovation Wild on Monday nights at 9|8c. Keep up with the show across HGTV’s digital platforms at HGTV.com and via @HGTV and #RenovationWild on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Follow Grant and Lynsey on Instagram @chiawasafaris.