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Sustainable travel in Africa – safaris without the footprint

Sustainable travel in Africa – safaris without the footprint

“As we breakfast on the sweetest mango and ranger’s omelette, overlooking fever trees glowing golden under the morning sun, it’s apparent the breeze around the Ubombo mountain range at Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa brings change,” says Alice B-B in the Financial Times. “Sustainable travel” has long been in demand, but opportunities are now opening up for travellers to fund conservation work that they can also participate in, which can aid “the protection of a species – or of a whole ecosystem”.

Travel firm Beyond was founded 26 years ago with the aim, now a reality, of restoring parts of KwaZulu-Natal’s cattle farm and pineapple plantations. Today the firm operates safaris as well as rhino-notching experiences (where the rhino is sedated and its ear nicked for identification), which travellers can be part of by covering the $5,000 cost. The trips are also adapted “to the level of luxury required”. For those who arrive in private jets, Phinda has an airstrip; the newly renovated Homestead lodge includes a chef, guide and tracker.

Sharing dinner with the big cats

Conserving landscapes and keeping animals alive by convincing local communities of their value as tourist attractions can work very well, says Ann Abel in Forbes. Last year Jim Ratcliffe, founder of chemical firm Ineos, invested $10m in a conservation effort in southern Tanzania, where some of the country’s most wildlife-rich national parks are located. One of the southern parks, Ruaha, is home to 10% of the world’s lion population, but as a result of sparse tourism “it has been under threat from human encroachment and poaching”.

Ratcliffe partnered with safari business Asilia Africa to bring more tourists and create jobs. The new Jabali Ridge safari resort has views over “wide savannas dotted with spiky palms and baobab trees”. Its eight rooms are “linked by a series of winding, climbing walkways”and there’s an infinity pool and spa. Even if guests stay put, wildlife encounters are likely. “One evening dinner was delayed because lions had camped out under the walkways.” See AsiliaAfrica.com.

Visit the tribes in Kenya

From the new Loisaba Tented Camp perched on a 6,000ft escarpment above the Loisaba Conservancy in northern Kenya, “it feels as if the whole of Africa is stretched out before me”, says Lisa Grainger in The Daily Telegraph. Until last year the 56,000-acre conservation area had just one camp on it, but significant funding has enabled expansion and a new airstrip is under construction so that it can become a centre for the Northern Rangelands Trust, an organisation “that empowers local people to run their own sustainable tourism projects”.

Loisaba’s activities don’t revolve around wildlife only. Its management has built relationships with nomadic communities close by, which guests are encouraged to visit. See Elewana.com.

A safari in Bristol

Camp Baboon at Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place Project is a 125-acre estate that is home to cheetahs, zebra and okapis, as well as endangered animals such as eland, lemurs and giraffes, says Kari Herbert in The Guardian. The camp allows you to explore after dark and then stay the night in a cabin.

Since Bristol Zoo opened in 1836, it says it has helped save more than 175 species through breeding programmes and conservation projects worldwide. The Wild Place gives an insight into this work, and the cabins “prove comfy”. Guests are woken in the morning by the sound of endangered gelada monkeys, also known as “bleeding heart baboons” for the red patches on their chests. Then it’s time for breakfast.

“On the balcony of the giraffe house we tuck into croissants while our long-necked neighbours nibble on fresh leaves and acacia tree pellets alongside.” See WildPlace.org.uk.

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