Once boycotted for its apartheid regime, South Africa has changed a lot. For many of its people, however, it has not changed enough. You will still find areas, both rural and urban, of startling poverty close to wealthy suburbs (formerly all white, but now with an increasing number of wealthy black people), modern industries and productive farms. The government has to hold a balance between encouraging the (still capitalist) economy and providing for the poor – and in spite of some impressive improvements, the poor tend to lose out.
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There are many different reasons for wanting to travel in South Africa. Among the many attractions are the Cape Peninsula and the Garden Route, world-famous destinations with all modern facilities and excellent wine; Kwazulu Natal, with its superb coast around Durban; the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains inland, perfect for pony trekking and looking for prehistoric rock art; and the famous Kruger National Park in the northeast.
To understand the realities of life and recent history, you can visit Soweto, the museum and Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the District 6 Museum and Robben Island at Cape Town. Politically South Africa is still a stable, democratic country, although the ANC, the liberation movement which became the ruling party, is facing greater opposition and criticism.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Displacement of Local Peoples & Slum Tourism:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
The South African government stepped up its ‘slum clearance’ programme in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup in the face of fierce opposition from local groups.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement & Slum Tourism:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Indigenous Tourism & Cultural Loss:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/indigenous-people-and-tourism/
An elephant ride is a popular tourist activity, especially in many parts of Asia and parts and some regions of Africa. The appeal of such treks is clear – the elephant is the largest land mammal, it’s intelligent, social and emotional. Trekking elephants are often mistreated and harshly trained and many people now believe that tourist elephant trekking should be avoided (many Ethical tour operators have stopped offering Elephant trekking altogether).
The tradition of using elephants in industry has mostly ended, mainly due to irresponsible over-logging. The collapse of the industry created huge problems for the mahouts who had to find a way to pay for the care and upkeep of their elephants, which can consume up to 200 kilograms of food a day. Mahouts had to find other ways to support their huge charges, which is why many began begging in the streets or turned to tourism via trekking, rides or entertainment.
To make a wild animal such as an elephant compliant and able to be controlled by humans they are often deprived of food and sleep, they are subject to regular beatings using the ankus or billhook, and physical restraint such as chaining and shackling. According to right tourism, the training that’s required to make them safe around people is often akin to torture, as demonstrated by the traditional Thai “phajaan” or “crush,” where young animals spirits are systematically broken through torture and social isolation.
Do you really want to be supporting such a cruel activity?
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Elephant riding:
Canned hunting & Volunteering with Animals:
Canned hunting is the hunting of animals in an area that they cannot escape from. These animals have lost their natural fear of people as they have often been hand reared and always fed by people (like the lions on farms) and so approach people expecting to get fed as usual – instead they receive a bullet or an arrow from a hunting bow. In many cases volunteers come from all over the world to ‘assist’ by working on these hand-reared farms!
Bait is often used to get it to remain in a certain place for an easy shot by a hunter, this way organisers can guarantee a kill as they know the lion will not move when they bring the hunter.
In other words they stand absolutely no chance of surviving i.e. the kill is in the can hence “canned hunting”. They can die a horrendous death, first shots do not always kill and bows and arrows are also used making for a lingering horrific death.
To learn more about one volunteers experience of volunteering with big cats in South Africa, follow this link:
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles:
According to WWF, there is persistent overharvesting of many commercially valuable species and products along the West Coast of South Africa; such as pilchard, anchovy and rock lobster. Further at sea, some fish stocks have been over-harvested, and several species face local extinction. These dangerous trends follow improvements of fishing methods with the establishment of fishing industries.