What is ethical tourism and how can you ensure that your safari holiday is an ethical one? Responsible travel comes in many different forms, whether it’s a positive impact on wildlife, the environment, or local communities. However, when planning and booking a safari, it can be tricky to figure out whether your tourism dollars are going to the right people or initiatives.
Here’s our advice on how to find and book an ethical safari adventure, as well as tips on ethical behaviors once you’re on your trip so that you can ensure your African safari is an ethical, meaningful and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Poaching is still a huge problem in many African countries, especially when it comes to critically endangered animals, such as the beautiful black rhino. To prevent poaching, game reserves need to hire more rangers and increase monitoring. You can help support these efforts by participating in game drives to games reserves and national parks most affected by poaching.
In South Africa, consider taking a trip to Hluhluwe Game Reserve (also known as Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park) or Kruger National Park, where park fees contribute directly to conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Kruger is suffering greatly from rhino poaching, as it borders Mozambique where regulations are not as tight.
In Tanzania, explore areas which receive fewer visitors, as this supports both local rangers and the local economy. We suggest including Selous, Ruaha, Katari and the Mahale Mountains in your Tanzania holiday itinerary. If journeying on to Zanzibar, don’t engage in activities such as watching or swimming with dolphins, as these boat trips are not conducted with the animals’ welfare in mind.
You can support local conservation initiatives, such as the AfriCat Foundation in Namibia and Saruni Rhino in Kenya. AfriCat is committed to protecting big cats in their natural habitats and is one of the best conservation schemes in Africa, while Saruni Rhino is the first rhino tracking experience in East Africa and supports conversation efforts for these endangered animals.
During your safari, don’t push your guides to get closer and keep quiet during your observation, as you don’t want to disturb the animals. Not only does this disrupt their routine but can also put you in danger if the animal in question thinks they (or their offspring) are being threatened.
Never buy souvenirs made from animal products, such as bone, fur, feathers, ivory, coral, shells, eggs or fur. This only increases demand for these products.
In Namibia, riding quad bikes or taking off-road trips may sound exciting, but much of dune life lies just below the surface. There are also fragile lichen fields, which take decades to grow back if damaged. Instead, keep to trails or try sand boarding on the dunes in designated areas.
Protecting the Environment
When choosing where to stay during your safari trip, look at conservancies, such as those found in Namibia and Kenya. These are areas of land where local communities take responsibility for conservation through sustainable tourism and farming.
In Namibia, you can also look out for the Eco Awards Flower Certificate, which is given to lodges and hotels focused on sustainable solutions.
Plastic bags are banned in both Rwanda and Kenya, the latter very recently – as of August 2017. These will be confiscated from your luggage at the airport, so it’s a good idea to bring your own sturdy bags in a non-plastic material, or buy some during your trip, which is a great way to support local craftspeople and the economy.
Though it may sound obvious, don’t litter during your safari trip, especially on the game reserves where wildlife can be directly affected. This includes dropping cigarette butts on the floor, as some of the dry desert environments are prone to fires. Refrain from picking any plants or flowers, as these can be more essential than you may think in maintaining ecosystems.
Respecting and Supporting Local Communities
Take time to research your destination before your trip, including history, which will provide context and give you some ideas about what does and doesn’t offend in the local culture. For example, educating yourself about South African apartheid or the Rwandan genocide could save you from committing a faux pas during visits to these countries.
Learning a few words or phrases in the local language is also a great way to engage with local people and demonstrates your interest in learning about another culture.
It’s also important to research your tour provider to check whether staff are treated and paid fairly. For example, for Tanzania you can look up Kilimanjaro tour providers via the Kilimanjaro Porters Association Project (KPAP), which is dedicated to porter welfare and fair salaries (well over the appalling industry average).
It’s important to be respectful during your trip, dressing modestly, even during safaris. When visiting tribes or indigenous groups, be sure to book with tour providers offering authentic interactions which directly benefit local people, rather than disturb communities. Remember to ask before taking photos, especially of children, and ask your guides about any customs you should be aware of.
You can support communities by buying handmade products and souvenirs from local craftspeople and co-operatives. When bartering, remember that haggling is the art of finding a price that both parties are happy with, negotiate with patience and a smile, and keep in mind that the profit made on a product directly benefits the local economy and most likely the seller’s family.
If you’re looking for more ways to benefit local people, participate in initiatives such as Pack for a Purpose, where you can bring resources and supplies in your luggage. These go straight to local communities.
If you’re interested in booking an ethical safari that supports, respects and conserves in the countries you wish to visit, take a look at Wayfairer Travel’s luxury safari holidays or contact one of Wayfairer’s luxury travel specialists to discuss your dream safari holiday.
This article was written by the team of WayFairer Travel, thanks again!