Ten things you can do when on safari to ensure that the impact the journey has on you is as great as the difference you can make.
You can tick off the Big Five and feel like you accomplished what you set out to do or you can get involved in a conservation project while in-country and know that you are doing something to ensure that those who follow after you and the generations to come will have a chance to tick them off too. It's about being a part of something that matters. Being able to go home and knowing that you made a difference in ensuring that others in the future will have a chance to encounter the Big Five too. These days just about every African safari operation is involved in some sort of conservation initiative and they're happy to share it with you and have you join in being a part of it. Take advantage of the opportunity at the lodges you stay at and experience it from the ground, lending a hand where possible to say you did your part.
Many destinations have a local tribe or community and many of the lodges in those areas will have community projects in place that support the people who call that place home. Visiting the local living museums, cultural villages and schools makes a difference in the lives of the local people. Many of these communities benefit greatly from tourism, especially when visiting rural areas and far-flung destinations where the people live on the outskirts. Just by joining in on an activity with the lodge or going with a local guide makes a significant difference on top of which you can often donate supplies and get involved in different ways to help further, uplift the communities and make a greater impact.
No matter where you travel in Africa, water is a scarce commodity and by watching your water usage as you go along, you are making a difference, even if you don't necessarily see it. Opt to only have your towels washed at the lodges when really necessary and save water by not leaving taps running. Most lodges will offer in-house guidelines which you can follow to save water. Being conscious of water usage goes a long way to solving a long term problem. It's something small and may only be a drop in the bucket, but every drop adds up.
Be respectful of the wildlife you encounter and follow the rules when visiting the national parks and private reserves. Being mindful always makes a difference and effects the experience for others. Do not feed the animals, don't litter and stay on the designated roads as this helps to preserve the beauty and health of the land you are visiting. Be conscious of what you are leaving and what you are taking. It is not only for your own safety but for the safety of the animals, the environment and others visiting too.
It's a good idea to use organic biodegradable soap products to have less of an impact on the environment, especially where showers drain into the soil. Many of the lodges will also provide the correct type of shampoo, conditioners and soaps, so if you didn't pack yours, you can use the ones the lodge provides. Be mindful to travel without any unnecessary single-use packaging. Some African countries do not recycle and being prepared for this can make a difference. When in-country and where possible, be sure to recycle as you go along. Use your NTS water bottle and refill this with water at the lodges and camps to prevent having to buy water in plastic bottles.
Many lodges and camps use solar power in an effort to reduce their "footprint". Using power conservatively helps to maintain the power and only work on the solar grid. Switch off lights, fans and the air-conditioning when not in your room. Supporting the lodge initiatives to have less impact on the surrounding environment is one of the easiest ways you can make a difference without having to do much.
Whether it be at the curio shop at the lodge or the local markets you come across, supporting local means that you are supporting the local people and their families directly. These items are usually handmade and make for unique gifts to take home as momentos and for your friends and family who couldn't join you on your trip.
When you stay at a lodge that has "making a difference" at the heart of what they do, you can be sure that when staying there, you will be making a difference too. It's easy to get involved and make donations as you become a part of something far greater than just a comfortable stay. Ask us to include lodges with sustainability projects in your itinerary to see what they are involved in and how you can become involved once in camp.
Namibia Tours and Safaris is a reputable company in the business for over 30 years. We only use the best suppliers and freelance tour guides who promise to comply with ethical standards. This ensures you not only have a positive experience but that you can make a positive change too.
You will have learnt a lot about the place you visited, the flora, fauna and the people. Sharing your experiences and how you travelled whilst being eco-friendly is a vital part of spreading the word and change. It starts with you but doesn't have to end there. Tell your friends, family and fellow travellers about the sustainable tourism benefits of the destination you travelled to. You can share more with them than just your photos and memories.
Every country and destination is different and does thing differently, knowing what to expect once in-country goes along way in being able to make a lasting difference. Speak to your travel expert about how best you can get involved and make contributions to enrich your safari experience. In most cases, it is better to plan things in advance so that it can be included in your itinerary from the get go. If it's important for you to make a difference, let us know so that we can make it happen.