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Sustainable Travel: Ways to Make a Positive Impact on a Safari

by Emilia Polizzotto

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Generally, sustainable travel is all about traveling lightly, leaving no footprints, and staying in accommodations that are serious about the environment, wildlife, and communities around them.

In recent years, travelers have become more aware of the negative impact traveling can have on the natural and cultural resources. This has led to an increase in popularity of sustainable travel. The good news is that it has become easier to make smarter choices in every aspect of your trip.

Contrary to what many may believe, it is very much possible to go on a memorable safari in Africa and make a positive impact.

In this article, we are sharing tips on how you can practice sustainable and responsible travel on your next safari in Africa:


Thoroughly research the destination you plan to visit

visiting an african tribe

In order to only have a positive impact on the destination you visit, it’s mandatory to first run a thorough research.

It’s almost impossible to do some good when you travel if you don’t know much about the destinations/communities you will be visiting. You should research their local customs, the way they communicate with each other, how and what they eat, how they take care of natural resources, as well as what you can do to integrate into their everyday life.

The more informed you are, the more likely you’ll be able to help and have a wonderful trip at the same time.

»Don’t know which African countries are ecotourist-friendly destinations? Check out our article about Eco Safaris in Africa!


Travel off-peak or during the shoulder season


The popular safari parks and reserves can get overcrowded during peak travel period. This often puts pressure on the local communities and can also strain the infrastructure.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not likely to stop on its own. But you can make a difference. Next time you research a trip, it’s worth considering the road less traveled.

You can do so by visiting places that are off-the-beaten-path, such as smaller parks and reserves.

And if you cannot resist the “lure” of well-known safari parks, plan your visit during the low season or the shoulder season. You’ll not only benefit from more affordable prices, but you’ll also have the parks pretty much for yourself.

Choose an eco-conscious accommodation


Lately, there has been a major shift in the travelers’ attitude, making eco-conscious accommodation more in demand. Because of this, the variety and supply of such accommodations have risen.

There are neutral carbon dioxide places to stay at, or the lodges follow a strictly plastic-free policy. A common practice is not to ask for fresh towels or your sheets to be changed each day in order to save water (each accommodation has instructions on how to signal this to the housekeeping).

At the very least, opt for accommodation built by the locals, using local materials, and that employs members of the community.



Leverage the knowledge of local guides

local game ranger

If you are coming from a country with a totally different set of culture and traditions, visiting Africa can be quite shocking, in the most positive way.

And if your trip to Africa focuses on safaris, the locals are your best bet when it comes to guiding you through the wonders of the lands you’re visiting.

By hiring them, you’ll also be supporting the economy of the local communities, all the while guaranteeing yourself a really nice source of information to learn what it’s like to be a local and what are the best ways to take care of the environment.


Join a group safari


Joining a group safari offers many benefits to those going on their first safari or who are on a tight budget.

By choosing a group safari you promote a sustainable safari experience because you help reduce the emission of carbon dioxide that would normally ensue from solo travel.

While there may still be some time until all the safaris become carbon-neutral, being mindful about your choice will go a long way. Until self-driving can be done in an electric car that you can charge for free at the campsite or lodge, the alternative is to either choose a group safari or opt for activities that don’t create a carbon footprint (walking safari, canoe safari, cycling, etc).

Respect the wildlife and give them space

jackals in south africa

Especially if it’s your first time on a safari, it’s normal to get excited about spotting wild animals on the game drives. But remember that this is their home and that you are merely a visitor. 

Your guide will share all the necessary information so that both you and the wildlife will remain safe during the safari.

Should you opt for a self-drive safari, remember to never get out of the car. Do not disturb the animals and don’t try to get their attention (by waving your arms, for example). You always have to keep a reasonable distance and respect their space.


Be aware of the rules of the park or reserve you’re visiting

Remember that the rules are essential for protecting both you and wildlife.

Especially if on your first safari, the excitement might lead you to break certain rules that may put everyone in danger. Normally, there is a speed limit that drivers have to stick to on the park/reserve roads (and yes, you can get fined for exceeding it). Also feeding or disturbing the species is strictly forbidden. And don’t even think about getting a branch or a tiny rock as a souvenir (it’s forbidden to take any natural material out of the park/reserve).

If you stay in a public park or reserve, you should be back at the camp/lodge before the sun sets.  

Do note that there’s no self-driving in private conservancies. The rules are more lenient (the driver can go off-road, night drives are permitted) but you have to be part of an organized group if you plan to stay in a private conservancy.

That said, always be responsible for your actions in order to keep the well-preserved balance of the area. 


Purchase products from the locals

souvenirs from africa

As they are the ones welcoming you, teaching you, and helping you immerse yourself into their community, it’s only fair that we give something back by supporting their economy.

Shop for food, souvenirs, clothes… everything you can from local stores instead of large multinational chains. At these shops, most items are handcrafted. That money will be directly benefiting the seller, his/her family, and the community itself. Plus, locals know how to work with raw materials without harming the environment.


Pack smart and say no to plastic

Whenever you travel to a natural environment, trash is something that can easily alter its delicate balance and you should make sure to leave the (extra) packaging at home. This also applies to packing for your safari. So, make sure to leave all plastic packaging at home!

And if you are afraid your luggage will be in disarray, packing cubes can help you organize the contents easily.

Invest in a collapsible water bottle that you can carry with you at all times. You could also get a reusable coffee cup, steel or bamboo straw, collapsible food container, and bamboo cutlery. It’s a good idea to always carry a reusable shopping bag in your daypack, too.

Especially if you choose to stay at a campsite, make sure to bring eco-friendly zero-waste toiletries (shampoo bars, deodorant paste, etc). You will create a lot less waste if you avoid liquids and aerosols.

»Curious about staying at a campsite in Africa? Read our article about what to expect when going on a camping safari!


Learn about your purchases in advance

This is, probably, the most important thing you can do to keep your safari sustainable.

Inform yourself about the materials that were used to create the goods you’re about to buy. Pay attention to the materials the lamps, frames, necklaces, and bracelets are made of and completely avoid the ones made from animal parts.

It is extremely important to avoid “supporting” a business that makes money out of harming animals.  The demand for items made from animal parts fuels the crime against wildlife and especially the endangered species.


Support a local project

A great way to help the local communities is to get involved in a volunteering program. But if you don’t have the time to do so during your trip, you certainly can ask locals for information about projects that take place in the community you’re visiting and check the ones you are most interested in.

Always make a point to visit and chat directly to the people in charge before you settle on the project. You want to be sure you are supporting fair and accountable projects, with benefits that can really improve the everyday life of the community. Some projects would even allow you continue to help long after you get back home.

Do you wish to learn more about Africa’ s wildlife? Go on a conservation safari and find out how you can help protect the continent’s endangered species!

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