So, you want to travel to Africa.
But you don’t want to do it while raising eyebrows in a ‘who even invited THAT guy (or gal)’ kind of way. You’d rather do it RESPONSIBLY. But what even is responsible? And what makes the difference between being a pith helmet short of a neo-colonialist, and using the power of travel to drive positive change and empowerment in the places you visit?
Fear not, we’re here to help you out.
While the instruction booklet for how to be a decent human abroad can seem kind of daunting, here are a few quick tricks to turn your personal journey into one that leaves everyone the richer for it (including yourself).
BE CURIOUS (BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK)
We mean it. Not only does curiosity lead to real personal growth while on the road, but channelling your sense of discovery and taking a chance on the unknown is the first meaningful step towards sustainable travel.
Africa is the least-visited continent. Travel here isn’t about following the crowds. Africa specialises in the raw, the wild and the remote. Testing out local, lesser-known experiences, directly benefits local economies, as well as rewarding small, independent tourism enterprises who would otherwise lose their customers (that’s you!) to bigger players.
Look at it this way. If your main motive while travelling is ‘doing it for the ‘gram’, you’ll only add foot traffic to often over-appreciated places, while getting less of Africa to yourself. By only searching out ‘big ticket’ stuff, you’ll never really get away from it all, and you’ll miss cracking into that soul-fulfilling sense of discovery while you’re at it.
This is a total win-win. We may not all have a spare $50k to donate to rhino conservation, or prevent deforestation of the Amazon, but by splashing some of your travel budget on lessmarketed and underappreciated experiences, you’ll create demand for land and wildlife conservation beyond the places on the postcards. You’ll also be creating opportunity for more small business owners to benefit through tourism.
BE CONTENT (WITH LESS)
Why settle for just five stars, when you can have five billion? While the idea of lounging in a massive lodge with private plunge pools, mini bars and aircons can seem truly glorious, sometimes the humming from the white goods in the night can rob your senses of a true bush immersion.
Not just that, but the bigger the bells and whistles, the faster the proverbial hamster needs to run to power the mains, and the bigger the ecological footprint. Of course, there are great safari camps where you can have your champagne and drink it too, but the most sustainable (and memorable) moments are often found by pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere and staying awhile.
We’re talking places to fall asleep under a shower of stars, and wake up in the wildlife’s
natural habitat. Places to plug into 360-degree views of wilderness, and out of a few square
inches of news feeds on phone screens. Better still, when camp is broken down after the
morning coffee has been brewed for you over the campfire, you’d never know it was even
there to begin with.
And as for the private plunge pools? A little bit of luxury still has its place, but before you book, consider how the power is generated, the waste is reused or recycled, and whether the scarcity of resources in remote places is honestly respected. And if you’re not sure, we know some people who can help you out *wink, wink*
BE PRO (SELF) CHANGE
It’s been said that everyone wants to change the world, but no-one wants to change themselves. But, the good news? If you use the opportunity of travel, to change small habits and bring them home with you, it can have a profoundly positive ripple effect.
The least sustainable thing you can do while traveling, is demand your new environment and host culture adapt to fit your comfort zone. This is how we end up mistrusting water filtration systems and demanding bottled water which ends up as landfill. It’s how we overlook genuine human connections and make them purely transactional, damaging the reputation of your fellow countrymen after you leave. It’s how plunge pools and claw foot bathtubs to drown a baby elephant in, wind up in desert-based lodges, far from the waterways needed to fill them.
But travel is a great teacher for making you realise that you’re better off (and way more comfortable) just going with the flow. This point is about acceptance and a willingness to explore something different, so the biggest culture shock you’ll have, is the one you get on returning home when you get to ask yourself ‘why did I even do it that way to begin with?’
BE COURAGEOUS (IN THE WILD)
Ever wonder about the inter-connectedness of things? Well if you haven’t, a trip to the bush will have you doing just that. Once you start learning about how baboons plant trees, hippos dredge waterways and the wildlife and its environment changes not just in response to seasons, but also human intervention, you’ll think more intuitively about how to act sustainably in general.
So, how can you read the patterns of nature in order to understand the most drastic impacts on the environment? Well, guide training is a great place to start. Believe it or not, once you’ve stood in front of an elephant on foot and tried to anticipate what motivates its next movements, or listened to the calls of squirrels and francolins to read whether there really is a leopard under ‘that bush’, you’ll start noticing nature wherever you go – even on your return home.
When you know a bit about what vegetation is needed to sustain certain wildlife, how clearing land can impact anything from the diversity of bird species, to the availability of wildlife corridors, you’ll start to see the patches of green in cities, instead of just the buildings. You’ll understand the true nature of cause and effect brought about by small actions that make big change. And, you’ll become a better-informed global citizen, able to share your new-found insight with others.
They say that travel is fatal to prejudice. And they’re right.
What’s even better, if you do it right – it’s also fatal to ignorance