Dream Trips: How to Ensure Your Safari is Ethical + Responsible - Full-Time Travel

Dream Trips: How to Ensure Your Safari is Ethical + Responsible

How to Ensure Your Safari is Ethical + Responsible

When it comes to dream trips, the African safari tops virtually every traveler’s bucket list. Spending a week amid astonishingly beautiful landscapes, getting an up-close look at the world’s most incredible wildlife is an unforgettable experience. It’s also a privilege that comes with responsibility. 

“Authentic and sustainable conservation tourism offers luxury travelers an incredible opportunity to be immersed in the natural world, that will not only transform their lives but also give back to conservation and empower communities at the same time,” explains Simon Stobbs, Managing Director of Wilderness Safaris’ South Africa, an award-winning company known for its commitment to sustainability. “Potential guests may be interested to know about the positive impact that a safari experience has on conservation and communities, and how their visit contributes towards this, particularly with an increased awareness in the world that travel can be used as a force for good.”

Wilderness Safaris' DumaTau in Botswana

A responsible, ethical safari company should be taking action to protect the animals and environment, and respect and support the communities who call these amazing places home. But as a traveler it can be challenging to see through any greenwashing and deduce which companies will put your tourism dollars to good use. 

“Travel to Africa was effectively halted for the majority of 2020 which resulted in a serious economic impact to tourism companies and the people who work for them, so it is true that you will have a beneficial impact just by booking your trip,” explains Paula Franklin, co-founder of Travel is Better in Color and a safari expert. “For people who want to go deeper in making sure their travels are a force for good I suggest starting with your travel advisor. Pick one that clearly lays out their commitment to the areas they work in. Then ask questions like, why this lodge, why this national park over a private concession, who owns the lodge and are they hiring locally?”

If you’re one of the many people using this pandemic time to plan a future safari, make sure you’re doing your due diligence. Start by asking yourself these questions and book an ethical safari trip you can feel good about. 

By Harshil Gudka

Who owns the lodges you're considering?

When you’re researching lodges and tour operators, spend some time digging into who owns them and how they support local people with employment opportunities. Economic leakage (tourism dollars getting funneled abroad via foreign ownership instead of benefiting the local economy) is common in the safari industry, so make sure the company you’re traveling with is at least hiring and training local people. You might consider booking your trip with a Black-owned lodge like African Bush Camps (which operates a number of lodges in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia), Verney’s Camp in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, Kruger Shelati in South Africa, or Tangulia Mara in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

How is the company benefiting the local wildlife and people?

If you’re looking at lodges in Kenya, you’ll notice that some are based in Masai Mara conservancies. A wildlife conservancy is an area of land that is managed by, in many cases, a group of private owners or a community, with the dual purpose of protecting and managing wildlife while also allowing that community to rent land to safari operators on their own terms. When you pick a lodge based on a conservancy it benefits both the wildlife and the people. 

Bisate Lodge, Wilderness Safari, Rwanda

Is the company genuinely dedicated to sustainability and ethical practices?

Beware of greenwashing. It’s 2021 and safari companies are expected to be participating in some kind of conservation, but not all are equally dedicated to environmental and socio-cultural support. 

"An organization needs to walk the talk on the ground and not be using sustainability merely as a marketing tool,” says Stobbs. “Travelers should spend some time researching safari operators and looking at the awards pages on their websites to see if they have been recognized for responsible, sustainable tourism practices, and whether they are able to back up their claims with facts and figures.”

Is the company creating measurable impact?

Speaking of facts and figures, most safari companies have been around for decades, in which case they should be able to provide you with the results of their conservation efforts. “Ask for receipts,” says Franklin. “How effective has your anti-poaching been? Is the school you "fund"  seeing tangible benefits such as running water, flush toilets or WiFi? How are local animal populations doing, are numbers going up or down?” Results will help you deduce which companies are genuinely dedicated to sustainability. 

View of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya | by Sergey Pesterev

Can you cut back on flights?

Because of the distance and the expense, you might be tempted to pack as many parks as possible into one trip, jetting from one place to another on small planes. However, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and have a better overall experience if you stay put for longer, slow down and soak it all up. Skip a game drive one day and spend your time by the pool, waiting to see which animals stroll by. 

How can you continue to support the local community during your trip?

Sometimes, a tour operator may add a “community visit” to your trip itinerary (think: dropping into a school classroom). The intention is that tourists will donate money to an institution or individual, but, says Franklin, “you can donate without visiting and spending some time in more urban areas supporting local restaurants and shops can have a great benefit.” If you are planning a major donation (think new buildings or solar panels) to the school, by all means visit. A great donation that has a lasting impact is funding of park ranger or tracking vocational schools. These programs allow young Africans to work in the safari industry in a leadership capacity. Companies like Asilia Africa actively support these programs and hire from them. 

There's more to Greece than the white and blue buildings and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. If you're planning a visit, check out these places below!

📍Kokkinopilos. Preveza
📍Verliga Dragon lake, Thessaly
📍Ithaca island, lonian Sea
📍Aoos springs lake, Epirus
📍Lake Prespes, Macedonia
📍Balda di Stringa waterfalls, Epirus
📍Meteora, Thessaly
📍Pelion, Thessaly
📍Lake Zorika, Epirus
📍Mt Lakmos
📍Crete island, Aegean Sea
📍Gistova Dragon lake, Macedonia

Reel: @farawayfarers

Swim or kayak through the limestone cliffs of the Twin Lagoon, a must-visit destination for those traveling to Coron, Palawan, Philippines. It is called "twin" lagoon because it consists of two lagoons separated by a limestone cliff, with one lagoon on top of the other. The water in the inner lagoon is warm and clear, with a stunning turquoise color that makes it popular for swimming and snorkeling.

Reel: @travelifejournal

Take a dip in a series of seven saltwater lagoons located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The Lagoons of Baltinache are known for their beautiful turquoise waters and unique geological formations. The high concentration of minerals in the water gives it a unique buoyancy that makes swimming in the lagoons a unique experience.

Reel: @everchanginghorizon

Watching the sun rise above the clouds at Haleakalā National Park is one of the most memorable experiences you could have. Haleakalā is a Hawaiian name that means “House of the Sun” and is an awesome place to watch the clear night sky and stars fade away as the sun lights up the sky and the earth.

Reel: @girlchill_sunset

Just 1 hour from Shanghai by train, Cherry Blossom Valley is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The valley is named after the thousands of cherry blossom trees that cover the area and create a stunning display of pink and white flowers. The trees were originally planted in the 1980s by a group of Japanese experts who were invited to China to help with reforestation efforts. The best time to visit is typically in late March or early April. Get there early to beat the crowds!

Reel: @cyncynti

New Zealand is unbelievable. See it for yourself:

1. Fiordland National Park
2. A classic backcountry hut trip
3. Blue Pools walk
4. Hooker Lake
5. Milford Sound
6. Lake Pukaki

Reel: @kylekotajarvi

Surrounded by lush greenery, towering karst mountains, and the river flowing through, the Detian Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the close relationship between China and Vietnam. It is the largest waterfall in Asia and the fourth largest cross-border waterfall in the world.

Reel: @sophoebelous

Escape to a serene and peaceful oasis away from the bustling city of Marrakech at Le Jardin Secret—a beautiful and historic garden where visitors can escape the noise and chaos and enjoy the beauty of nature. The garden was originally built in the 16th century and is home to many different species of plants, including exotic flowers, citrus trees, and palm trees.

Reel: @hypermiggzz

For a magical moment and bucket list travel experience, visit the end point of the annual monarch butterfly migration. Starting in August, the monarchs travel 2,800 miles south from Canada, making a temporary home amid the towering trees of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, where the two most popular sanctuaries to view them are el Rosario in the state of Michoacan and Piedra Herrada in Estado de México. Standing in silence while thousands of delicate wings beat in unison is something you'll never forget.

Reel: @juliiathompson

There's just something beautiful about snow covered landscapes like this popular attraction in southwestern Utah. Known for its unique geology, @brycecanyonnps_gov consists of a series of natural amphitheaters, called "hoodoos," formed by erosion of the rock layers.

Photo: @nathanleeallen

As we experience a couple more weeks of winter, we can't help but dream of tropical destinations like Hawaii. The warm water, sunny skies, and consistent waves make it an ideal destination for surfers. Hawaii has a vibrant surf culture and community and is also a beautiful place to explore outside of the water, with lush green mountains, stunning beaches, and unique cultural experiences.

Reel: @christopherballadarez

1. @sequoiakingsnps, California
2. @canyonlandsnps, Utah
3. @olympic_nps, Washington
4. @whitesandsnps, New Mexico
5. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
6. Knik Glacier, Alaska

Reel: @nathanleeallen

Imagine getting caught in the rain while kayaking at one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Known for its stunning turquoise-colored lake, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise is home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, and moose.

Reel: @reneeroaming