All this talk got us thinking about the different safari options out there for eco-conscious travelers who want adventure, but also want to support conservation efforts for animals and land, enhance local communities, and aid the healthy growth of sustainable tourism.
Turns out, there's plenty to choose from.
Aardvark Safaris offers eco-friendly tours in more than a dozen countries in Africa. From the company website:
We are passionate about Africa and recognise that in carrying out our work as a tour operator we have a responsibility to respect other people’s places and ways of life. We aim to maximise the benefits our clients’ travels can bring to an area, and we aim to be responsible in all our dealings in the areas of environmental, social and economic impact.
The guides take visitors to smaller lodges and campsites that deal more sustainably, and with more understanding, toward the region, and try to source their supplies from organizations that support the local economy.
Natural World Safaris
Though they do tours all over the planet, Natural World Safaris is famous for its Madagascar trip. That excursion generates money for the Kianjavato Lemur Project, a group of lemur-monitoring programs that track the dangerously endangered species. Tourists who book this trip are among the few outsiders allowed into the lemur habitat in Ranomafana. Money from the profits of this tour go toward supporting further efforts to protect this wonderful animal.
Similar to the special lemur trip above, Red Savannah offers a trip to Rwanda that includes hiking to observe the mountain gorilla. Tourism that involves animal observation has been a successful compromise when it comes to conservation efforts. Gorilla populations have faced decimation due to deforestation, poaching, and war. Showing how money can be generated in the country by preserving the species is one way to support their continued presence up in the mountains.
Wild About Africa
Sister company to Expert Africa, Wild About Africa is focused on small groups interested in exploring southern Africa. The team of guides is comprised of people who have all lived, worked, or traveled extensively throughout the continent. Wild About Africa offers conservation safaris in Namibia, which was the first country in Africa to include "protection of the environment" in its constitution. Local communities manage their wildlife through conservancies, which are now responsible for about 20 percent of the country's wildlife habitat. Wild About Africa's safaris focus on lodges and campsites operating in these conservancies in order to support local efforts to protect the wildlife according to regional interests.
Baobab Travel advocates for responsible travel, stating that the uniqueness of a place is what generally attracts visitors, which in turn endangers that very uniqueness:
The elements of these destinations that attract tourists are often those that are most at risk of damage from tourism. The ‘unique landscapes’ that interest visitors tend to be, by their very nature, fragile ecosystems that cannot support large numbers of tourists. The ‘remote destinations’ are often populated by indigenous cultures, whose customs and traditions may be vulnerable to the over-bearing western culture of tourists.
The company believes in Fair Trade tourism, and buys supplies from places that have been certified for their work ethics. This encourages economic growth that is sustainable and beneficial to local communities. They themselves are signed on to the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct, which aims to protect children from sexual exploitation that is a part of some underground tourism.
Baobab Travel markets its adventures as "bespoke" tours that are carefully tailored to specific groups and needs, and that work closely with the communities they stay in to support the economy in a positive fashion.
For people interested in elephants, Steppes Travel offers tours as long as 31 days, visiting elephant habitats from the Congo to Botswana. Much like with the gorillas, these trips add economic value to elephant preservation for local communities. Steppes also partners with conservation group Save the Elephants. Money from tours supports that organization, which in turn educates visitors on conservation efforts and the lives of elephants.