What you need to know about sustainable safaris in Africa
Sustainable tourism in Africa refers to tourism with a positive impact both on local communities and wildlife and the environment. There is no either or in sustainability. A tour needs positive impact across the board. Many tour operators and travel agents ignore sustainable tourism practices and perpetuate the type of tourism that disenfranchises local communities from their natural heritage. To identify a safari as sustainable, there are a number of tools and questions that you can ask:
Do local people work at the lodges?
It may seem obvious that they would, however, I have been to dozens of lodges where not one single employee comes from anywhere in a 200 mile radius. Many lodges source their employees from tourism colleges in the capital. It is good to support these colleges, however, locals have a knowledge of the local environment that nobody else can know. In addition, local communities feel incredibly disenfranchised when their youth is not supported whilst these lodges only come and stress the natural ressources the community has to share. Every year, lodges and camps are burnt down in Africa because local communities are so upset about these alien transplants that come and use what they see as their land and give nothing or little in return. Asking the lodge owners why they do not employ locals, a frequent answer is that these don't want to work there or that they are not qualified enough. It is the duty of the lodge to set up the right kind of environment and to train staff to be effective tourism service providers. Do not hesitate to ask about the working conditions and the relationships that lodges and operators have with local communities.
Can I make my tour climate neutral?
Yes you can! At Safarisource we support both local initiatives, such as a tea plantation in Kenya that is run by one of our boutique tour operators and that specializes in climate neutral travel as well as international initiatives
How is local culture presented and represented on my tour?
Culture, in African safaris, is often little more than a performance for tourists. Ask your tour operator or booking buddy about the ways in which local culture is represented. Ask if the guide is local and how he or she goes about presenting their culture to tourists. Avoid cultural tours that seem overly touristy, unless the venue is organized by a respectable local culture organization.