Sustainable safaris for a better tomorrow
When we think about sustainability, we tend to think of how we can protect and conserve the environment. While this isn’t completely off track, I like to think of sustainable safaris as a form of tourism that not only satisfies the wildlife and nature lover travellers, but a form of tourism that considers what I refer to as the SEE (social, environmental and economical) approach in safari tourism.
Traditional safaris would never be considered a complete safari, unless you went out in the wild and got to experience the thrill of the jungle by going on game drives. The traveller who spotted most wildlife was considered to have had the most fulfilling safari. The main activity was to see wildlife with your own eyes. Safaris therefore became a “see” type of safari, where spotting wildlife was the key element of the whole experience.
As tour operators, we are so occupied with giving the traveller this “see” experience, that when the needs of our modern-day traveller started to shift, we forgot that for them their main interest is in a different kind of “see”. This is the approach that I simply like to refer to as the SEE approach in safari tourism. It’s an approach that instead of just ticking off how much wildlife you see, you tick on the impact of that safari, in terms of:
- Social aspects
- Environmental aspects
- Economical aspects
The SEE approach is a simplified way of remembering to develop safari itineraries that not only consider the physical ‘see’ while on safari but consider the complete picture.
10 guidelines to make your safaris sustainable
Implement the following 10 guidelines as policy in your safaris. Also advocate for responsible practices so you can positively contribute to sustainable safaris.
In this article
- Respect the local culture
- Don’t use single-use plastic
- Educate your travellers
- Be aware of what you bring and leave
- Avoid unethical animal interaction
- Follow and obey the rules and regulations
- Purchase souvenirs from locals
- Do not trade or buy anything that is listed as endangered
- Involve your supply chain and all stakeholders
- Communicate sustainability as the better option
1. Respect the local culture
Often tour operators build safari itineraries and forget that it’s not only about the natural attractions such as wildlife parks, but also the local people. Be respectful of the culture at all times and remember authenticity drives cultural tourism. Visit a local market, have dinner with a local community, or explore a local village in the area of the wildlife park.
2. Don’t use single-use plastic
Most Kenyan wildlife parks have banned the use of single-use plastic water bottles. As a tour operator, it’s still important to advise travellers to bring their own reusable bottle for their trip. During safaris, you’ll have picnics in the wild and want to reduce your (plastic) trash. Don’t use single-use plastic cutlery or wrapping but invest in reusable, quality materials.
3. Educate your travellers
Travellers often want to capture every moment and feature in the destination. In wanting to do that, they might forget that locals might not appreciate it and get offended. It’s your responsibility as tour operator to advise and educate them well before the safari starts. Make it clear they should seek permission first, before capturing a moment with a local.
4. Be aware of what you bring and leave
The ideal scenario would be for travellers to only leave footprints and nothing more. Sadly, we sometimes overlook the very simple details. We forget that responsible waste management is not optional, but mandatory. This advocacy must come from you, as you create the safari itinerary and bear responsibility for safeguarding the destination.
5. Avoid unethical animal interaction
As a tour operator, you should not under any circumstances promote unethical animal interaction. Simply don’t include them in your itineraries. These may include safaris with animals in captivity or slavery or where touching or even feeding wild animals is allowed. Remember, these animals belong in the wild and their own natural habitat.
6. Follow and obey the rules and regulations
For every trip you offer, travellers must obey the rules and regulations of wildlife parks. If the rules state you must keep at least 25 meters away from the wild animal, make sure your guides inform the travellers. It’s the responsibility of the tour operator to ensure travellers know what’s accepted and what’s not. They also need to be aware of the consequences and implementations of breaking those regulations. Safety first.
7. Purchase souvenirs from locals
One of the best ways to make sure the third E (economic) of the SEE approach is included, is to involve all stakeholders. Let them also gain economically through tourism. Tour operators should involve locals in the value chain by promoting local souvenirs to their travellers. This way, you are not only just involving them in the social aspect, but also empowering and stimulating economic growth.
8. Do not trade or buy anything that is listed as endangered
A common mistake is that tour operators promote local souvenir purchase but forget to mention there are certain goods that are illegal to purchase. Remember that even though you are advocating for economic development for locals, you can’t turn a blind eye to the ills of society. Illegal trade occurs from selling of animal parts such as ivory or marine life. It’s the responsibility of tour operators to make sure that these practices do not occur.
9. Involve your supply chain and all stakeholders
To develop a sustainable safari successfully, it’s important to engage your supply chain. Making sure that from start to end, sustainability is at the core. This means that accommodations, transport and excursions must have green practices and principles. As a sustainable tour operator, you want to encourage your supply chain to have similar values. This allows you to offer a sustainable, in sync product to your traveller. Consider working with suppliers that have recognised green labels as they offer third party check assurance.
10. Communicate sustainability as the better option
How else will the public know? A sustainable communication strategy is vital for every business. The messages on your website, the messages on your social media pages, your marketing material. It all needs to speak responsible tourism. Nowadays travellers are conscious buyers, meaning tour operators must be conscious sellers to meet their needs. Share best practices within your supply chain and pursue to continuously improve. Think about the impact of your safari for those that are visiting, as well as those who live in the destination.
Implementing the SEE approach for sustainable safaris
Tour operators need to envision how their business is influenced and impacted by the SEE approach; socially, environmentally and economically. If your mission is to fulfil the travellers desire to see the wild and nature, then use the SEE to objectively analyse how your safari impacts local stakeholders to balance SEE. Use above 10 guidelines as the bare minimum to build and develop your sustainable safaris.