A growing number of regular safari enthusiasts want to get out of the vehicle and delve deeper into more remote landscapes.
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BBefore my first safari six years ago, I imagined lodges reminiscent Outside of Africa– think leather trunks, dark wood, pith helmets and lots of khaki. I have now experienced nearly a dozen safaris across the continent, from Zimbabwe to Tanzania, and have come to believe that the colonial remnants of the safari industry should remain firmly in the past. Fortunately, change is coming, albeit slowly. Here are a few things visitors to Africa’s wild places can look forward to in the years to come.
Beyond the Big Five
Tourists usually go on safari to spot the “Big Five”, a group that refers to some of the continent’s most charismatic species. Travelers may not be aware that the term itself is an outdated hunting phrase that contributes to overpopulation in areas such as Kenya. Masai Mara National Reserve. Still, most first-time safari travelers want to see lions, leopards, black rhinos, African savannah elephants and Cape buffaloes in the wild, says Dennis Pinto, chief executive of Micato Safaris, based in Nairobi, Kenya. But the company also serves a growing number of regular safaris – myself included – who want to get out of the vehicle, dive deeper into more remote landscapes and explore established landscapes with a new lens.
The industry is answering the call. In Kenya, visitors can see the Grand Mara ecosystem on two feet with Asilia Africa’s culture-focused walking safaris. Or they can trade the Great Migration, when dozens of vehicles gather around herds of wildebeest and their spectacular river crossings, for the migration of humpback whales off the Kenyan coastal town of Watamu.
Then there are emerging destinations. African parks, a South Africa-based NGO, works with governments across the continent to manage nature reserves that once brought in little or no revenue. If a park has tourism potential, the NGO creates safari lodges to help fund operations. I fantasize about encounters with wildlife in these rarely visited places, including Pendjari National Park in Benin, where a new lodge managed by banyan is to come. About 90 percent of the world’s West African lions roam the territory, and the elephant herds are a rare hybrid of savannah and forest species.
Operate forward-looking camps
According to Jamie Sweeting, Vice President of G Adventures, a Toronto-based travel agency. A growing number of camps in Eastern and Southern Africa are run primarily on solar power, use gray water treatment systems and are built with recycled materials. Some government policies encourage better behavior: In 2020, Kenya banned all single-use plastic in its protected natural areas.
Many camps are considering electric vehicles, but the process of technology conversion is often slow and prohibitively expensive. South Africa Cheetah Plains The camp, which runs entirely on solar power, has a fleet of solar-powered Toyota Land Cruisers with Tesla batteries that eliminate the need to carry fuel in the remote control Sabi Sands Game Reserve. For customers, the quiet machines ensure less intrusive wildlife sightings.
Diversification of customers and ownership
Images of black staff waiting for white visitors perpetuate troubling power dynamics, while alienating travelers who don’t fit that guest profile. Black travel to Africa has increased in recent years, but the safari crowd remains overwhelmingly white, according to Naledi K. Khabo, CEO of the African Tourism Association. She says business ownership is also important, especially when it comes to wooing groups such as the $130 billion black leisure travel market in the United States. “Representation is important, and there are a limited number of black landlords across the continent,” she says.
It is slowly changing. The black-owned business, based in South Africa Motsamayi Tour Group in 2020, Kruger Shalati made its debut, set in a former luxury train on a bridge at Kruger National Park with an interior design that refers to the regional culture. Beks Ndlovu, the black Zimbabwean founder and CEO of African bush camps, has 17 high-level camps in Southern Africa. And Kenya is home to a growing number of community game reserves.
Dave Wilson, business development manager at African Parks, believes the oft-overlooked domestic traveler also plays a crucial role. A varied demographic model operates in Rwanda Akagera National Parka once abandoned area that African Parks, with the Rwanda Development Council, rehabilitated into a thriving wildlife sanctuary with accommodations for occasional guests and luxury guests. In 2019, more than half of Akagera’s 45,000 visitors were Rwandans on vacation.
“When you talk about creating a constituency for conservation, it’s not going to come from Mr. and Mrs. Smith of New York,” Wilson said. “It’s going to come from the communities around this protected area, and the [locals] who benefit from this national asset.
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