The safari industry plays a hugely important role in supporting responsible tourism on the African continent. So, although a safari is first and foremost a hugely enjoyable and memorable experience for those taking part, it is also worth considering how supporting responsible organisations enables visitors to play a part in helping conservation and communities.
For Africa to remain the captivating safari destination that it is, it is important, however, that tourism is not allowed to exist unfettered by ethical and practical limitations. The key is sustainable ecotourism, whereby there is minimal impact on the environment with local communities also receiving benefit. This in turn helps to preserve habitats and wildlife.
Without visitors and the financial benefits to communities which tourism brings, many of the vast and varied habitats across the continent would soon succumb to the drive for human expansion. To generate income for the indigenous population, alternatives would have to be found including agriculture, which inevitably encroaches on the fringes of wild areas; and without ethical and practical controls, poaching would also have a serious impact on already-threatened wildlife populations.
Travelling with responsible organisations which support ecotourism will go a long way to ensuring that a sustainable balance is found. These operators employ local staff and are involved with community projects – sponsoring education, supporting or building rural schools, initiating healthcare facilities and educating local communities in conservation. Many also become involved in much needed wildlife research.
In some cases, local communities own land which has been set aside specifically for wildlife-based tourism and bed night fees go into community coffers. Within these areas, there may be camps and lodges which are actually owned by the communities themselves; the bed night levies from these help to sustain the population and support their way of life. In turn, this helps to encourage them to preserve wildlife habitats for future generations.
Sadly, simply supporting communities is not, however, quite enough. Even with the financial benefits of sustainable tourism, poaching remains a tragic problem across Africa. Driven by financial incentives, the illegal poaching for rhino horn and elephant ivory is well publicised and is decimating populations. At Bushbuck, we support Tusk and encourage our guests to do the same. Tusk not only works to protect wildlife, but also to helps alleviate poverty through sustainable development and education amongst the rural communities who live alongside the wildlife.
Using a responsible agent, working with operators who deliver sustainable ecotourism, will ensure that the impact of tourism is a decidedly positive one; benefitting not only communities but also wildlife, both now and into the future.