How to Travel More Sustainably in Africa: A Complete Practical Guide

How to Travel More Sustainably in Africa: A Complete Practical Guide. We aim for our journeys to be environmentally conscious and beneficial to the locations we visit. So, how can you help the environment besides the apparent measures of limiting plastic use and carbon offsetting your airline tickets?

You’re ahead of the game when you book your trip with us because we’re a B Corp and we won the Travelife Partner award for our eco-friendly practices. That means every aspect of your trip, from activities to accommodations, has been thoughtfully planned to minimize its environmental impact.

Another great way to lessen your impact is to do everything you can to reduce your own personal impact before, during, and after your trip. Below, our experts offer their suggestions.

Tips for being a responsible tourist

How to Travel More Sustainably

1. Choosing where to go for a more sustainable trip

By Mat, African safari specialist

Going during off-seasons makes sense for a number of reasons. Sights are less crowded, there are more lodging options, and, in many cases, you can get more for your money because costs are lower. However, the fact that it contributes to the local economy is something I didn’t realize until recently.

Instead of relying on a small number of months of the year to generate all of their revenue, local companies and communities may reap the benefits of tourism throughout the year if more people travel outside of peak seasons. Plus, you won’t have to settle for a mediocre experience because your expert will be well-versed in your destination’s seasonal highlights and can advise you on how to make the most of your stay, no matter when you go.

I recommend:

Most tourists visit Tanzania between July and October, when the weather is dryest and the Great Migration herds are most likely to be seen crossing the Mara River. Outside of these months, nevertheless, there is a lot to see; not only that, but you’ll have your choice of the greatest campgrounds, and the parks and reserves will seem much more untamed due to the reduced number of vehicles.

If you want to view herds with their young, the best time to go is between January and March. You can often witness dramatic events develop as these defenseless creatures attract predators like hyenas and big cats. The scenery is verdant and healthy, and migratory birds bring a profusion of birdlife.

2. Get off the beaten path

Many prominent tourist spots had already succumbed to their own adoration before the virus hit. The term “overtourism” today describes the situation when historic towns, beaches, and other popular tourist destinations are overwhelmed by the sheer number of tourists.

Going off the main path and avoiding tourist traps are two things you can do as a traveler to help keep overtourism from happening again. Traveling to less-visited locations can be just as fulfilling as seeing the popular bucket list spots that everyone is posting photos of on Instagram. You might spend hours in line at a popular tourist spot, only to find that it doesn’t appear anything like it does online. This is just one example of how many popular tourist spots fall short of expectations.

Travelers can escape the throng and have a more genuine experience by venturing off the typical tourist routes. You won’t need to set up camp in the desert, but you will need to conduct some further reading. If you’re looking for more than just the “Top 10” places to visit, try using Google Maps, talking to natives, or asking around for suggestions. Consider staying in a smaller city or a more rural area rather than a large tourist center. This way, other local communities can reap the benefits of tourism without putting undue strain on already-popular sites. Choose a small ship cruise line if you’re going to cruise. Common cruise locations don’t get as crowded as they do when these boats visit smaller ports with fewer people. Plan your vacation to a popular place during the off-season if you really want to go there. To find out when it will be least crowded, check out this page.

3. Fly Less, Stay Longer

You may help lower your trip’s carbon footprint and save money by reducing the number of internal flights you take in Africa. You may travel more responsibly and still have an economical African safari by limiting your stay to a single park or reserve.

4. Use Efficient Means of Transportation

There are further options to lessen the environmental impact of your African vacation besides reducing the number of flights you take. While it’s true that all forms of transportation use energy, some—like an amazing rail safari across Africa—are more eco-friendly and efficient than others.

Taking a luxury train throughout Africa is more than just a means of transportation; it’s an adventure around the continent lived in the lap of luxury. Embrace the charm of a bygone age as you relax on a rail safari, taking in the breathtaking scenery of Africa and maybe even spotting the fabled Big 5 during your game drives. This eco-friendly mode of transportation is perfect for anything from little trips across Southern Africa to long odysseys like the one from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam.

5. Step Off the Safari Vehicle

Walking the same paths as the first explorers gives you a whole new perspective on Africa. A walking safari allows you to immerse yourself in the natural world on all levels—physical, mental, and spiritual—as you take in the sights, smells, and sounds of the African bush. The walking safari originated in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, where it can range from a leisurely morning stroll to a multi-day adventure between camps.

Choosing eco-friendly safari activities like canoeing, cycling, and horseback riding is another great way to cut down on carbon emissions. On top of that, while most safari vehicles use internal combustion engines, some hotels and camps in Africa have electric safari vehicles that can take you on game drives without releasing any carbon dioxide.

6. Stay at Sustainable Accommodations

Experience Singita Sasakwa Lodge

You can also travel sustainably in Africa by staying at eco-friendly accommodations, such as safari lodges and camps, which help local communities and have less of an impact on the environment. Find out what kinds of rules and procedures they’ve put in place, and then have your travel agent help you choose the best one.

Important questions to ask to show you are looking at how to travel sustainably are:

  • Are they implementing measures to conserve water?
  • Is the usage of single-use plastics no longer permitted?
  • Are diversity and inclusion priorities for them?
  • Are locals considered for managerial positions?
  • Do they give preference to eco-friendly manufacturers and nearby suppliers?
  • Do they advocate for ethical and responsible interactions with animals?
  • Does solar energy power them?
  • Is zero waste a policy they back?
  • Can you tell me if they have initiatives to protect endangered species and reduce conflicts between humans and wildlife?

These eco-lodges in East Africa are great options for anyone planning a sustainable vacation to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, or Rwanda.

7. Stay in a Private Conservancy or Reserve

One of the greatest ways to travel sustainably while on an East African safari is to stay in a private reserve. Local landowners enter into leasing agreements with safari operators in a conservancy, which is a specific form of land- and wildlife-based conservation. This means that in exchange for financial compensation and other services like educational and healthcare programs, livestock and grazing management, and more, thousands of small-scale farmers and residents who own small plots of land join forces, pool their properties, and enter into contracts with safari operators.

Private conservancies provide a platform for tourists to support conservation efforts while also providing people (such as the Samburu and Maasai in East Africa) with a real reason to preserve their native plants and animals. Extra benefits that aren’t available in national parks are as follows:

  • For up-close encounters with wildlife, take game drives off the beaten path.
  • Observe the nocturnal creatures of Africa, such as the aardvark, honey badger, and porcupine, while going on night drives.
  • Join a walking safari with a guide.
  • There are strict vehicle limits for wildlife sightings, so you can enjoy exclusive, crowd-free game viewing.
  • As an exciting, exclusive, and one-of-a-kind addition to a walking safari, try fly camping.

See our recommended private game reserves and conservancies for additional details on ecotourism in Africa.

How to be sustainable while you’re away

While traveling, there are many decisions you may make that have an impact on the places you visit and the people who live there. A lot of these are things you probably already do at home, including recycling, conserving energy by turning off the lights and AC when you leave a room, reusing towels, and eating more plant-based meals. Other suggestions are as follows:

  • Opt for dishes made with fresh, regional ingredients instead of ones that require air transport.
  • For the sake of the local ecosystem, use non-toxic, environmentally friendly personal care products.
  • When shopping for souvenirs, support local artisans and stay away from anything that could harm endangered species (see to the CITES treaty and the IUCN Red List for more information).
  • Pick out things that are either locally run or have an emphasis on sustainability; if you need ideas, have a look at our compilation of the top experiences that give back to the community.
  • Be considerate of parks by staying on trails, avoiding stealing, and always putting things back where you found them.
  • We take animal welfare very seriously in all that we do, but when you’re by yourself, we ask that you stay away from petting zoos, confined animals, and tricksters.

Other, more apparent options are more concerned with showing respect to the cultures and people you’ve encountered than with protecting the environment.

  • Never take a picture without first asking.
  • No matter where you go, make sure to follow the local traditions. Your specialist will be able to provide you practical advise on this.
  • Never do anything to a youngster that you wouldn’t want them to see you do in your own home. Never go to an orphanage or school while classes are in session.
  • Shop at neighborhood establishments to support small businesses and the local economy.
  • Be considerate when bartering, as even little sums can mean a lot to sellers.

The Bespoke African Safari Co. and responsible travel

We established the Bespoke African Safari Co. for Good Fund to give back to various global environmental and social organizations so that we might have a positive impact on the places we visit. Because of this, our clients and employees are able to contribute to a cause that is near and dear to their hearts, often as a result of their own travels. Visit our philanthropy page to learn more about the organizations we support.

Our expert guides to choosing your responsible travel trip

These guidelines, produced by our experts based on their personal experiences, will hopefully serve as a source of inspiration for vacations that cater to responsible travelers. Our suggestions for responsible vacation spots include things to do and places to stay, as well as our thoughts on what other people should consider.