How to be an eco-conscious traveller in Africa

By Shona 16 April 2018

As travellers to Africa, we are fortunate enough to enjoy some of Earth’s most stunning beauty. We witness the continent’s many thrilling natural phenomena, explore its hidden treasures, and then sit back, relax with a G+T, and take in some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, backlit by a glorious sunset.

We might like to think that we celebrate our planet all the time, but sometimes it is good to have time in which to stop and think about what we can do to help our environment. Below, we decided to outline our Top 10 ways to celebrate the Earth and have suggested ways on how to become an eco-conscious traveller: 

1. Turn off the lights

Nestled in the Namib Desert, the NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the darkest places on the planet, due to its strong guidelines on light pollution. Originally established to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the south-west Namib Desert, the reserve guidelines also actively ensure that the night sky is kept pristine, so guests here can experience some of the most superb stargazing in the world. A handful of luxury lodges offers a state-of-the-art observatory and telescopes, resident astronomers, and fabulous locations. We highly recommend visiting these lodges, turning off the lights, and letting your vision fill up entirely with sightings of the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, and galaxies 100,000 light years in diameter.

2. Skip the bath

The largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is a dream destination for adventure seekers, romantics, and families alike. It has so many activities on offer that we honestly believe there is something for everyone here. The primary reason to visit, though, is to wander the pathways of the national park to behold Vic Falls in all its impressive glory. To help conserve water, skip your morning toilette and don’t even bother with a waterproof, as you’ll relish the warm spray from the world’s most spacious open-air shower.

3. Give the car a break

Sometimes there is nothing better than having a safari vehicle all to yourself! We suggest leaving the car at the camp and exploring on foot or on horseback. With no barrier between you and the wildlife, a vehicle-free safari becomes unquantifiably thrilling. On foot, you become aware of the silence of the bush, only to suddenly stumble across a herd of elephant in your path. On horseback, most of the wildlife is unaware of your presence, so you can get really close to the animals, often even riding alongside big game. One of our favourite horse-riding adventures has to be the experience provided by Borana Lodge in Kenya, and our head of Africa, James, outlines his choices for a walking safari here.

4. Plant something

Other than just beautifying an area, planting a tree or a full garden has great benefits, including the opportunity for you to give back to a destination that you are visiting. Your volunteering to plant vegetables is highly beneficial to the people in the region. As well as producing oxygen and filtering out pollutants to clean the air, the fruit and vegetable produce is a fantastic food source, reducing imports. An absolute nirvana for those interested in good wine, wholesome food, and gardening, Babylonstoren is a boutique working-farm hotel in South Africa’s Cape Winelands. As well as living it up in the highest levels of luxury, guests happy to get a bit dirty can get their green thumb into action, whether that’s planting, harvesting, pruning, or mulching the afternoon away.

Alternatively, for a stay in a lodge where you literally wake up and smell the coffee, consider Gibb’s Farm in Tanzania. As well as being an ideal base from which to explore the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, Gibb’s Farm offers ‘Farm Life Experiences’ including vegetable harvesting and coffee roasting.

5. Foster an animal

Adopting, sponsoring, or fostering an animal is fabulous for helping orphaned wildlife get the necessary medication, treatment, and supplies. Several foundations rescue injured or orphaned animals – such as baby elephant, giraffe, rhino, or cheetah – and care for them until they are ready to be released back into the wild. A noble cause for a noble day! If you would like to donate, we recommend the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Established in 1977 and based in Nairobi, this organisation aims to hand-rear orphaned elephants so that they can be rehabilitated back into their natural environment. Since 2016, we’ve fostered over 50 elephants with the trust, so if you’d like to make a contribution to the YZ Elephant Herd, just let us know and we can arrange this for you. Sadly, founder Dame Daphne Sheldrick passed away last week; however, her legacy remains and there is a call, stronger than ever, to help further her cause.

6. Take it outside

Not everything to do with being an eco-friendly traveller is about taking action. Sometimes it is enough simply to appreciate the beauty and abundance of our planet. What better way to practise a bit of appreciative yoga than surrounded by the African bush as you breathe deep, find your inner yogi, and listen to the elephant stroll by? Outdoor yoga or pilates is the perfect antidote to mornings and afternoons spent in a game-viewing vehicle, as these kinds of classes place emphasis on harmonising the body with elements of the African bush. We love properties like Londolozi Varty or Founders, the Seychelles’ North Island, and Moremi Game Reserve’s Mombo Camp for a bit of Urdhva Hastasana, thanks to their yoga decks and specifically positioned platforms.

7. Eat locally sourced seafood

When dining in Cape Town, seafood is certainly one of the most popular choices, whether in a Michelin-worthy restaurant or in a casual fish shop. Unfortunately, because of overexploited and fully fished areas, there has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of fish and other marine life in the ocean. As a consumer, you have a powerful impact and influence over the products that places like supermarkets and restaurants stock, so we recommend only ordering seafood that has been locally and sustainably fished. If you are visiting South Africa’s incredible Mother City, you can help out by choosing seafood that is ‘Green’ according to the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), researching either on their website or via their handy app.

8. Stay in an eco-friendly lodge

At the initial enquiry stage of a safari, we will often hear someone comment on how there is so much choice involved, first in determining which destination to visit and then in trying to figure out which property is best for the holiday. Why not consider looking into eco-friendly accommodation? You could select one that goes above and beyond in its efforts to sustain, preserve, and protect the wildlife and landscape of Africa. There has been a strong call for camps and lodges to make less and less of an impact on the environment, which has been heeded by several companies, such as Wilderness Safaris, Great Plains Conservation, and &Beyond. From impressive rhino relocation initiatives to properties that employed a tree expert to make sure not one tree was hurt in a build, we list our top eco-lodges here, to help narrow down the search.

9. Don’t just do it on Earth Day

You don’t have to leave these experiences until Earth Day, which is celebrated each year on 22nd April! Instead of just one day, why not incorporate these suggestions into every holiday or safari? This action will not only help towards the Earth’s conservation, but it’ll also give you plenty of satisfaction, when you know that your luxury safari comes with a ‘save the planet’ aim.

10. Why not book with a conservation-conscious company?

Conservation has always been integral to co-founders Rory and Julian’s vision in forming Yellow Zebra Safaris. Inspired by the unfathomable efforts by father-and-son duo, Bernhard and Michael Grzimek, to protect the Great Migration in the Serengeti, Rory and Julian decided to create a company that, rather than selling a safari or a pre-formed package, offers the best expertise and knowledge possible and lets the experience sell itself. Most importantly, they also believed YZ should revolve around a strong sense of ‘giving back’. With charity donations to anti-poaching teams, wildlife protection, community development, and children’s education, combined with a workplace that is becoming more and more environmentally friendly by the minute, Yellow Zebra certainly prides itself on being a conservation-conscious company…

For more information on a safari to East or Southern Africa, please contact one of our experts today, to start talking through your adventure of a lifetime!