For many people, a safari is the trip of a lifetime. The experience certainly doesn’t come cheap, but travelers should understand that the price often stems from more than luxurious accommodations, all-inclusive dining, and wildlife drives. Many operators use a portion of the fee to fund essential animal and nature conservation projects. “Contributing to the preservation of these natural wonders helps guarantee that they will be sustained,” says Bruce A. Stein, chief scientist of the National Wildlife Federation. “And paying for a quality tour experience, which engages with and benefits local communities, helps to ensure that these places will continue to be available for other travelers to experience.”
Africa-based operators have led the way in developing forward-thinking initiatives. Luxury safari group andBeyond, which runs 29 lodges on the continent, partners with Africa Foundation to work with the leaders of villages around its properties. The company also supports land and marine life by relocating rhinos and other endangered species to habitats with a low risk of poaching and, most recently, secured three island properties where they can support monitoring and research efforts. “Working with community leaders helps us give wildlife systems a fighting chance while providing the communities with immediate direct benefits,” says andBeyond’s chief executive officer Joss Kent. Meanwhile, Time & Tide, a safari and conservation outfitter in Madagascar and Zambia, has launched a lemur translocation project, while the Bushcamp Company in Zambia is paying for scouts to conduct anti-poaching patrols.
Many hotels and tour companies offering wildlife-focused experiences elsewhere in the world are also giving back to their regions. The Mexican eco-resort Mayakoba employs a team of on-site biologists to monitor its impact on the bird and wildlife species in the area. In the Bahamas, Baha Mar introduced B.E.A.C.H. Sanctuary, comprising a just-opened aviary, with marine and flamingo habitats debuting soon. Peru’s Delfin Amazon Cruises takes guests to visit a local manatee rehabilitation center. In Australia, Lizard Island Resort maintains an internationally recognized research station that studies the Great Barrier Reef.
No matter where you want to go for your next trip, you have a growing number of resources at your disposal to help you make more conscientious choices at every stage of your journey.
The Center for Responsible Travel provides a detailed checklist of guidelines to follow before, during, and after a trip. Another easy way to make your travel more eco-friendly: donate funds to offset the carbon dioxide you’re responsible for releasing during transit. Environmental nonprofit Carbon Fund offers a tool that does the math for you based on your methods of transportation.