Many people ask me, can one travel sustainably? The good news is yes, most definitely! This is a topic close to my heart. I think many travelers these days wrestle with their conscience, balancing their thirst to travel, whether for business or pleasure, with the negative effect it is having on the environment.
So - how does one travel sustainably? From the moment you make that internet search (each Google search requires enough energy to fire up a 60W lightbulb for 17 seconds), to the journey to the airport, to your international flights, to your internal flights, the vehicles you travel in, the electricity (if applicable) that the hotel or lodge may use; the list of places one uses energy is frighteningly endless! But – people NEED to travel!
Why? We are curious creatures, we Homo sapiens. We have a thirst for the unknown, we love adventure and we love to explore, to learn. By travelling, one is supporting local communities and providing employment. One is supporting conservation projects and anti-poaching initiatives. Money is flowing into those economies and communities are prospering making them truly sustainable ventures.
And you? As an ethical, intelligent, conscientious traveler – how can you play your part? Well, many luxury camps and lodges in Africa and Asia have really tried very hard to become as green and as sustainable as possible. This means operating by solar, recycling their grey water, consuming their food locally, where possible.
Additionally, I always recommend that you stay with lodges, camps and hotels who are active in the regions within which they operate, specifically from a conservation and community platform, whereby they are proactive in enriching the local environment from a socio-economic and socio-environmental perspective which is critical for creating sustainable development.
In Africa, one company has taken it one step further still. Based in Zambia, the owner wanted to make a positive contribution and take the pioneering gesture of running his camps with a hybrid-electric system. Their camps now all use e-cruisers, e-boats and e-bikes, as well as offering walking.
Purely personally, I will be fascinated to see the difference in behavior with wildlife. Yes, they are used to seeing the vehicles and humans within them, but they are not used to those vehicles being silent when approaching. Like anything, it will simply take them a little time to get used to it, although at first, I believe they will find it startling!
Once adjusted, I believe this will enhance the wildlife experience; guests taking an e-cruiser safari in an electric vehicle will be able to hear the sounds of the wildlife interacting, the birdsong in the tree and so much more. This will allow one to be connected to the wildlife on a much deeper level!
These camps are based in the fabulous Busanga region in northern Zambia, in Kafue (also in northern Zambia) and in the famously wildlife-rich region of the South Luangwa National Park. This is a wonderful step forward, and I can highly recommend visiting these three camps which are situated in such diverse regions. They are also incredibly proactive in funding anti-poaching projects and supporting local communities.
The Busanga Plains region is a unique biosphere, where East African species meet with southern African species, so one has a doubling of waterbuck, for example; Defassa’s and the common waterbuck. There is a crossover of bird species. Black maned lions occur here too. This is a mini-Serengeti with its open savannah grassland and the accompanying prey base which favour this vegetation, being wildebeest and zebra. It is also renowned for its huge populations of grey crowned crane.
Then Kafue National Park, with its beautiful woodland and rivers and its excellent leopard population amongst other tremendous wildlife. And finally, South Luangwa National Park, with its oxbow lakes and dambos, concentrated leopard population (the largest in sub-Saharan Africa) and excellent predators as well as elephant and its specialised endemic species such as Crayshay’s zebra and Thornicroft’s giraffe. Zambia is one of the most wildlife-rich countries in Africa!
Zambia is also home to the walking safari. The best regions for a walking safari in Zambia include in the South Luangwa region where there are various options for walking with expert guides and staying in mobile tented camps as well as fly camping. Additionally, North Luangwa is even less-visited and a lovely camp has just opened, called Takwela. The Lower Zambezi National Park is also the perfect venue for an expertly-guided walking safari, where a private tented mobile camp can be erected exclusively for you.
One can take a private walking safari from just a couple of nights to a full week, depending upon how much time one has. There is also a set departure walking safari with a fabulous guide which takes a maximum of six like-minded guests.
A walking safari leaves no footprint, (excuse the pun!), yet one learns so much more on foot – from the medicinal properties of trees and plants, to learning how to identify the tracks in the grasses and the sand, to respecting nature and learning to walk downwind of wildlife, in order to appreciate them in relatively close proximity. It is so much more of an immersive experience – one simply feels alive and connected!
Other outfitters encourage zero carbon emission holidays – such as walking, canoeing, cycling and horse riding holidays. All fabulous ways to explore the local area – in quietness and off-piste – or as I like to term it – the Silent Safari!
The best time to visit the Busanga region is from August through to October. Otherwise, for the rest of Zambia, it tends to be from around June through to October.
The struggle to maintain sustainable travel is particularly true of my own company, whereby it is vital for us to travel a great deal, in order to bring our clients the most up to date information, whether it be for a new lodge or camp that has just opened in a magical, wildlife-rich area, or to share the news of a new project we are supporting that our clients could be involved in, too!
Likewise, if we have heard anything negative about a place that we love to support, we insist on investigating it, before sending any further clients there and discovering what any issues are and how to rectify them before sending our clients.
In addition, several lodges and camps ask us for our input, due to our enormous experience and standing in the industry, to assist them in solving problems or simply to make suggestions to enhance our guest’s experience. And finally, our specialists come from the regions they promote, which means, annual return visits to these continents in order to see our families.
So – how do we reconcile it? We make every effort to make a positive impact to outweigh our own travel:
This blog was first posted on 02/06/2020 and then updated and republished on 25/02/2021
Video and images used by kind courtesy of Tusk and Mane, Green Safaris, Takwela Camp and Excellent Development.