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Why are philanthropic holidays shaping the future for travelers and the luxury travel industry?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
11 Dec 2020
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2020 has been a year unlike any other. Our charitable partners have lost all their tourism-generated income whilst simultaneously supporting increasing conservation and community needs. Here is an update on how they have fared and how jointly, with your generous donations and our philanthropy fund, we have directly helped them during the year. We again ask that you consider supporting them further during this challenging period. You would be amazed at what a relatively small amount can achieve! Together we can make such a difference!

I am so proud to say that despite the challenges that 2020 has presented, The Explorations Company and our philanthropic arm Philanthropy Plus have again been able to support a number of focussed charities and projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America which have a phenomenal, positive impact.

This year more than ever before, charities have faced unprecedented challenges. Particularly in countries where travel is a leading source of income for the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions have impacted almost every corner of society. Conversely, just as communities and wildlife needed help the most, charity income plummeted as visitors were unable to donate as part of their safari or holiday.


We responded by contacting our pre-vetted charitable partners, determining those in greatest need of immediate relief. We appealed to yourselves in May and were overwhelmed by the generous response! This has made a great difference and allowed our charities to continue over the last few months.

Below I’ve provided an update on the entities which have received donations through The Explorations Company directly as well as from our fantastic clients. I’ve also highlighted any further opportunities to fund projects which will be vital to support wildlife conservation and communities over the coming year as they continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and the eventual recovery.

I would plead with you to consider donating to these fantastic organisations as a part of your festive giving. Please do get in touch with me if you would like any more information or to make a donation!


Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, Zambia

Chipembele is a wonderful organisation run by Steve and Anna Tolan, ex-police officers from Oxford, UK, who emigrated to Zambia in 1998 to set up a conservation education programme for local children in the wildlife rich South Luangwa Park. This area has wonderful biodiversity but high levels of human-wildlife conflict.

They work with local communities to help them become guardians of the wild spaces that they live in. Their work includes the below, as well as much more:


  • Running regular conservation education sessions with children from local schools, including an outreach programme for more remote communities,
  • Taking the children into the National Park for research or game viewing on a regular basis,
  • Running environmental campaigns in the community regarding litter, deforestation and poaching,
  • Running computer training programmes,
  • Sponsorship of a small number of pupils on a scholarship programme that allows them to continue in higher education in sciences or wildlife-related fields.

This year has been very challenging for Chipembele as Zambia has been hit hard by the serious reduction in tourism. In South Luangwa hundreds of local people who work in the tourism industry have been laid off or sent home on reduced wages and the local economy has suffered greatly.


Chipembele’s donations are usually largely funded by tourism and visitor donations. Their income was significantly impacted. However, through careful budgeting, tightening of belts and some COVID relief donations they have managed to keep all their staff in full time employment and on full pay.

When the schools were closed for five months in the middle of the year and there were restrictions on community meetings, they adapted by using the local radio to broadcast conservation sessions over the air. The live phone-ins from members of the public asking questions about conservation proved particularly successful so the radio sessions will continue in 2021. Thankfully now that restrictions have eased in recent months, Chipembele have been able to resume their programmes in full.


The funds donated by the Explorations Company and our client were assigned to the running of the Conservation Education Centre. Their conservation education sessions usually run from May to November but this year they could only run from September to November. During this time, Chipembele taught 240 children about lions and lion conservation during 12 all-day sessions.

The Conservation Centre costs £24,000 (approx. $32,000) to run each year and is currently completely unfunded for 2021. I would urge you to consider making a donation towards this as part of your festive giving.


Mayamiko Trust, Malawi

Mayamiko Trust, based in Malawi, empowers women with education, skills training and access to finance to create a sustainable way out of poverty.

Paolo Masperi created Mayamiko in 2008 after being inspired by her travels in Africa. She wanted to support some of the most disadvantaged people in Malawi to learn skills and use their creative talents to create sustainable income and a better future. This has developed into a comprehensive set of projects which support local people, including:


  • A workshop and training centre which develops artisanal skills using locally sourced fabrics. Trainees learn to make everyday items such as school uniforms in a workshop powered by solar energy and receive free nutritious meals for themselves and their children each day during their training.
  • Mayamiko The Label, a contemporary womenswear brand that creates sustainable products inspired by African prints and provides employment for many graduates from the training centre.
  • A partnership with The Unmentionables where off-cuts from Mayamiko The Label are used to create sustainable washable sanitary kits so that girls do not have to miss school during menstruation.
  • A partnership with Sunny Money Malawi and Solar Aid to finance solar powered lights and ovens in Chinsapo, where deforestation has led to a ban on cutting down trees for firewood and charcoal production.
  • A micro-finance scheme to fund the Fashion Lab graduates to purchase a sewing machine and start their own business.


In response to the pandemic, Mayamiko Trust adapted and transformed their work to create face coverings to distribute to local vulnerable people such as the elderly, refugee camps and local schools. The women began to work from home for safety and the materials were distributed to them. In the first two weeks alone they created 800 masks which were vital for local people.

Mayamiko Trust converted their face-to-face entrepreneurship, business and financial literacy training into digital courses to reach more students and get around the barriers of COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore they have also been able to continue their usual tailoring and sewing training, with 12 women graduating in 2020. 


If you would like to contribute to Mayamiko Trust’s work, supporting vulnerable women in Malawi, please do consider making a donation:

  • $3,000 / £2,500 will enable 1,200 masks to be made a month (300 masks can be made a week for $2.50 / £2.00 per mask, which includes materials and labour).
  • £200 / $270 will sponsor creation of 100 sanitary pads from organic and zero-waste cotton, transforming young girls’ lives.


Local Ocean Conservation, Kenya

Local Ocean Conservation is a non-profit organisation committed to the protection of Kenya’s marine environment, working for over 20 years from their base at Watamu Beach. They develop and implement sustainable marine management models using sea turtles as an indicator species.

Sea turtles produce many hundreds of eggs in each nest, but only around one in 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. However they are important for marine life and act as gardeners and regulators of ecosystems, so it is essential that they are protected.

LOC’s comprehensive range of projects have had very positive results. Even in 2020 when their charitable donation income has depleted dramatically, they have maintained their efforts:


  • 104 turtle nests have been monitored and protected which have resulted in 9,457 successful hatchlings in 2020.
  • 1,0179 sea turtles rescued in the Bycatch & Release Programme in 2020, (20,769 since programme inception!).
  • 67 sea turtles admitted into our Turtle Rehabilitation Centre this year.
  • 27 community groups have been supported over 2020.
  • 793 fisherman engaged with.
  • Since 2010, LOC have supported 28 children in their Marine Scout programme through classroom learning, field trips and hands-on conservation and turtle rehabilitation. It is hoped they will pursue a career in conservation or environment protection.
  • Educators teach children about marine conservation at their headquarters as well as reach out to more remote schools, empowering children to become conservation ambassadors in their communities.


They have recently partnered with Microsoft as part of their digitalization project. They have rolled out new monitoring apps for their rangers to use in the field, as well as AI to use image recognition and data-capturing to identify sea turtles without the need for tagging. The monitoring app empowers their team on the ground to make observations and insights in real time and in doing so, get a real sense of the impact of their work.

The digitalization strategy has had positive impacts on the team. They have been upskilled in computer literacy and this has instilled a mind-set of creativity and continuous learning. One team member was able to analyse the data of a nest in situ and found that the turtle was their longest-standing female. She is affectionately named Mama Mayai and has returned to nest on Watamu beach 35 times over six nesting seasons since 2003. The data also showed that she had hatched 2,824 baby turtles successfully!


I highly recommend visiting Local Ocean Conservation during your safari to Kenya and getting involved in a hands-on way. From December 2020 you can also adopt a rescued turtle as a gift for a loved one! Local Ocean Conservation’s funding has been far lower than usual this year and they are currently seeking funding to allow them to continue their work past March 2021, so please do consider making a donation as part of your festive giving:

  • $15,000 / £12,000 will cover all operation costs for one month. This includes 35 staff salaries, the rehabilitation centre as well as the by-catch release and anti-poaching programmes.
  • $5,000 / £4,000 could provide a four-year scholarship for one marine scout.
  • $1,200 / £1,000 could enable 12 anti-poaching patrols, conducted by two LOC patrol team members.


The Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust at Ngamba Island

The Chimpanzee Sanctuary at Ngamba Island, Uganda, lost their tourism revenue almost overnight when the pandemic started in 2020, totalling around $50,000 / £40,000 in lost revenue between February and June 2020 alone. When we sent our plea for help in June they had only a few weeks’ funding remaining and were uncertain of the future of the Trust and the chimpanzees in their care.

Luckily their network of supporters, along with the generous donations from The Explorations Company and their clients, raised enough to allow the Trust to continue operating and enabled them to continue to feed the chimpanzees through the summer and maintain the core support staff in order to provide the best care for the chimpanzees on a daily basis.


However, travel is still severely impacted by continued lockdowns across the globe. After a partial re-opening on 1st October (under very strict conditions), rising cases in the area forced them to lockdown again and access is restricted. Despite this the Sanctuary has worked hard to maintain operations over the year:

  • Staff are screened daily for symptoms but they cannot afford to regularly test. The staff wear protective masks, they have increased the frequency of cleaning and even when away from work, staff take extra precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19.
  • After an initial three-month delay, the Sanctuary has now been able to complete the annual health checks and found all chimpanzees to be in good health.
  • Hammocks made of recycled fishing nets were installed in the sleeping areas for the chimpanzees.
  • Communities that live in areas near forests with chimpanzees were given tree seedlings (over 50,000) to plant trees to cover areas that have been degraded.


  • Communities were given farming inputs to allow them to plant foods that are not vulnerable to destruction by wildlife such as chillies, potatoes, soy, ginger, etc., which allows farmers to earn much-needed income from their land with high-value crops.
  • The Education Programme, which was severely affected due to restrictions, has been expanded onto their radio-based programmes to increase coverage for environmental education.
  • Repairs have been made after severe flooding in April and May. The enclosure fence is now repaired to keep the chimpanzees safe, as well as the damaged buildings and the pier which allows safe access to the island, which had to be constructed anew.

The Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust is still in need of ongoing support. Located on a lake, they were exposed to a massive flood earlier in the year. Although much of the flood damage has been repaired, risk of flooding in the future is still high and they seek funding to build a barrier along the most exposed shores. The electric fence also needs to be reinforced and a new enclosure for chimpanzees who are isolated due to illness needs to be constructed.


Please do consider making a donation if you can, to allow the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Trust to continue in their care of orphaned and rescued chimpanzees as well as their wider conservation work.

  • $50,000 / £38,000 will cover the remaining amount required for flooding defences ($60,000 has already been raised).
  • $18,000 / £15,000 will cover all operational costs for one month. This includes 38 staff salaries, insurance, medical supplies and procedures, sanctuary maintenance and field operations for the wild chimpanzee protection and habitat restoration programme.
  • $4,500 / £3,600 will buy fruits, vegetables, maize meal, millet flour, soya and eggs for 50 chimps for one month.
  • $2,400 / £2,000 will pay the annual salary of a caregiver.


Painted dog Conservation, Zimbabwe

Painted Dog Conservation operates in critical wildlife areas in Zimbabwe through conservation education bush camps, community outreach, and anti-poaching activities.

Sadly this year they have been unable to safely open their Children’s Bush Camp programme due to the initial lockdown and then subsequent social distancing requirements which meant it wasn’t possible for children to share tents. Instead, the education programme was redesigned so that in the future it could be delivered in a school setting.

The anti-poaching unit, security and the injured animals’ rehabilitation unit was maintained during lockdown. Initially poaching incidents slowed but as lockdown eased there was a rapid increase in poaching. Painted Dog Conservation believe that, because of the increased hardships experienced by local communities due to COVID restrictions, people who were already living at a subsistence level were struggling to survive as whatever income they had directly, or indirectly through family working in the safari industry, had suddenly disappeared.


Lack of human activity in areas where tourists usually frequent meant that poachers could access even more areas with little fear of detection. In response, Painted Dog Conservation engaged with their existing community anti-poaching units. These volunteer units have been supported by the charity to patrol the forests near their communities for six years. They have been provided with equipment such as sturdy boots for patrols, as well as school fees assistance for their children.

In response to increased poaching, the charity contracted and deployed them strategically alongside their own professional scouts to increase their wildlife protection activities and range. This benefitted the communities too, as their fees created much-needed income for families as well as a knock-on effect in the community economy. The support from The Explorations Company and our clients earlier in the year played a significant role in funding this. In addition, the charity have supported 21 local schools by providing PPE equipment on their reopening.


Painted Dog Conservation have much ongoing anti-poaching, rehabilitation, education and research work that has been impacted by the pandemic and they need our generous support more than ever:

  • $42,000 / £32,000 will cover the continued engagement of community anti-poaching teams for seven months between April and October 2021.
  • $10,000 / £8,000 will cover one month of professional anti-poaching operations.
  • $5,000 / £4,000 could pay for annual maintenance of the rehabilitation facility.
  • $1,200 / £1,000 could support chief tracker Jealous in the field monitoring painted dogs for a month.


 Reality Gives, Delhi, India

Being largely funded by tourism in the form of tours of the Dharavi and Sanjay colonies, Reality Gives’ income was enormously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tours were ceased in March to protect the local population, but nonetheless Dharavi became a COVID-19 hotspot in April and May due to the density of population.

Large families stay together in small houses in very hot weather with little ventilation, meaning that COVID-19 spread rapidly. Many who had family in rural villages returned home as food and basic facilities were scarce, lockdowns had reduced ability to work and many ‘daily wage’ workers had lost everything.


Throughout this, Reality Gives continued to provide a lifeline for their young people by continuing their education programmes. They rapidly redesigned the School Program and Youth Program so that it could be delivered online and by telephone calls for children who had access to parents’ phones. They have delivered over 12,000 hours of online teaching to 290 children and 182 teenagers between April and November, as well as supporting their team with regular meetings.

Families of the young people have reported that it was vital to keep the children engaged and safe at home during lockdown. School closures have continued into the 2020-21 academic year, so Reality Gives have continued educating and supporting vulnerable young people remotely via telephone and online.


The team strongly encouraged parents to keep their children enrolled in school, even if they had returned with their families to rural villages. They have successfully re-enrolled all of their 290 children in education, allowing vulnerable children to continue to access education as well as holistic activities for their well-being. They also continued to deliver IT curriculum and English classes to over 182 young people.

The success of Reality Gives to support their young people over the last eight months reinforces how vital education and holistic support is for children and young adults in India’s most deprived areas.


Reality Gives are determined to continue to support vulnerable people through the recovery from the pandemic and need to raise funds to allow them to continue the programs for the foreseeable future, but they need our help. Their specific funding needs are:

  •  $15,000 / £12,000 will cover all operational costs for one month. This includes 36 staff salaries (70% hired from the community, 97% women, 24 teachers), learning material and equipment for their School (JR Kindergarten to Grade 4) and two Youth Centres.
  • $10,000 / £8,000 will cover access to quality primary education for 50 students aged 3 to 10 in Dharavi for 1 year (teachers, learning material, exposure visits, special projects).
  • $1,200 / £1,000 will cover access to English classes for 35 youth age 16 to 25 in Dharavi (teacher and learning material).


Lionscape Coalition, Africa

The Lionscape Coalition was formed in March 2019 by the Lion Recovery Fund, an organisation that funds projects and charities in Africa that are working to conserve lions across their range. African lion populations have reduced by half over the last 25 years, so their vision is to double the number of lions in Africa by 2050.

The Lion Recovery Fund created the Lionscape Coalition which directly contributes to the recovery of lion populations across the continent. The Explorations Company joined with key industry partners of the Conservation Travel Foundation to become a founding member and stakeholder of the Coalition in 2019.


One project that we support and is very close to my own heart is Desert Lion Conservation run by Dr ‘Flip’ Stander. He has dedicated his life to the study and conservation of desert-adapted lions. He spends his time in a Land Rover out in the Namib Desert, tracking ‘his’ lions and working with local communities to keep them safe. It may be possible to meet him as part of your safari (for a conservation donation) and maybe even track and collar a lion for conservation purposes, should an individual lion be identified for such purposes.

2020 has been a very hard year for the Lion Recovery Fund and the Lionscape Coalition. The compound pressures of reduced tourism revenue for conservation charities, reduced conservation operations due to lockdowns and elevated hardship in communities increasing human threats to nature have created a ‘perfect storm’ of pressures to wildlife, according to a partnership of expert conservation scientists in a new paper published in Nature.


What other charities could you consider donating to this year?

In 2020, The Explorations Company and our generous clients have supported a range of charities and organisations in Africa and Asia. Some of these are included below, and may also pique your interest for their dedicated work.

Ruaha Carnivore Project, Tanzania

Part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit, the Ruaha Carnivore Project develops and implements conservation strategies for large carnivores in Ruaha National Park. The Park is home to 10% of all of Africa’s remaining lions, a cheetah population with over 200 adults, and the third-biggest population of wild dog left in the world. With all these carnivores, partnered with dense human populations surrounding the unfenced National Park, human-wildlife conflict is very severe.


The RCP gather research on carnivores and use this to inform their conservation strategies. They also, crucially, work with local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict. Community protection such as predator-proof enclosures, livestock guarding dogs and the Lion Guardians project help to reduce the suffering of communities by predators. In addition, wildlife-linked incentives such as improved education, better healthcare and access to good veterinary medicines help the communities to see wildlife as an asset rather than a threat.

Orphans in the Wild/ Foxes' Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Tanzania

The community of Mufindi has been decimated by the effects of HIV/AIDS. Many of the working-age adults have orphaned their children and the normal extended-family support system has broken down under the weight of supporting such a high number of orphans. The NGO has created a children’s village where 62 children from new born to 17 years old are cared for by ‘house Mamas’ as part of a loving community giving a traditional village-type upbringing.

The children’s basic needs of food, shelter and safety are provided for as education and healthcare. Those that have HIV or physical disabilities are provided specialist care. The hope is that most children will be able to return to their villages when they are adults and be a part of their community.


Mara Elephant Project, Kenya

Working in the Greater Mara ecosystem, the Mara Elephant Project protects and gathers research on the area’s legendary elephant population. Elephants are a keystone species and their conservation in turn promotes the health of the entire ecosystem. Human-elephant conflict is a major threat, as well as habitat destruction and, of course, poaching for ivory.

The MEP monitors elephants with cutting-edge technology to track their movements (particularly problematic crop-raiders) and intercept when they are straying close to human settlement and may encounter conflict. The Project also deploys rangers on the ground and by helicopter to patrol and help to protect against poachers. Finally they use the data they collect to identify elephant migration routes and population density hot-spots, informing their activity and helping to create protected wildlife corridors.


Uganda Carnivore Program, Uganda

Operating in Queen Elizabeth National Park (home to the famous tree-climbing lions), Dr Ludwig Siefert and his team protect the resident predator populations through veterinarian assistance, individual collaring and tracking, using their scientific research to guide management strategies for large predators, and training the next generation of scientists.

They also engage with local communities, assisting with conflict-mitigation by running predator rescue/relocation interventions when required, as well as developing a collaborative approach to conservation with the local community. They run conservation education sessions with local schools, community conservation outreach and help the communities to sustainably earn income through ecotourism schemes.


Gorilla Doctors in Uganda and Rwanda

The Gorilla Doctors conserve mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through veterinary intervention, science and a ‘One Health’ approach. They work in the Virunga Massif (which spans the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the DRC and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda), and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Each and every habituated mountain gorilla within those Parks is monitored routinely, to check their health and allow them to intervene should a gorilla show signs of illness or injury.

They also rescue orphaned young gorillas who have lost their parents due to human attacks, usually by poachers and wildlife traffickers. Poachers try to capture baby gorillas to sell as pets after first killing their adult protectors. 26 gorilla orphans have been rescued in total and given medical care by the Gorilla Doctors before being taken to a gorilla sanctuary to be cared for by a dedicated team of conservationists.


Their One Health approach works to reduce the possibility of human and domesticated animals passing disease to gorillas through research, human and animal vaccination and regular health checks for rangers and scientists.

I hope that this demonstrates the dedicated work being done by charitable organisations across the world and why philanthropy must be a part of all of our travel plans for the future. Please do feel free to contact me to discuss any of our supported charities or to learn more about what they do. I do love to talk about them! Additionally, The Explorations Company’s charitable arm has created a Philanthropy Handbook which you can use as a guide to the range of philanthropic opportunities there are in Africa, Asia and Latin America.



Images and video by kind courtesy of:

Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust and Edward Selfe, Mayamiko Trust, Local Ocean Conservation, Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Trust, Painted Dog Conservation with Nicholas Dyer, Reality Gives, Ruaha Carnivore Project and Lion Guardians with Anna Grau, Mara Elephant Project.