Today is World Wildlife Day (or at least this was written and published on World Wildlife Day) and while most of us mark this just one day of the year, for South Africa’s diverse wildlife and the conservationists that dedicate their lives to caring for them, every day is World Wildlife Day. Without these people, we would lose so many precious species and ecosystems, and without this biodiversity, our own survival would be compromised.
So, how does going on a couple of game drives help what is a huge task at hand? We’ll get to that in a second because it’s important to note that not all South African safaris are equal in terms of how much is put into conservation (and neighboring communities). Often it is the private game reserves, like Manyoni, that get this right.
Manyoni was founded on conservation, when several landowners in Zululand dropped their fences to create a wilderness area suitable for a founder population of black rhino, as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. Now, through the lodges based in the reserve, such as Rhino River Lodge and Rhino Sands Safari Camp, and conservation partners, as many resources and efforts as possible are put towards ensuring the survival of many vulnerable species, like African wild dog, black and white rhino, elephants and cheetah.
Safaris are an opportunity to give back in meaningful ways, of which the following three are the most clearly defined and easiest to follow.
Traveling with purpose transforms lives
By going on a safari, you are choosing purpose-driven travel that is exciting and inspiring. It has the potential to transform not only your own life but those you encounter along the way. This can be by taking part in conservation-related activities and donating to projects, or through decisions or small acts, that you may not even notice or realize at the time.
For instance, on reserves where game drives are regulated to minimize the impact on the environment and stress on the animals, your safari ensures that wildlife is still able to roam freely in a healthy natural habitat. A huge bonus of this is that when only three vehicles are allowed at any one sighting, your game-viewing experience is kept authentic and intimate.
Paying for more than just somewhere to sleep
As part of your safari, you’ll be required to pay conservation levies that go into looking after the natural environment and the wild residents that call it home. On top of this, the lodge hosting you will allocate a percentage of your accommodation fees to go towards this same goal. So, just by choosing a safari in a conservation-focused reserve – over another holiday destination – means you are traveling better.
Without adequate protection and management, endangered species are vulnerable to increased poaching and trafficking, and wilderness areas become threatened by human encroachment. By visiting game reserves in South Africa, your funds support the important work done by anti-poaching units, park rangers, and various organizations on the ground.
In this way, you’ve made a difference without even making any additional donations – you are helping invest directly into increased field research, anti-poaching teams, and improved surveillance based on the latest technology. When visiting facilities or taking part in activities that are conservation-related, you will likely be asked to make a donation or pay a fee that, once again, goes directly into the cause.
Giving back by getting hands-on
There is almost always conservation work to be done on a reserve. Animal tracking, monitoring, and counting are just some of the activities that get you out into the bush, alongside the dedicated people who work tirelessly to protect and manage South Africa’s wildlife. Be prepared to not only get your hands dirty but your heart and mind involved too.
Witnessing, for example, the process of darting a buffalo and a vet then treating it for disease or injury, or a fieldworker fitting a lion with a tracking collar is a life-changing experience. But, just like an experienced safari guide knows not to guarantee you a specific animal sighting, the other activities you can join conservationists on are at their discretion and based on where there are any activities available during your stay. So, it’s always best to ask beforehand!
Your safari experience can be about so much more than simply ticking off an animal or destination checklist. It can feed your soul with passion and purpose while giving back in significant ways to those that are lacking in resources.
All images courtesy of Rhino River Lodge and Rhino Sands Safari Camp.