How to Choose an Ethical Safari

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Imagine taking in the Big Five and truly wild surroundings from the comfort of luxury lodges and camps. By day you can spot hippos and giraffe from a 4x4 open-sided vehicle, then break for Gin and Tonic sundowners before returning to fabulous five-course, wine paired meals. This is any travelers dream but how do you know for certain that the African Safari you have chosen is ethical? A true African experience is to see the animals on their terms, not yours. At Safari.com, we are committed to responsible travel and don’t recommend a tour, lodge/camp, or activity that we ourselves have not tried and tested. Responsible travel whilst on safari is about being considerate of the basic rights of animals. We must always heed the regulations of a park or reserve and ensure our impact on the environment is minimized. Unfortunately, not all operators are ethical and it is of great importance that we be diligent and adhere to certain ethical principles when booking a safari in Africa. Here is what you should be taking into consideration:

Animal Rights

Visit the Giraffe Manor and David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust, where guests can meet, greet and feed baby elephants together with their loving keepers. Nairobi, KenyaAnimal rights are not about putting animals above humans or giving animals the same rights as humans, but understanding that we as human beings do not have the right to use and exploit them for our purposes. According to PETA, Animal rights mean that animals deserve certain kinds of consideration—consideration of what is in their best interests, regardless of whether they are “cute,” useful to humans, or an endangered species and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all. It means recognizing that animals are not ours to use—for clothing, entertainment, or experimentation.

Hunting

Trophy hunting is, in fact, frowned upon by the majority of the public. Often, the animal being hunted is a rare or endangered animal, but even trophy hunting for lions, elephants and leopard is offensive to many people. The killing of wild animals for food is a different story. Though it was, at one time, a way of life so people could survive, today, hunting is a controversial issue because it is frequently regarded as a recreational activity.Conservationists argue that the land has a "carrying capacity" beyond which overpopulation can have a huge negative impact. To simplify it - in the natural world, grass would be overgrazed, animals would start dying, reproduction rates would fall, populations would decrease, and the cycle would be never-ending. Despite several conservation groups and animal rights' activists' continued efforts, culling remains an acceptable and even preferred method of controlling the number of animals in a reserve, particularly elephant. It is believed by some that a decision not to cull an excessive elephant population will result in the local extinction of many plant and animal species. Others believe that it’s completely unnecessary given that there are alternative options which include contraceptive methods. The hunting debate may never be resolved. The two sides will continue to debate safety, effectiveness, and cost, but will probably never agree on the ethics of killing wild animals for food, recreation or as a means to decrease over-populated reserves.When looking to book a safari you can rest assured that none of the national parks and nature reserves permit hunting. The lodges within these reserves are governed by rules and regulations to ensure that there is minimal impact on the environment and that every effort is made to ensure the safety and well-being of animals inhabiting the reserve. A good example of this: The number of vehicles at a sighting is limited to three or four vehicles to protect animals and enhance your game viewing experience. There are also numerous tactical response units hired to prevent animal poaching in these reserves.

Animal Interactions

Elephant babies are fed every 3 hours 24 hours a day. The keepers stay with them 24 hours a day and even sleep in a bunk in their stall at night, Giraffe Manor and David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust in Nairobi, Kenya.At Safari.com we do not promote any animal operation that doesn’t accommodate animals in a safe, spacious and most natural environment. We also do not condone chaining or whipping of animals. We encourage travelers to avoid tours that include walking with lions, riding elephants or touching any baby animals - it prevents them from being rehabilitated back into the wild and are subjected to a life of confinement in zoos or circuses. We encourage a safari experience that involves watching the wildlife in their natural habitat, preferably in an environment where they can move freely without restrictions. Should you choose to have up-close encounters with any wild animals, it should be in an establishment that is committed to the conservation of that species, aimed to rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild, and in the event where a release is not possible, that the establishment be committed to the lifetime care of these animals. The purpose of an animal interaction should only be to create awareness.

Game Drives

On safari game drive enjoying a close encounter with elephants in Kenya, AfricaTraditional safari protocol is to wake before dawn, head out at first light, spend the morning spotting animals on a game drive before the sun is too high in the sky and head back to camp for a delicious breakfast. Game drives offer a unique wilderness experience, bringing you very close to the animals. The highlight of an African Safari. From the comfort of an open vehicle, you can explore the wild, taking your time to absorb and appreciate the nature around you. Your game drive should be conducted by a ranger who has undergone extensive field training. This is imperative as he/she will be expected to know how to position the vehicle for the best viewing whilst ensuring the safety of both you and the wildlife. It is important that game drives are conducted in an environmentally sensible manner as the damage a vehicle does to the bushveld takes up to two years to repair. The field training also helps the ranger understand animal behavior and how to avoid any threatening situation. All of our lodges are reputable and employ highly trained rangers who are dedicated to conservation and providing an unforgettable safari experience.

Conservation Projects

The remarkable team at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre attending to a wounded Rhino, Kapama Private Game Reserve.Often travelers want to make a difference and show a keen interest in conservation safaris. We recommend that you look for conservation projects that are carried out with nationally or internationally recognized organizations and that take issues of land and wildlife into account. Another positive indicator are those that have been recognized by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – for tourism businesses which successfully integrate sustainable tourism best practices into their planning and operations – or the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

There are many ethical opportunities to encounter Africa’s incredible wildlife up close - here are our favorites:

Gorilla trekking - African Wildlife Foundation

A breathtaking shot of a highly endangered Mountain Gorilla living at the renowned Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda.Africa is home to two species of eastern gorilla—mountain gorilla and the Grauer’s gorilla. Eastern gorillas live in the mountainous forests of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northwest Rwanda, and southwest Uganda. The remainder of the world’s mountain gorillas live in four national parks found in three African countries. There are less than 1,000 of these magnificent apes remaining in the wild. The Grauer’s gorilla is indigenous to the forests of the Albertine Rift in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Even with the population steadily increasing, the overall decline in eastern gorillas averages at 5 percent per year. AWF works with locals to help both gorillas and the community. Through partnerships with private operators and communities, they have designed and constructed tourism lodges benefitting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda—and their respective communities. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains, and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, outside of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, are community-owned tourist lodges that benefit the local people who share their backyard with gorillas by generating income through tourism.

Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden

Chimpanzee in her sanctuary habitat of abundant forest tree's she calls "home" at the Jane Goodall Institute and Chimpanzee Eden.The Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden, commonly referenced as Chimp Eden is a 1,000-hectare game reserve and animal sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees. The Chimp Eden was established in 2006 and is South Africa's only sanctuary for this endangered species. This chimpanzee sanctuary brings the world of chimpanzees closer to humanity through education end eco-tourism. There are various viewpoints from which to admire and study these spectacular animals in a habitat of forest and “foraging areas".

AfriCat Foundation

The AfriCat Foundations’ headquarters are based in the two-hundred square kilometer private Okonjima Nature Reserve, located fifty kilometers south of Otjiwarongo in central Namibia. The AfriCat Foundation was founded in the early 1990s and formally registered as a non-profit organization in August 1993. AfriCat strives to temper conflict between humans and wildlife on commercial farmlands, especially with lion (Panthera leo). The foundation strives to educate the youth of Namibia by encouraging better livestock management and through their research studies that monitor the regions wild lion population. AfriCat’s objective is to successfully conserve Namibia's large carnivores for future generations. These animals include brown hyena, leopard, and cheetah - all of which can be seen during your visit to Okonjima.

Abu Camp

There are no words to describe the magnitude of meeting an elephant up-close. Meeting the Abu Herd is a humbling experience, seizing every opportunity to interact with the elephants on a variety of activities. Shortly after arriving at Abu Camp, you will be personally introduced to the herd before engaging with them on activities which include walking excursions, mud bathing, training, veterinary care, and learning more about elephant conservation, behavior, and care.

Giraffe Manor

A sanctuary for endangered Rothschild's giraffe, a stay at Giraffe Manor allows you to interact with these intriguing creatures. You can feed the resident Rothschild giraffe from the breakfast table, take a guided walk in the sanctuary, or stroll across to the Giraffe Centre. The Africa Fund for Endangered Wildlife (A.F.E.W.) Kenya was founded in 1979 by the late Jock Leslie-Melville, who began the Giraffe Centre after his discovery of the decline in the population of the Rothschild Giraffe. The Giraffe Centre is a world-renowned "Nature Education Center", aimed to educate thousands of Kenyan school children every year.

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is a remarkable wildlife facility that focusses on conserving rare and endangered species. With a love for wildlife and conservation, the center aims to educate the surrounding community, as well as be actively involved in breeding projects, rehabilitation of wounded wild animals and assist with anti-poaching projects to name but a few.

Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre

The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is where the abandoned, wounded and even poisoned wildlife of South Africa’s find sanctuary. Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is recognized for their significant contribution to wildlife education in South Africa. The center has a long-standing and successful Serval Breeding Project with more than 160 cats successfully reintroduced into regions where they have become extinct. The center is also actively involved in research that observes the movement and behavior of leopards, as well as a number of vulture species. Wherever possible, the center will always release rehabilitated birds and animals back into the wild and those who are not so fortunate due to the nature and extent of their injuries are cared for and used for educational purposes.

Shamwari Game Reserve

Shamwari is actively involved in several conservation projects. Shamwari offers exhilarating opportunities for volunteers, to get behind-the-scenes and involved with various conservation efforts of the game reserve. The Big Cat Rescue and Education Centres are situated within the game reserve and focus on wild cats that are confined to cages and other captive environments throughout the world. The rescue and education centers home rescued lions and leopards from across the world - a truly inspirational experience for all visitors. The Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre helps to rescue, rehabilitate and care for sick, wounded, abandoned and orphaned animals under the care of a professional veterinary team. Once these animals have been nursed back to health, they are released back into their natural habitat. The Wilderness Foundation has created a unique rhino display at the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre, to highlight the current rhino situation in Africa.Join us in our efforts to promote socially responsible, tourism throughout Africa. Investing long-term in responsible ways ensures the preservation of wildlife and benefits local communities making that gin and tonic as the sun sets over the savannah taste all the better.We invest in wildlife conservation projects that make a difference, invest in the people who enrich your safari, and invest in communities that aid in the protection of our beloved wildlife. Your travel matters. Make choices that matter. Talk to one of our Safari Experts today.

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