• William Gray

Why we need to keep planning wildlife holidays

Updated: Jun 12

Borders are closed. International travel is severely restricted. But in these difficult times, we must continue to plan wildlife holidays to ensure a sustainable future for ecotourism. In the first of a series of blogs, William Gray shines a light on the urgent need to support crucial conservation and community initiatives through responsible travel, once we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent collapse of tourism around the world, the economic fallout is not only leading to untold numbers of job losses, but also threatening numerous conservation and community projects. While the health of our families, friends and vulnerable members of our communities is foremost in our minds during this dark and challenging period, we also need to look ahead to brighter times. This series of blogs will hopefully inspire you to think about future wildlife holidays, particularly those with high conservation value.

"It is crucial that clients continue to keep planning for 2021, in order to provide hope and to sustain the industry," says Alice Gully, co-owner of Aardvark Safaris.

According to the World Economic Forum, travel and tourism contributed over $42 billion to sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP last year, of which a crucial part went to conservation and community projects. "The sharp decline of tourism is leading to large-scale job losses across Africa," Gully adds. "Support will undoubtedly be needed for local communities in the coming months, and there is a concern that poaching may increase."  

Keith Vincent, CEO of Wilderness Safaris, highlights the importance of tourism revenue to support conservation: "Without guests staying with us to experience Africa’s wilderness areas, our ability to fund their ongoing protection will erode fast. However, you can be assured that we are all doing our utmost to invest in, and protect, our two most valuable assets – our people and our wildlife."

Read on to find out about the vital conservation and community projects that these six wildlife holidays in Africa and the Indian Ocean support. Future blogs will round up other projects and holidays from around the world. Subscribe, for free, to the Wildlife Wishlist blog here.

6 wildlife holidays in Africa and the Indian Ocean – and the conservation and community work they support

1. Anti-poaching and community empowerment

Wilderness Safaris | Linkwasha Camp | Zimbabwe

Despite the current global tourism challenges, Wilderness Safaris’ Sustainability Fund has allocated urgent funds to ensure that Hwange National Park’s Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit (SAPU) can continue its vital work. To date, SAPU has removed 2,395 snares during 1,397 patrols. The long-term future of conservation work like this relies on revenue from tourists staying at Linkwasha Camp. Located in a private concession on the edge of the wildlife-rich Ngamo Plains, the camp has eight sumptuous en-suite tents and one family unit, while the main living area boasts multi-level decks, a pool area and lounge overlooking the teeming waterhole. As well as SAPU, Linkwasha also supports community empowerment projects, helping rural women in Zimbabwe use their creative skills in basketry to develop small businesses that alleviate poverty and fund school fees for their children.

Find out more: Wilderness Safaris Linkwasha Camp

From US$585 per person sharing per night, including meals and activities such as nature drives.

2. Rhino conservation, community health and education

Aardvark Safaris | Borana Lodge | Kenya

A 30,000-acre conservancy nestled on a hillside in the shadow of Mt Kenya, Borana is home to East Africa's largest rhino conservancy – a refuge for both black and white rhino, as well as elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra. Guests staying at Borana Lodge support the Borana Conservancy, a non-profit organisation working in partnership with the local community. In addition to funding rangers, the conservancy runs a mobile health clinic and agricultural and education projects. With spectacular views across the remote Laikipia region of northern Kenya, the lodge has just eight stone, timber and thatch cottages – all with open fireplaces, en-suite bathrooms and private verandas. An infinity pool overlooks a waterhole regularly visited by wildlife, particularly elephant. Most of the food served at the lodge is grown on the family farm or sourced from local growers.

Find out more: Borana Lodge, Kenya

Available through Aardvark Safaris from £615 per person, per night, including full board accommodation and safari activities.

3. Picathartes conservation, health, education and football

Ashanti African Tours | Ghana

Protected within its 16 national parks and reserves, Ghana's diverse wildlife includes forest and bush elephants, hippos, lions and seven species of monkey – not to mention around 1,000 different butterflies and over 760 species of birds. Strangest of these, perhaps, is the yellow-headed Picathartes – a ground-dwelling rock fowl that builds cup-shaped nests of mud. Through its Picathartes Education and Conservation for Knowledge Fund, Ashanti African Tours are supporting three communities which surround a small area of Upper Guinea Rainforest that is not only a nesting site for this rare bird, but a refuge for other endangered species such as the long-tailed pangolin. The tour operator hopes to show these communities that, through ethical travel and eco-tourism, there's an immediate benefit from conserving the forest. As well as building a school and ecolodge, the project offers free training in local livelihoods and sponsors youth football teams.

Find out more: Ashanti African Tours offer award winning, professionally led, locally guided all-inclusive tours of Ghana.

4. Cape leopard conservation, local communities and rock art

Bushmans Kloof | South Africa

Nestled in the rust-red Cederberg wilderness north of Cape Town, Bushmans Kloof is more than just a unique retreat offering stunning accommodation and extraordinary dining experiences... it's also custodian of more than 130 rock art sites painted by the indigenous San people, and a refuge for indigenous wildlife including the world’s largest privately owned herds of Cape mountain zebra and a precious population of the rare and secretive Cape leopard. As well as partnering with projects supporting farming, livelihoods and education, Bushman's Kloof works with The TreadRight Foundation, Cheetah Outreach and The Cape Leopard Trust to purchase and care for Anatolian shepherd dogs which act as guardians ensuring local communities can protect themselves and their livestock from top predators responsibly and sustainably, while also helping protect one of Africa’s most endangered wild animals. Known for their impressive speed, agility and loyal instincts, the dogs have a sandy colouring that blends seamlessly with the herds that they protect. Guests can visit them on a nearby farm and meet the farmers raising and keeping them. 

Find out more: www.bushmanskloof.co.za

Luxury Rooms start from ZAR 6,000 per person per night based on two people sharing, including meals and activities such as nature drives, rock art excursions, botanical walks, canoeing, archery, fly fishing and hiking.

5. Lemur conservation, ecotourism and community projects

Rainbow Tours | Madagascar

At just 30 hectares, the Anja Community Reserve protects a tiny fragment of Madagascar’s remaining dry deciduous forest – yet it’s home to a thriving population of over 300 ring-tailed lemurs. Established in 1999, it’s one of the country’s most successful community-managed forests and ecotourism initiatives. Local people gain employment as reserve managers or wildlife and trekking guides, while the community has benefitted from projects such as fish farming, tree nurseries, malaria education and the construction of a primary school. Local people have been empowered to protect their local patch of forest. It's just one of the enterprising community projects you can visit and support on a tailor-made wildlife holiday with Madagascar specialists Rainbow Tours. A 14-night itinerary in the southern half of the country also features the national parks of Andasibe-Mantadia, Isalo, Zombitse and Ranomafana, as well as the community forest of Ifaty.

Find out more: Rainbow Tours

The above itinerary costs from £4,395pp, half board, based on two people sharing, flights with Air Madagascar from Paris and UK-Paris flights with either BA or Air France.

6. Coral propagation, reef protection and alternative livelihoods

Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort | Maldives

Sheraton Maldives has teamed up with Reefscapers to offer guests activities to help restore and nurture surrounding coral reefs. The hotel is introducing a programme where coral-propagation frames – placed around the resort’s house reef – are naturally encrusted with new coral colonies, rejuvenating areas damaged by coral bleaching. Guests can take part in frame-building activities led by experts. Frames are also built locally in Baa Atoll Fulhadhoo, providing an alternative livelihood to the 250 inhabitants whose sole previous source of employment was fishing. Sheraton Maldives is also appointing a marine biologist to be stationed at the resort to conduct educational workshops and guided snorkelling tours. It is hoped the coral from these frames will eventually grow onto the natural reef substrate, improving the habitat for fish and other marine life.

Find out more: Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa

From $400/£315 per night based on two people sharing a Deluxe Garden View King Room on a B&B basis.

I hope you've enjoyed this blog. Please contact the operators featured to discuss your holiday plans. If you are an operator and would like to highlight similar holidays and projects in a future blog in this series, either in Africa or elsewhere, I'd love to hear from you. Please email me directly at will.gray@me.com


I post regular wildlife travel features, destination guides, reviews and news. Sign up below to be notified of the latest posts.
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Wildlife Wishlist was founded by zoologist, conservationist and award-winning travel writer and photographer William Gray. Sharing his passion for wildlife and recommendations for responsible travel, Will has spent around 30 years tracking down the world's best wildlife holiday experiences.