It would be easy to assume that because safaris rely 100% on Africa’s precious natural resources – its fragile wild places and the plants and animals which inhabit them – that safari operators are more sensitive to the environment.
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true.
With “eco-tourism,” “enviro-tourism” and “responsible tourism” the current buzz words in the travelling world, it makes it difficult sometimes to figure out exactly what the impact of a holiday in the African bush really has, not just in terms of carbon emissions and footprints, but in terms of being kind to people, place and planet.
In Kenya, the “home” of the safari, the Maasai Mara for example is wall-to-wall with mass tourism during the annual wildebeest migration to such an extent that the impact of hundreds of vehicles crowded onto the banks of the Mara river waiting for crossings has become an enormous environmental concern, not to mention an absolute no-no for anyone looking for an authentic safari experience.
Africa’s rich natural heritage is used as a heavy marketing tool, too. There are so many products out there which are supposedly “green,” “community conscious” and “Big Five Friendly” that tourists have a huge battle in deciding who the “greenwashers” are and which products are actually doing the good deeds they say they are.
So. Is it actually possible to take a truly responsible, eco-friendly and environmentally aware safari?
If you are in South Africa, yes it is, thanks to the pioneering Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), a non-government organisation which is the first, and so far only one in the world to adapt the widely accepted principles of Fair Trade to the tourism industry.
FTTSA runs a stringent certification programme which awards its label to businesses which demonstrate adherence to the Fair Trade criteria of:
• Fair wages and working conditions
• Fair operations, purchasing and distribution of benefits
• Ethical business practice and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.
The good news for safari-goers and eco-tourists is that FTTSA has a great selection of certified safari lodges which means that by supporting a product which displays the FTTSA label, they can rest assured that their much-needed break is making a real and lasting difference, helping to protect the environment and uplift communities in a sustainable manner.
Indeed, FTTSA has an impressive portfolio of more than 60 products spread across the country, from rural homestays, backpacker destinations and even great white shark cage diving operators to township cycle tours, cultural experiences, luxury boutique hotels and the aforementioned safari lodges.
For a full list of FTTSA certified establishments and activities, visit www.fairtourismsa.org.za.