Ernest Hemingway once said: “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.” An overwhelming feeling of happiness and gratitude is not uncommon when visiting the continent—especially so when you go on a safari. “Safari used to be a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, but more and more people are bitten by the safari bug,” says Nico Heath, co-founder of luxury travel agency Lightfoot Travel.
For many, seeing lions and leopards in their natural habitats represents the ultimate in transformative travel. “Unfortunately, human incursion and climate change are placing environmental pressures on the wildlife and the landscape. Droughts and poaching are having a detrimental effect on animal numbers and habitats are shrinking,” Heath says. As an added incentive to return to the savannah, many safari lodges are making environmental protection and community empowerment top priorities, which means that guests of luxury lodges can give back while enjoying first-class holidays.
Wilderness Safaris, a sustainable luxury safari operator with camps in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, helps protect more than two million hectares of prime wilderness across seven biomes, harbouring 39 threatened mammal, bird and reptile species. The company donated US$14.7 million to conservation in 2018, more than three times the value distributed to shareholders. Another US$3.77 million was devoted to community development and welfare— providing schools, bore holes and other services to communities in need.
“Going on safari is a means of protecting these unique ecosystems,” says Dr Neil Midlane, group sustainability manager of Wilderness Safaris. “Our company ethos and commitment to restoring the wildlife and the large tracts of land we are privileged to manage means that everyone travelling with us is contributing, making them all conservationists by proxy. Each guest enables us to continue doing what we do.”