Travel with care – restore your sense of pride
How can you become a more responsible traveler?
Rediscover South Africa the bio-sustainable way this September which is Tourism Month in Mzansi. Uncover new places and experiences that will restore your sense of pride in our beautiful country, and help you do it the least wasteful way.
Sustainable tourism has grown over recent decades to become something of a South African specialty. It's responsible travel, a kinder way of travelling - gentler on your pocket, sensitive to community hosts and caring towards nature.
Being a responsible traveller can be done through various ways such as choosing the right accommodation where, for instance, water wastage is limited, you can decide to take a cycle tour in the Cape Winelands and even in our townships to decrease carbon emissions or go on a holiday where you can volunteer in those communities that really need assistance.
Volunteer projects in South Africa are among the freshest forms of responsible tourism to gain momentum in this country. Voluntourism, as it's also known, is an extraordinary way of getting under the skin of the country, of leaving a positive legacy while also gaining experience and leaving with unforgettable memories.
Broadly speaking, South African volunteer work falls into two main categories - helping to uplift impoverished communities, or nature conservation.
If you have more than few days, the Bulungula Lodge in the Eastern Cape should be your first stop. The lodge provides a platform for outsiders to access one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The lodge is nestled on one of the most remote beaches in the country. You can spend your days getting involved by making bricks, stamping corn, brewing beer or catching crayfish. Stay longer and share your expertise with the community, be it in art, teaching or nursing – all contributions are welcome.
Wildlife conservation is a major focus of these volunteer programmes and often includes the opportunity to assist in the research of endangered species. One such programme is the Endangered Wildlife Monitoring project from operator Aviva. This programme in northern KwaZulu-Natal actively works to save threatened species by implementing and managing wildlife monitoring projects around cheetahs, wild dogs, black rhinos and vultures. Volunteers get involved in the tracking and locating of these animals, GPS mapping of sightings, animal behavioural research, game counts, and the creation and updating of animal identikits.
You'll find South African social upliftment projects in the form of tour guides, small township restaurants, community members acquiring equity and training through the generosity of larger operators, rural people trained in conservation issues, and the showcasing of lifestyles.
If you would like to do more and be a responsible traveller, below is a list of activities:
- The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is operated by Stormsriver Adventures, renowned for its commitment to responsible tourism and ethics. The tour, offering a whole new perspective on forest life along the Garden Route, is both an adrenalin rush and a thoroughly enjoyable educational experience
- Dyer Island Cruises, based in Gansbaai, is a highly respected and ethical company that offers whale watching in season and shark watching all year round. The company, certified by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, offers an extraordinary, informative experience that will enrich your understanding of the sea and its biodiversity
- St Lucia Tours and Charters is famous for its hippo and crocodile tours on the St Lucia estuary. But it can also take you to see humpback whales coursing the seas on their way to Mozambique; turtles coming to lay eggs; and the Big 5 in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve
- Dreamcatchers Alternative Winelands Tour takes you from Cape Town through South Africa’s finest vineyards. You’ll find out the story behind the delicious bottled sunshine, the hardships and the joys. The community is involved and benefits from tourism activities
- Mehloding Adventure Trail in the southern Drakensberg mountains offers a chance to go slackpacking through stunning sandstone scenery without a backpack weighing you down. It’s run by the Mehloding Community Trust with the community benefiting directly from tourism activities in the area.