When you book a stay at a one of Africa’s top tier private game reserves, you’re helping African wildlife, protecting habitat and transforming local communities. Your stay helps to create much needed jobs, provides resources to educate local communities about the importance of sustainable long-term conservation, protects some of the last wild lands on the continent, AND contributes to the re-introduction of critically endangered species. So sip your sundowner with a sense of accomplishment – your safari is doing much more than providing exciting experiences and lasting memories. Staying at a private reserve such as award-winning Singita Grumeti keeps the wheels of conservation turning. Go ahead – book your next safari – and remember that your stay has more of an impact than you would ever imagine…
Poaching is not just a crime of greed and profit. In some cases, it’s a story of survival. In some communities, poverty is so prevalent that some people find they have no opportunities to earn income. Whether it’s lack of education (and thus unemployment), or the temptation to cash in on the intense foreign demand for illegally harvested wildlife parts, it’s not a short fall into a life of poaching. Safari camps and lodges employ members of nearby communities, ensuring the community benefits from the camp’s presence and that they are vested in the health of the wildlife and their ecosystem. Peter Andrew, a former poacher turned chef, Eksoni Ndlovu, a gifted tracker from a rural community who is now respected the world over for his wildlife skills, and TK, a talented chef working her way up the ranks of the talented culinary team at Singita’s South Africa camps, are just a few examples of job creation initiated by safari travel.
When you are on safari, there are a tremendous number of people working hard to ensure you have an incredibly memorable experience. Some are obvious, like the expert guide you spend your days with. As he helps to track wildlife through the bush for you to see, there is an army behind all of the other things that go into your visit. From chefs working to delight your taste buds, askari (guards) to walk you safely to your tent at night, maintenance crews ensuring that everything works seamlessly and more, the unseen cast of characters is equally important to your safari experience, just as your presence is key to the success of the camp and the continued opportunities for its staff.
The Grumeti Horticultural and Marketing Co-op Society in Tanzania supplies Singita’s award-winning camp and lodge kitchens with a constant flow of freshly harvested, locally grown vegetables, herbs and fruits. By creating and supporting the co-op, Singita ensures that the local community benefits from the presence of their tourism operation, creating a relationship of mutual support.
Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to the Singita Community Culinary School, which offers a unique program that serves to fulfill a real need in the nearby community, as well as for the South African hospitality industry as a whole. Graduates emerge from the school with highly sought-after skills and strong employment prospects, while kitchens at Singita lodges and those further afield benefit from a pool of expertly-trained young chefs.
The co-op and the culinary school are just two positive examples of community connection. Other programs include helping to build and fund schools – both for children, as well as for more adult trade programs (including guide and anti-poaching ranger training), scholarships for children, improved access to fresh water and providing environmental education.
African wildlife is facing myriad challenges. Elephants and rhinos are especially visible in the media, as they are being killed in large numbers across the continent. One way to help protect these species is to visit Africa. For every person visiting Africa to see its incredible wildlife, money is put into preserving that wildlife and its habitat.
South Africa is home to the world’s single largest population of rhino. It is not only the best place on earth to see a rhino in the wild, it has also been experiencing a poaching crisis in recent years. Enormous resources are being invested to protect critical habitat for the species, as well as to protect the animals themselves. A stay in one of South Africa’s private reserves helps to contribute to the protection of rhino through the payment of concession fees. The fees substantially help to cover the cost of protection not only in their private concession, but across the whole of Kruger National Park, helping to ensure that rhino will be around for future generations to witness.
Visiting private reserves in Africa allows for an exclusive experience for safari travelers while providing similar and sometimes better wildlife viewing than one might find in a national park. Imagine being the only vehicle viewing a herd of elephants crossing the plains – you have the whole sighting to yourself! It’s not only possible, but fairly common in a private reserve. In a national park it is rarely the case. Private reserves also conserve land that might otherwise be used in a less eco-friendly manner.
One great private reserve success story is the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe. The reserve was created in 1994 to protect the wilderness area adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park. Singita Pamushana Lodge is the ecotourism arm of the reserve, and its role is to help foster the sustainability of the wildlife and ecosystem. Travelers that want to help conservation causes in Africa need only to book a stay at the lodge to make a difference. Then, while they take game drives or walking safaris, select a special wine from the cellar or enjoy a spa treatment, their dollars are going to work behind the scenes to benefit conservation and community outreach and development programs.
Private reserves have the backing and funding to attempt re-establishment of species that have become locally extinct. Examples include the reintroduction of black rhino to the Lewa and Borana Conservancies in Kenya. Heavily poached historically, and under pressure again today, there are fewer than 800 East African black rhino left in the wild. In September 2014, Lewa and Borana took bold move and began to remove the fence separating the two areas to create one conservation landscape for the benefit of the rhino. With the fence removed, this landscape now tops 93,000 acres and is one of the biggest private rhino reserves in Kenya. By January 2017, the landscape had a black rhino population of 83 as well as 74 white rhinos, which constitutes 15% of Kenya’s entire rhino population.
This unprecedented step by Lewa and Borana was the first time in Kenya that two privately owned and run organisations had undertaken such a move for the benefit of one of the country’s most threatened species.
Safari-goers visiting private reserves are directly helping to fund these species reintroductions, as well as ensuring that the appropriate research and care goes into each release. Their visits also help to fund ongoing monitoring for health and protection. Guests have the pleasure of seeing the animals as they should – thriving in their own habitat.
Photos courtesy of Singita and AAC traveler Kris S.