You love to admire wild animals in their natural environment, yet you worry about leaving a disastrous ecological footprint. The preservation of Mother Earth is of great concern for many of us. It is a question of paying close attention to what we do to respect the planetary boundaries. But that doesn’t mean we should want to stay at home. The curiosity to discover the richness of nature all around the globe pushes us to surpass ourselves and to get out of our daily comfort zones. Curiosity and diverse experiences often bring empathy and a deeper understanding and connection to others. So how can we ensure that our thirst for discovery will not trample ecosystems, encourage people to exploit their local environments or capture them in a vicious cycle of poverty?
Tourism raises two major issues when it comes to sustainability. First, flying is dramatically increasing our carbon footprint which powers the greenhouse effect. Conscious consumerism is leading woke populations to staycation closer to home to minimize unnecessary emissions caused by air travel. Second, being a tourist can negatively impact local economies by increasing the pressure on natural resources. Consider how Instagram is changing the way we travel and contributing to the accelerated ruin of cities such as Venice. In Indonesia, Komodo Island will close because tourism is endangering their main draw – the famous Komodo Dragons. Following the Swedish introduction of flygskam, the “flying shame”, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg took the opportunity to reach New York for the Climate Action Summit in 2019 with the help of a zero-emissions yacht, and 23 percent of Swedes now say that they have opted out of air travel to reduce their climate impact over the past year. But what does it mean to travel in a sustainable way? Should we all avoid taking planes and give up on discovering other countries and cultures? So what then?
David Lenefors has been tackling this challenge for 12 years with African Tours & Safaris by providing unforgettable travel experiences that are respectful of people and planet. His company creates a positive impact by organizing safari expeditions that support the local economy in Tanzania and surrounding countries. African Tours & Safaris offers its customers the opportunity to get involved with sustainability by helping to increase the value of natural resources. This may seem counterintuitive, yet tourism is a prerequisite for the conservation of a large part of Africa’s wildlife. Without safari tourism activities; elephants, lions and rhinos would likely have become extinct. In this way, encouraging tourists to see the majestic creatures of Africa has become an essential revenue stream that supports the local economies and their conservation efforts. The expeditions promote interest in preserving local wildlife and encourage local populations to live in harmony with wildlife. They are one of the reasons why Tanzania, one of the most populous countries in Africa, has managed to preserve 16 national parks.
Through its partnerships with local NGOs, African Tours & Safaris assures that its actions adhere to Fair Trade rules by providing good working conditions, fair incomes, supporting local traditions and cultures, and respect for human rights. In Kenya, the company supports Mama Zebra – a foundation which acts for children’s education. And in South Africa, African Tours & Safaris works with A Reaching Hand, a non-profit organization that supports a number of local relief projects in and around Cape Town, including orphanages.
African Tours & Safaris is one of the first Swedish companies to introduce mandatory carbon offsetting. Through their efforts, they found that voluntary carbon offsetting does not work with less than one percent of travelers choosing to actively compensate when offered the choice, so all tours are now 100% climate compensated. For David, ecological compensation is not something new or trendy. His company has been committed to decreasing their environmental footprint for years. While welcoming the common expression “carbon-neutral”, David prefers to talk in terms of compensation because it is uncertain whether it will be effective in the future. African Tours & Safaris offsets not only its own greenhouse gas emissions but also the emissions of their customers’ travel to Africa, on-site transportation, accommodation, meals and more. For this, they work with South Pole, an offsetting company which offers their own clients a project to support, according to their values. David Lenefors and African Tours & Safaris choose to invest in two projects: giving wood stoves and water-cleaning tools to lower the pressure on wood demand in Kenya, and funding the movement against deforestation in Zimbabwe.
While you may lament not being able to access your own yacht for international travel, experiencing the world with zero emissions no longer means you must stay at home. So why not spend your New Year’s holidays between Cape Town and Mozambique? Say hello to elephants up close with a 13-day stay, with Swedish guides, planned visits and time to choose your own schedule. Africa opens its doors to you with David Lenefors and his agency African Tours & Safaris. Let yourself be carried away! To know more, visit his website AfricanTours.se.
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Raphaelle de Latour is a professional book editor and volunteers at Impact Hub Stockholm.