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How To Plan a Sustainable + Ethical African Safari

How good would it feel to make a positive impact on your next safari? In a world where people are becoming more conscious of the footprint they tread as well as the footprint they leave behind, it’s becoming increasingly popular for travelers to choose a safari where they can combine making an impact as well as having an amazing adventure.

Ethical means ‘doing good’ or ‘morally correct’. Ethical safaris are a step further than the traditional safaris that we know.

Safaris in Africa have an advantage as they are situated on a continent that is brimming with wild animals, wild habitats, environments as well as cultured local communities, all of which need support and backing to thrive. This is where you come in!

It’s relatively simple to choose to book an ethical safari. But do you know the crucial ‘do’s and don’ts’ to be more ethically responsible on your next African safari?

Giraffe on ethical African safari
Giraffe on an ethical African safari

Planning an ethical African safari

It’s best to refrain from booking with one of the first safari companies you see on Google, take some time to seek out companies that are as ethical as possible as well as follow ethical practices rigorously.

Choose sustainable safari accommodation

This also goes for the accommodation you decide to purchase. If you choose to book your safari elements separately, rather than a fully boarded safari through a company – scour the market to find African safari hotels, camps, or lodgings that are ethically rooted.

It will take you a little extra time to sift through the options as well as research what each company’s principles are but it will pay off and give you peace of mind which is a huge step in being as ethically responsible on your safari as possible.

Ethically rooted lodgings, experiences, as well as safari companies, offer ways in which you can be as environmentally conscious as possible. Most will support wildlife conservation, and local communities, or provide sustainable options to positively impact the environment. Every little helps and it will contribute to a positive impact on your African safari.

This information should be on their websites and if, for any reason, the website isn’t clear then a phone call or email is always a great backup to inquire.

Choose an ethical African safari company

Not all African safaris are ethical. This is why it’s very important to do your research before you invest in your experience. Many safaris in Africa do not promote anything towards local communities, or wildlife or practice any ethical behaviors. Some of these safari companies support the exploitation of animals, abuse as well as hunting – all of which is strongly advised against. Ethical safaris have stepped in to offer travelers an opportunity to protect wildlife as well as back local communities throughout their travels. These safaris help support Africa in a really positive way.

Join a conservation-based safari

Another great option is you join a conservation-based safari like the African Lion Safari where this ethical safari bridges lion conservation with adventure travel. This groundbreaking adventure is worth considering if you have a passion or interest in lions.

Lioness on an ethical African safari in Masai Mara
Lioness in Masai Mara

Ethical behaviour on safari

The most important ethical behaviors are to follow the correct etiquette when visiting national parks and observing wildlife;

Keep your distance from wildlife

Always keep your distance from wildlife, refrain from using flash photography as well as eye contact with animals, talk and be as quiet as possible so as not to disrupt wildlife in any way and lastly report any safari vehicles that are driving too close to wild animals to get a picture-perfect moment.

Ethical safari companies are extremely conscious of these behaviors and act correctly to reduce the stress they cause on animals.

People photography an elephant from a safari jeep - keep your distance for an ethical African safari
Photographing an elephant from a stationary safari jeep

Limit time spent on safari

Another great way to be as ethical as possible is to limit time spent on safari in national parks to protect the animals and avoid too much traffic from humans in safari vehicles.

Don’t buy animal products

Lastly and most importantly, a big negative impact of safari tourism is the purchase of animal products. Illegal wildlife trafficking is one of the biggest ways to make money and is a rife enterprise in Africa. Wildlife trafficking includes selling wildlife products as well as wild animal body parts. Many dealers use animal parts for fashion, medicine as well as food. 

You may not always be aware of what you are buying in an African artefact store so it’s always best to ask that nothing within the items you are purchasing are derived from wild animals. Some artefacts can include ivory, elephant hairs, fur, or animal teeth. Buying animal products of critically endangered wild animals is illegal as well as extremely difficult to export out of Africa. Most of the major airlines have forbidden animal parts from being transported on their airplanes for this reason. It is a criminal threat to critically endangered wild animals and fuels the demand for wildlife trafficking.

Be sure to refrain from buying animal products of any kind by checking their ‘made from’ and ‘ingredients’ before you purchase. 

How else can I make my African safari ethical?

There are many options to make your safari adventure even more ethical.

Leave No Trace

You can also opt to be environmentally friendly independently. Choose biodegradable and recycled options for washing or eco-friendly toiletries, and adopt a ‘leave no trace’ approach when visiting.

Keep in mind that you can opt to be as ethically conscious on a personal level. Remember not to bring plastic bags with you to Africa. Many African countries have banned the import and use of plastic bags.

Offset your flights

Be conscious of your carbon footprint when flying and offset your miles when you have booked your flights to and from Africa.

Give back to charity or volunteer

Pick a charity or non-profit organization to visit when you are there. It offers diversity on your safari as well as offering you something new to learn about as well as giving you the option to contribute as well.

Africa has many amazing and deserving organisations to support and there is bound to be a variety of intriguing options that interest you depending on what country in Africa you are visiting. If you are undecided about where to go on a safari, then perhaps let your passions lead the way to which location you decide to travel to. For example, if you have a passion for elephant conservation – Botswana is the absolute best place in Africa to observe elephants as they have the highest population there. There are also some excellent elephant conservation organisations to visit too.

One of my favorite animal conservation organizations is the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in Malawi – it offers travelers to make a difference through volunteering as well as being a leading conservation charity. Their high impact and world-class standards ensure that you experience the best volunteering and visiting learning opportunities.

What’s great about these organisations is that you don’t have to be a budding vet or conservationist, a strong passion or interest is what’s required to work at organisations like this.

Positive impacts of safari tourism

Safari tourism can have several positive impacts on the environment, wildlife conservation, the African economy, and local communities. Here are some key points:

Conservation Funding in Africa

Africa’s incredible wild animals draw in millions of pounds in revenue each year through entrance fees and permits, which can be directed toward conservation efforts, wildlife protection, and the preservation of natural habitats.

One of the fantastic ways that safari tourism nourishes Africa is the money made from tourism drastically helps National Parks thrive as well as afford physical security to monitor and keep critically endangered wild animals safe, like rhinos and elephants. 

Economic Opportunities

Local communities benefit from employment opportunities in the tourism sector, including guides, drivers, and hospitality staff, thereby contributing to economic development in the region.

Ethical safari tourism positively impacts the demand for eco-friendly lodgings, camps and safaris as well as excursions.

Education and Awareness

Safari tourism fosters environmental awareness and education among visitors, promoting a greater understanding of wildlife conservation and the importance of preserving biodiversity.

Encouraging Africa to feed the demand for green tourism pushes the continent to deliver as well as boost its economy and help its treasured communities and magnificent wildlife. 

Negative impacts of safari tourism

There are some negative impacts of safari tourism that travelers need to be aware of when considering an ethical African safari.

Interactive wildlife experiences

Some African safaris can be exploitative to wild animals. If you choose to hunt or book an interactive experience with wild animals – it is highly frowned upon and considered totally unethical.

Going on a safari and choosing to do either option, has a severe negative impact on wild animals. If you choose to pay money into these organisations, you are encouraging these companies to continue.

Over-tourism can impact safari

Other negative impacts on safari tourism include the volume of travelers who visit. Over-tourism impacts largely on the natural environment, from damaged tracks and trails to habitat loss and habituation within wild animals.

Impact of habituation

Habituation can have an adverse effect on wild animals. It can interfere when they are hunting prey, their instincts as well as come into contact with human disease. Personal space is hugely important to wild animals and should be respected.

Olive Baboons grooming in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Olive Baboons grooming

Are Safaris safe?

In a nutshell, yes safaris are predominantly safe. It is not suggested to do a safari on your own without a safari company or guide to drive and accompany you.

How to stay safe on safari in Africa

Most locations in Africa do not have WiFi connection so it’s virtually impossible for a navigation system to work properly. Most safari regions are very remote and primitive too. Dirt tracks and trails on a safari are hard to navigate to know where you are as well as where you are going.

It’s common to accidentally drive off-route and get lost. It’s always best to book with a reputable company as well as adhere to their advice on keeping as safe as possible.

Everyone wants the best wildlife photos but It is important to maintain a level of safety when on safari and observing wild animals. Always take your guide’s advice when on game drives.

General Safety Guidelines in Africa

There are also safety guidelines for African towns, cities, and villages. Make sure to research the region in which you are traveling and refrain from the following situations:

  • Do not expose valuables on show, keep them at your hotel or within a discreet purse or bag if you need to carry them with you.
  • Do not walk around alone after dark.
  • Cover up and abstain from exposing arms, shoulders, legs, and midriff.
  • Do not travel with unmarked taxi vehicles.

Final thoughts…

If you want to be as ethically conscious on your next safari, it’s advised to be thorough in your research in booking with a reputable company.

Aside from this, it’s essential to take time to do your research in selecting an ethical African safari. Choosing the right one will change your safari experience and decipher the good from the bad. This will be the best foundation for creating the best safari experience, so it’s important to take the time to research.

Look into African safari hotels and lodgings that are ethical as well as excursions and activities that cause less disruption to animals as possible.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. It comes at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

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