London has overshot its air pollution allowance for the year, for the eighth year in a row, before the start of February. This has taken more time than the previous year when it took less than a week to break the allowance. This is just one of the news items that appear in headlines that spur the safari industry to become more sustainable and to protect the untouched beauty of the habitats and the wildlife within them that guests come to see.
In this, the second of our sustainability blogs, we will focus on East Africa. Properties in the spotlight are Little Governors’ Camp in Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Singita in the Grumeti & Northern Serengeti of Tanzania.
Governors’ camp switches to solar
Little Governors’ Camp is smaller than its larger sister, Governors’ Camp. Built in 1976, it comprises 17 tents near the Mara River in the north-eastern part of the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya. It is only accessible by a boat trip across the river, with vehicles left behind on the bank, exhibiting the value Governors’ place on peace and tranquillity for their guests.
The tents surround an active watering hole that is visited regularly by elephants and the camp’s resident warthog family, that are known to walk between the tables at mealtimes!
In 2017, the camp was converted to run completely on solar energy. By installing solar panels on the roofs of the staff accommodation, the camp’s back-of-house operations and all guest needs are met by the power of the blazing African sun. Each guest tent also has a solar water heater discretely placed behind the tent.
The camp has a “carbon counter” at reception that records how much is saved by turning to solar energy.
Earlier in the year Governors’ had also made big moves to reduce their plastic use, following a ban on the use of plastic bags in the country. If a person is caught with a plastic bag the penalties can be harsh.
Governors’ also invested in reverse osmosis water filtration systems providing guests with clean drinking water that does not need to arrive at camp in plastic bottles.
As is the trend with many African camps now, each guest is given a refillable metal water bottle on arrival. There are water refills around the camps and each tent has glasses with their own filtration system too. This also allows the camps to use fine hand-blown glass jugs to fill guests water glasses at meals instead of plastic bottles. Little Governors’ have also changed their bathroom amenities packaging. The rooms have all the locally made organic luxuries expected and they are now in metal dispensers rather than plastic.
Singita Wildlife fees introduction
At the end of 2017 Singita changed their policy regarding Tanzanian Government wildlife and conservation charges. They had been paying these amounts on behalf of all guests from their accommodation charges, but with their conservation programs in the region becoming more successful and more opportunities emerging that require extensive funding, this policy has changed. As with other wildlife areas in the region, these government charges will now therefore be charged to visitors – applicable only to new bookings.
Wildlife fees are paid for every person and vehicle that enters a designated Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania. The fee is paid to the Community Wildlife Management Areas-Consortium. Recognised by the government in 1998, the consortium ensure that the rich wildlife and natural areas of the country are protected, managed and are of benefit to the local communities surrounding them.
Some of the things the organisation has achieved to date include; uniting communities in the Wildlife Areas, giving them a stronger voice to bring to discussions with government; attracting tourism investment of over 4.3 million USD to 12 different Wildlife Management Areas and bolstering the anti-poaching efforts by training local scouts and providing them with the power to make lawful arrests.
In 2003 Singita was granted custodianship of the 350,000 acres of the unique Grumeti reserve in the western Serengeti National Park. The animal numbers in the area had been severely depleted by poaching, wildfires and invasion by alien species. In the years since the area has nearly returned to it’s natural state.
The full works of the Singita Grumeti Fund are worthy of a whole blog post of their own and so we will keep it concise here.
The Singita Grumeti Fund has five main areas of focus; Conservation, Anti-Poaching & Law Enforcement, Community Outreach, Research & Monitoring and Relationships and the occasional special project also.
They have achieved the following “highlights”:
In November the latest global carbon emissions report for 2017 was released. For the first time in 3 years the global carbon output increased. China is the largest contributor to the increase. The drought in the region is thought to be the cause, due to reduced energy contribution from hydroelectric power. But China is not the only country to have affected the level of these emissions; the USA and the EU both have seen lower than predicted decreases in emissions.
Whilst these figures are mostly related to large-scale industry, we can all do our best to decrease where we can. As such we have been inspired to show you how the safari industry is ensuring that their operations and visitors have the smallest carbon footprint possible, thus mitigating the negative impacts on the environment, wildlife and local people. It is important to state from the outset that there is a big difference between CONSERVATION and PRESERVATION – two terms that are often confused and this creates problems when environmental and wildlife issues are debated.
Preservation is quite simply a ‘hands-off’ approach where there is no input, management or ‘use’ of a resource (be it fossil fuels, water, wildlife or a habitat or environment in general. In other words, for a wildlife area there would be no infrastructure, tourism activities, interventions or management of any kind.
Conservation, on the other hand, is the ‘sustainable utilisation of a natural resource’. Safari tourists staying at safari lodges and wanting park rangers to help sick or injured animals are therefore intrinsically part of a conservation system and cannot then as an example, argue against culling of wildlife.
This provides food for thought and as such, this will be an on-going series as we receive news from different operators about their evolving systems and methods as new technology plays a role in new and upgraded lodges, hotels and camps and revamped legislation for ’greener and carbon-neutral scores’ is brought to bear on the industry.
In this post we will look at two camps in the Okavango Delta region of Botswana, a country renowned for its pioneering sustainability and conservation methods.
Botswana has long been concerned with the protection of its spectacular wilderness areas.
A leader in the field of conservation, their method is simply to have a small high-end tourism industry. Keeping the effects on the pristine landscape to a minimum while generating high income allows for local communities to support themselves via employment with operators. This also helps to prevent poaching as the community members’ livelihoods are now directly linked to the animals’ survival. In 2014 hunting was controversially banned nationwide, demonstrating President Ian Khama’s dedication to protecting endangered species, their habitats and one of the most unspoiled regions in the world.
This high-end tourism is one of the three pillars of the economy, contributing heavily to the country’s prosperity. Beat About The Bush Tourism has always been committed to only sending our guests to operations in the Delta with proven environmental and community-focused track records.
Here are two of our favourites:
Chief’s Camp – Sanctuary Retreats
Chief’s camp is located on Chief’s island, the largest island in the Okavango Delta named for historically the sacred hunting grounds of the Batawana Chiefs. When the floods come every year, the island is at a level above the water, many animals come here to escape the water; it is the Okavango Delta as you see in nature documentaries.
The camp has recently been renovated and adds the sustainability feather to its cap. Luxury has in no way been compromised, there is wi-fi, fan and air-conditioner available in each room along with a private plunge pool for the hot summer days. If you book the new Geoffrey Kent luxury suite you will enjoy a butler, private chef and an outside boma to sit undisturbed under the stars.
The key feature of the newly renovated camp is a solar farm – replacing the noisy, polluting diesel generators (now used as back-up). Built to handle the camp’s electricity requirements, the farm is large enough to support the majority of the camp’s energy needs. The solar batteries charge during the day to ensure there is electricity through the night.
The effect of the solar farm is not simply removing a generator and diesel usage. Now there are no delivery trucks coming through to bring oil and gas for the generators. Decreasing the number of vehicles driving through this wetland wonderland – thereby reducing environmental impact with less tyre ruts that disrupt the flooding patterns and make the area look unsightly for years to come.
Chief’s camp also has a new and very efficient, eco-friendly and self contained sewerage system to ensure that all water is cleaned before being used as ‘grey water’ or released through a wetland. It goes without saying that all detergents and cleaning products are eco-friendly and plastic water bottles have been replaced with refillable bottles from water dispensers.
Sanctuary Chief’s camp YouTube video
Vumbura Plains Camp – Wilderness Safaris
Wilderness Safaris is originally from Botswana and they are leaders in the field of conservation and sustainability. This will not be the last of their camps to make our list!
With 11 of their camps now operating on 100% solar energy they are dedicated to preserving the pristine and beautiful surroundings for generations to see. They operate with a policy they call the 4C’s; Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture.
Vumbura Plains Camp is located in the northern Okavango Delta and is in fact separated into two camps, one more family friendly. Each room is luxurious and is raised off the ground with a plunge pool and your own deck to watch the stars at night or the world (and maybe even some animals) pass by during the day.
The camp is run fully on solar electricity, with batteries for the night and enough power for each room to have a hairdryer. This solar power also provides hot water for the entire camp.
Vumbura’s conversion to solar energy is particularly relevant as it was the second largest energy consumer in the Wilderness group.
The solar farm reduced the need for deliveries of oil and gas and as such the impact to the environment via soil compaction and disturbance to the environment is diminished.
They have an above ground sewage plant that ensures all water used, grey and sewage is cleaned completely before it is released back to the surrounding environment.
Vumbura also offer guests water bottles that are refilled from water dispensers in the camp reducing plastic waste.