Responsible tourism: Kruger safari & community volunteering in Swaziland
We have several animal research and conservation efforts in place. The Savannah Research Centre in the Mbuluzi Game Reserve in Swaziland was created by us to investigate biodiversity challenges, train future conservationists and partner with multiple protected areas to help stop species extinctions. It is self-sustaining for the long-term requiring no finance from Government, conservation areas or donors.
The Savannah Research Center is in its infancy but has already trained more than 50 students, produced more than 50 international scientific research publications and consistently monitored more than 50 species of wildlife for the benefit of conservation in Swaziland and in the process has contributed positively to the finances of protected areas and the country at large. The Savannah Research Center is an initiative in partnership with the University of Swaziland and the University of Florida.
We also have a marine research and conservation base in Tofo, Mozambique, where a marine wildlife microcosm that is Tofo offers up pertinent questions and answers along the lines of conservation in developing communities such as Mozambique, particularly in a small sleepy fishing village like Tofo, that is bursting at the seams with marine mega-fauna.
Further than this, we make use of locally owned accommodations, two of which are owned by us. Our owned accommodations such as Lidwala Backpackers Lodge and Hout Bay Backpackers make use of environmentally friendly practices when it comes to running and maintaining the accommodations. Recycling facilities are clearly demarcated on site and printing is kept to a minimum as everything is digitized, lights are kept off and reminder tags are placed around the general areas to remind guests to be mindful of water and electricity usage.
Our organisation and staff encourage the visiting of local markets and stalls as opposed to supermarket shopping. Volunteers are, however, given the option to shop at whichever location they would like. Nonetheless, they are made aware of the impact that buying from self sustained local markets has on local communities and therefore encouraged to make their purchases there.
We address local issues such as the rate at which children are orphaned, due to the rate of HIV/AIDS infection. We embody our motto of working together for people and wildlife, by actively raising awareness, funds, and the man power needed to help educate vulnerable children from kindergarten level, to ensure that they are clothed and fed, and to ensure that they have an opportunity at a 'tomorrow'. One of our most recent projects involved our volunteers building fencing at a Neighborhood Care Point (local pre-school) in Swaziland to ensure that the staff could grow fruit and vegetables as a sustainable food source for the children who are cared for on site
We encourage the training and empowerment of the local community, promoting the hiring and training of local graduates and professionals. Our Tour Guides are knowledgeable and know exactly where to find authentic local cuisines, trinkets, accessories and souvenirs. Volunteers are shown around local art galleries, go on a village walking tour as part of their orientation into southern African culture, and get to experience a traditional barbeque, know down here as a 'braai' (pronounced br-aay).
Our Social Projects Coordinators ensure that our volunteers are well versed with the ways of the Swazi people and what it is that they can expect on their volunteer experience with us. Spending an entire morning, the Social Projects Coordinators host an orientation gathering with the volunteers, followed by a briefing from our Director of Tours, who fills them in on what they can expect on the tour leg of their journey, it is at this point that the volunteers will embark on their walking tour of an authentic Swazi village and get a guided tour of the Swaziland National Museum.