Botswana safari with Victoria Falls

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Botswana safari with Victoria Falls

Environment

The company that organises this vacation is a multi-award-winning responsible travel company. They try to ensure that nothing they do at home (in UK) or abroad compromises the environment or wildlife or exploits people. They believe in ensuring that travelers are well-informed, as an informed traveler tend to be a more respectful and sensitive traveler. They also believe in giving back to the country, people wildlife and environments which are affected by tourism.

At Bayete they are committed to making the camp as environmentally friendly as possible. They recently achieved a Green Tourism bronze award and hope to improve this to a silver award at the next site inspection. Sustainable tourism protects environments, respects local cultures, supports communities, conserves natural resources and minimises pollution. They have already implemented composting, and responsibly source recyclable, biodegradable and sustainable products where possible. The team assist the National Parks management with anti-poaching and are committed to the Keep It Clean Vic Falls campaign by keeping the National Parks runway clear and regularly collecting litter along the Kazangula Road. At the camp they are taking measures to reduce our water and energy consumption, buy local produce and offering vegetarian meal options, use upcycled furniture at the property, and actively promoting recycling both internally and amongst our customers and suppliers.

Bakwena’s design is based on the traditional “rondavel”. Chalets are built using the eco-beam method, utilizing a pole structure and sandbag infill, this method has been used around the world and has many distinct advantages. The sandbag method is one of the most eco-friendly methods available in Kazungula. The design and building methods are also highly effective when considering thermal regulation, making rooms cooler in summer and cosier in the winter. This means not having to use excess energy on electric air conditioning units. They have sourced as much of their building material as possible from local and sustainable or renewable natural sources. The close proximity and use of natural materials not only accounts to a financial saving but is an integral part of maintaining a low carbon footprint. All decking is pine, sourced from sustainable plantations. Where furniture has been made, for example the beds and tables; these have been made on site using only sustainably sourced wood. Lighting, heating and power requirements draw from solar technology. As part of the day to day running the camp has implemented several recycling projects reducing the waste output to a minimum. They also train their staff in recycling principles that they may input this knowledge within their own home and community. As part of this they recycle kitchen waste to create Methane gas to supplement the gas cookers needs and food and garden waste is recycled through a composting process and reused in the kitchen’s organic vegetable and herb garden as well.

The UK head office has a good policy of recycling, reducing and re-using (electricity, paper, plastic etc). They also buy only fair-trade goods such as tea, coffee, and use biodegradable detergents etc. They also make a point of buying only top eco-rated equipment (e.g. monitors).

Community

Both companies always backed the local communities with things such as solar lamps, a school bus so the kids don't have to walk to school through wildlife areas, and teen mother projects. They have donated wheelchairs to local medical facilities, school necessities and have outreach programmes and screening the community for transmittable diseases in place. They have a programme in place to help the youngsters of the region gain a reference and certificate of service to allow them to gain full time employment or further education. The 3-month Industrial Attachment Programme allows the trainees to be allocated to all departments of the lodges for a period of between 1 and 3 weeks. During this time the trainees are attached to full time employees and work side by side in a "on the job - practical" manner. This allows the trainees time to not only experience the work at hand but also the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the guests. The youngsters also form part of the Mongoose Research Team an initiative by the Biodiversity Centre (Caracal) and the Lodge in which the youth observe and capture data on the movements of the mongoose and other wildlife on the Lodge grounds. The trainees also receive a certificate form Caracal for being a Research Assistant for the 3-month period.

At the camp the policy has always been to employ from within the local community – and wherever possible they have made every effort to do so. Through the guidance and continued efforts of management at the lodge and from the Maun base the necessary skills have been given to the staff to enable them to perform their duties at the level that our guests expect. The positive impact of having community members deriving direct benefits from tourism are already being felt as the local communities begin to realize the value of conserving the wildlife and environment. They have engaged with local schools and invite the children to the lodge to educate them on conservation and tourism as well as taking them into the national park to experience a ‘game-drive’ as guests do. They encourage village tours for guests – these are authentic experiences which show guests how the local people grow up and survive living amongst Africa’s wild animals and it also educates the local communities about other cultures as they have the opportunity to interact.

While they recognize there is still more that they can do, they do want to make sure that whatever is put in place is sustainable and has long term benefits. It is the belief that the conservation of these incredible wilderness areas will only succeed if the local communities see direct and identifiable benefits from the tourism industry and see a value in conservation.
Together with the local community and guests they are working on a ‘greener’ future and less impact for this area.

In terms of information, all travelers are given guidelines on Traveling with Respect, which includes advice on cultural aspects of your travels as well as protecting the environment. For any community-owned or run project, they also have a Community Tourism Information sheet for travelers to help explain how to get the best from the experience, and what to expect (good and bad). For trekkers, the company have a Porter Policy in place, a copy of which is given to clients. They are also have a Responsible Wildlife Viewing guide too. For anything more specific, e.g. rules about visiting gorillas, this information is also given to clients. In addition, they offer more information about the native people and cultures in a destination country, which all adds to a traveler being more aware.

The company works with partners on the ground in each destination, and only uses local guides. They also primarily promote locally owned services (hotels etc). They have eco-rated about 300 properties worldwide which they work with closely, so they are very clear which accommodations have good environmental and social responsibility credentials. This information is used to ensure that any traveler wanting to ensure they are really making a difference, can choose between one property and another on eco-issues.

They also promote community-owned projects and services where applicable and possible. Indeed, they were instrumental in setting up two community-owned ventures in Tanzania and Peru.

The company backs a charity with funds and administration. This is a registered UK charity whose principle aim is to relieve the poverty of indigenous communities in areas outside of the UK which are affected by tourism. The charity backs poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation and conservation projects within these regions. It has backed schools, clinics, micro-business projects and more. It is a charity we encourage our travelers to donate to if they would like to give something back.

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