1. Sarza Sleeping Animals
Sometimes it is hard to choose a gift that requires you to know the size and style the recipient would wear. Let’s check out an impractical gift that will remind the recipient of you every time and is guaranteed to make them laugh: Sarza’s sleeping animals! These clever 6-inch tall, topsy-turvy animal pots are excellent for hiding small treasures. The enamel-painted wood creatures come in 4 colors and five designs: elephant, giraffe, hippo, rhino, and ostrich. (Who can resist that ostrich?) Sarza is run by a Sarah, a Durban-born New Yorker, who named the shop after herself and the official abbreviation of South Africa, “za.” Her goal is to bring attention to contemporary African design with an emphasis on quality and sustainability. The pots are made by carvers in Malawi whose story is up on her website. Sarza ships most of their items free of charge in the continental United States, and will happily ship internationally—just email them at [email protected] to enquire about the shipping address of your lucky recipient.
2. SANParks Membership
Now, if you’d rather give a gift no one has to dust, how about a Park pass? In South Africa, A SANParks Wild Card membership can be purchased for an individual, a couple, or a family (maximum 7 people—1 adult and 6 children or 2 adults and 5 children), and the memberships grant one year’s access to Wild Conservation Partner Parks, Reserves, and Resorts, based on the type of membership you choose. SANParks separates the parks into 7 “clusters” with varied benefits, like the All Parks Cluster, SANParks cluster, or CapeNature cluster. Pick one close to where your recipient lives or challenge them with a pass that will get them out and about to a favorite region. While you are at it, why not pick up a copy of EcoTraining alumni Denis Costello and Hlengiwe Magagula’s new book Walking Safaris of South Africa: Guided Walks and Trails in National Parks and Game Reserves? It is available on Amazon for international shipping or, better yet, ask your local bookseller to order it for you! You can slip the pass between the pages of your favorite walk.
3. African Jewelry
If a physical token of affection for your loved one or best friend is more your style, Mulberry Mongoose has you covered. Each of their uniquely African jewelry items for men and women is handcrafted in the rugged wilderness of the South Luangwa in Zambia, and the all-female team makes their creations in a workshop set along the well-used Mfuwe elephant path. (They welcome visitors, human and otherwise if you are ever in the area.) Each piece is fashioned out of local materials, including snare wire collected on anti-poaching patrols. Their hammered snare and cord bracelet can be personalized with up to 7 characters. Each bracelet comes in a traditional chitenge cloth pouch, ready for gift-giving, and purchases support anti-poaching efforts in Zambia. They ship internationally fairly quickly, so don’t let the rural origin make you think your gift will take too long to reach your lucky recipient! This is jewelry fit for any guide, for sure, no matter where they are along the path in life.
4. Green Footprint
Some of us don’t plan ahead very well. We need gifts that can be given with the click of a mouse. Or perhaps we want gifts that have a super-green footprint, or that we know will make a big impact for not only the recipient but for the wild things, too. Charitable donations in the name of your loved ones don’t need shipping, ribbons, clever wrapping, or bows. And they fit any pocketbook. Pick a charity that means a lot to you, and we promise, it will mean a lot to them, too. Here are some ideas:
a) David Sheldrick Trust: This Kenya-based trust operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue in the world. Orphans raised by the trust go on to become wild adults, and as of today, their grown elephants have given birth to 41, happy, healthy wild-born elephant calves! Their work reaches even farther than just the orphans, as their efforts educate, employ, and empower local people to protect the natural world around them. You can adopt an orphan elephant or rhino, donate directly at whatever level fits your wallet or even make a donation in honor of the memory of a loved one—an act that may be very close to our hearts in this second year of the pandemic.
b) Wildlife Act: This South Africa-based organization was founded with the goal of ensuring sustainable, long-term monitoring and conservation projects on game reserves free of charge. They run programs that put volunteers in direct contact with the scientists who conduct these projects in the field. You can donate in the amount of your choice to any of their amazing programs, including their Endangered Species Emergency Response Fund, Endangered Vulture Conservation work, or Satellite Tracking & Anti-Snare Collars effort. If you can’t help yourself and sign up to be one of their volunteer opportunities while you are on their site, they have a wish list for each of their camps at the very bottom of their donation page so you can bring along a gift for the camp when you arrive. ‘Tis the season!
c) Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary: If big cats make your gift recipient purr with happiness, you might consider a donation to this sanctuary, which gives a second chance to more than 100 lions and other big cats that have been victims of captive breeding in South Africa. It was founded by a global animal welfare organization that supports animals under direct human influence, with the goals of respect, empathy, and understanding for our fellow creatures. Donations support their ongoing efforts to provide lifelong homes for these majestic animals at their South African sanctuary.
5. TV Safari Experiences
Another gift that needs no wrapping is the gift of tv. No, we aren’t suggesting you sign your friends up for Netflix or Disney—we are suggesting something much more fun! WildEarth.tv and Painteddog.TV both offer amazing safari experiences from the comfort of your home.
WildEarth offers daily sunrise and sunset safaris with experienced guides and cameramen. They partner closely with EcoTraining and their guides often broadcast from Pridelands Conservancy. You might even spot a familiar face from EcoTraining’s teaching staff on tv! You can tune in for free, but by becoming a WildEarth Explorer, your small, monthly donations will help the organization keep these safaris going and help people around the world experience safari drives and walks like they never have before. It is a great way to share your love of safari with others and makes a wonderful daily escape for anyone stuck at a desk or homebound due to the pandemic. Sign up for your favorite grandparent, niece, or bestie today!
At Painteddog tv, you can book a private virtual safari or conservation event, like an elephant collaring or the release of painted dogs back into the wild. All safaris happen on EcoTraining’s own Pridelands Conservancy in real-time, live! Their private, virtual safaris are produced by experienced staff. Check out their website for more information and a link to their gorgeous YouTube channel, with highlights of their events. Private safaris start at around $39 if you are willing to share your experience with up to 10 other safari guests tuning in from around the world, or you can book an exclusive safari for your friends and family (or maybe your office?) with prices starting around USD 490. Want to host more people? They even have a price bracket that can accommodate a crowd, from 30-800 guests, just in case your family, or corporate family happens to be rather large!
THE BEST GIFT, we know, may be a matter of opinion, but we think it is, naturally, the gift of EcoTraining. With so many courses to choose from, it is hard to know where to begin, but don’t fret! If you would like to give all or part of the tuition for an EcoTraining course this holiday, EcoTraining has thought ahead for you. You can purchase a gift voucher for anyone to use toward their desired course—or maybe you should just buy one for yourself as a down payment for ensuring that 2022 is the year you take the course of your dreams?
Whatever gift you choose, all of us at EcoTraining wish you a very, very happy holiday season, in the bush, or wherever your heart calls home.
About the Author:
Lee Bellware is an EcoTraining alum of our Trails Guide and Theory courses and lives in Austin, Texas, USA. Lee holds a degree in Ecology and Nonfiction writing and has a keen interest in Wildlife and Botanical Conservation Research and Education