Boots on the Ground with EcoTraining
Boots on the ground & the conservation benefit of Walking Safaris
“A walking safari brings us back to our origins. It’s important to remember that humans were in the African wilderness long before the safari industry began.”
– Devon Myers (Professional Trails Guide)
Africa’s ecotourism of the modern era has evolved a great deal since the early days, becoming a fantastic mix of luxury and nature.
These days, wherever you look; you will find a lodge or camp offering a wonderful luxury experience. The twice-daily game drives with tea, coffee, sundowners, four-course meals prepared in a state of the art kitchen, a sommelier to pair your wine, finished off with a serving of silk bed sheets.
This is a great product and will continue to see great support from tourists, both local and from abroad.
The use of vehicles in modern Safari has proven to be very popular, as it has provided tourists with the opportunity to cover greater distance whilst looking for game as well as safely providing up-close viewing and award-winning photographic opportunities.
Not only does this type of Safari bring happiness and joy to millions of tourists and nature enthusiasts each season, but more than ninety percent of ecotourism’s conservation funding comes from this modern form of Safari. This, in turn, goes a long way to helping cover the costs of the management and protection of these wild spaces.
EcoTraining has been training Safari Guides both in vehicles and on foot, helping them to understand and use all the skills needed in order to provide guests with a world-class Safari experience at the same time as being as ecologically sensitive as possible.
Having said this, there is no doubt that this type of Safari also has a relatively large ecological impact on the same wilderness regions that it is helping to conserve.
These vehicles use large amounts of fossil fuels as they zoom around the bush, belching diesel or petrol smoke as Guide’s frantically search for animals in order to appease their wide-eyed guests, often off-roading in search of the big cats. Even though we do our utmost best to miss this tree, go around that spider web and watch out for that bird’s nest, there is no denying that these big, heavy four-wheel-drive tanks have a substantial impact in nature.
This is a bit of a “catch 22 situation”, as, without these vehicle safaris, there would be a massive loss in the direct and indirect funding to conservation through ecotourism. Vehicles are a fantastic tool in the box for ecotourism and conservation for the many reasons mentioned above, however as much as we all love cruising through the bush, sun on our face, with the wind in our hair, in search of Africa’s Big 5, we need to at the same time be mindful of our ecological impact.
What if there was another way to enjoy these wild spaces, whilst having an even smaller ecological footprint, yet still contributing to conservation both financially and practically.
Well, there is. Walking Safaris!
As human beings, we evolved in this environment moving about on our own two feet. In Africa, in particular, where we used our senses and intelligence to outsmart other species which were physically far superior.
Walking in the wild is the oldest form of safari. The aim is to enjoy nature in a natural, non-threatening way. It is not a thrill-seeking activity, although spotting an Elephant or Lion whilst on foot will certainly raise a pulse.
Even though we sometimes find ourselves up-close and personal with potentially dangerous animals such as elephant, buffalo, lion etc, walking in the bush is not about getting up close to these magnificent animals for the best possible photograph.
A walking safari brings us back to our origins. It’s important to remember that humans were in the African wilderness long before the safari industry began. Humans naturally have a good sense of smell, hearing, touch, sight and taste; however, in the modern world, we have forgotten how to use some of these senses to the best of our ability.
Walking safaris are a feast for the senses – listening to grass and leaves crunch under your feet, the sound of an elephant’s ears flapping against its neck, or the smell of buffalo on the wind are all wonderful ways to reawaken these senses.
Being on foot also allows us to take note of the smaller, less noticed yet very important and interesting parts of our natural world.
Not only does a walking safari provide us with a more environmentally friendly way of enjoying the bush, as our impact is only as much as it should be natural, but it also enables us to access regions and areas that are inaccessible to vehicles. These areas are untouched by the modern Safari machine, pristine in their existence. Those same regions that are inaccessible to Safari vehicles are also therefore plagued by poaching issues.
Having small groups of people walk through these regions not only enables us to see signs of poaching, for example, tracks, snares, poaching camps etc but also acts as a vital deterrent to poachers wanting to enter these areas, knowing that there are boots on the ground, with eyes and ears in the bush.
So, in essence, Walking Safaris are not only a phenomenal, low impact, environmentally friendly way for people to enjoy nature and reconnect with the wilderness, but also go a long way in the fight against poaching.