Our top tips on making your trip to Africa more eco-friendly

1. Stay in eco-friendly lodges

We can help you choose lodges with eco-friendly credentials such as Mwaleshi in Zambia’s remote North Luangwa, or Mumbo Island in Malawi for the true Robinson Crusoe getaway. Many of these lodges are powered from solar panels, use compostable loos, and will recycle as much as possible. Even if a lodge doesn’t have particular credentials, you can still do your bit by reducing the number of towel changes in your accommodation, kindly refusing any plastic straws in your sundowners, and trying not to use too many paper napkins.

Mwaleshi Camp, Zambia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Choose lodges that give back to the local community

Many of the lodges we use make various forms of charitable contributions to the local area to help with sustainable tourism and other benefits to the environment.  Serra Cafema is one lodge where nearly all the staff are locals, and the land is leased to the Himba people for their livestock grazing.  Make your own contribution by helping with “Pack for a Purpose” which is widely recognised by a lot of the lodges we use.  This involves packing items that will be of use to the area you are travelling to and handing them over to your accommodation when you arrive for distribution.  Let us know if you’d like to contribute and we can suggest some suitable items depending on your destination.

Local Himba People, Serra Cafema

3. Consider alternative modes of transport

Walking and horse riding safaris are the obvious choices here, but how about looking at a mountain bike safari, or for those who’d like a more relaxed version of a biking safari, there’s the option of hiring e-bikes as well.  A few of the lodges, Lewa Wilderness being one, are now adopting electric safari vehicles too, many of which are being charged through solar panels back at the lodge.  Another option would be a leisurely canoe down one of the many rivers, in particular the Okavango Delta, Botswana in a mokoro.

Safari at Lewa Wilderness

4. Use a reusable water bottle

Often these will be supplied by lodges to be used instead of sipping out of plastic cups, and can often be taken home with you afterwards to continue the good work at home!  Many bottles will also claim to keep your drinks ice cold for up to 24 hours, perfect for those long days on safari in the midday heat.

Nomad Tanzania Water Bottle

5. Take a reusable shopping bag

Foldaway shopping bags take up very little space in your luggage and will eliminate the need for plastic bags during your trip.  These would be especially useful if you’re planning a trip to the shops in places like Cape Town, Zanzibar and Nairobi.  Tanzania have also now banned plastic bags completely, so all the more reason to go prepared!

6. Meet the local community

Take a trip into the local villages to meet the locals and browse the local shops.  These shops will provide you with much more authentic gifts and souvenirs than the larger hotel gift shops, and it will help to inject some money back into the local area.  If you’re off gorilla trekking in Uganda, be sure to visit the Bwindi Bar in Buhoma for a refreshing drink or a quick bite to eat.

Bwindi Bar, Buhoma

 

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Five: Some of the more unusual activities you might encounter on safari.

1. Running with a Maasai Warrior

If you’re looking to keep active whilst on safari, how about buddying up for a run with a local Maasai? Cottar’s 1920s Camp will organise one of their Maasai staff to keep you company while you make your way through the bush.  The question is, can you run as fast as them?!

Maasai Moranis at Cottar’s 1920s Camp

2. Painting

Do you enjoy the odd dabble with a paint brush? The lovely Saruni Mara has themed cottages, of which one, The Artist’s Studio, has a collection of drawing materials and an easel for you to let your imagination go wild, and the scenery out the window will keep you enthralled for hours.

The Artist’s Studio, Saruni Mara

3. Star Gazing

What could be better than being surrounded by silence, miles from the nearest town, in the middle of the Namib Desert and watching the stars above in the inky black sky through your skylight whilst lying in the comfort of your bed? Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia has just this.  If you’re really serious about your star gazing, they also have their own state of the art observatory where, each evening, you can join resident astronomers who will guide you around Namibia’s skies.  The reserve here is Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve.

Star Gazing at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

4. E-Bike Safari

Plenty of camps offer mountain biking safaris but how about taking the pressure off the legs a bit and trying out an e-bike. Similar to a conventional mountain bike, but with a battery added to it, these bikes will give you an extra helping hand to haul you up the hills, giving you more energy to enjoy the views.

Cottar’s 1920s camp have six e-bikes available (four guests and two guides).

Cottar’s 1920s Camp E-Bikes

5. White water Rafting

If you’re after a way to cool off while getting the adrenaline pumping, then how about a trip to the Zambezi River for some white water rafting?  Along from the Victoria Falls are 70km of warm and fairly turbulent water offering some of the most exhilarating grade 5 rapids in Africa as it surges along the Batoka Gorge.  A perfect base for a little post-rafting luxury would be the Royal Livingstone, a 15 minute walk from the Victoria Falls.

White Water Rafting at The Royal Livingstone

The Best Mountain Biking Safaris

A hundred years ago, the best way to do a safari was on horseback. That way you got to see a little more, and move a little faster than you might if you were on a walking safari, but without the noise and fumes of travelling in a safari vehicle. Fast forward to 2013, when many of us live in cities, and you’re unlikely to find a horse tied up in the back garden.  Bikes however, are everywhere.

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, Zambia

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, Zambia

With the cycling craze sweeping Britain, almost every household seems to have a bike or three in the garage or taking up space in the hall. On summer afternoons the country lanes are choked with cycles, and early morning commuter trains are full of Brompton bikes. It almost seems extraordinary that it’s taken till now for mountain bike safaris to take off to such an extent.  Now though, a bike or two is the must-have piece of kit in every safari camp. What better way to burn off the endless delicious meals that seem to come almost hourly on safari?

Mountain bike safaris take you from being an outside observer of the bush to being part of it. Race galloping giraffes, smell the dampness of the dust in the early morning, and hear the birds cry as you move silently past. Africa at its best? Absolutely.

Here’s our pick of the very best biking in Africa:

Bush Biking for Beginners: Tafika, Zambia

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, ZambiaTafika, in Zambia‘s South Luangwa National Park was where I fell in love with mountain biking safaris- my first one, and the beginning of a serious addiction.

Cycling through the bush with John Coppinger, 20 years my senior and embarrassingly fitter, was a revelation-we could keep up with the zebras without scaring them, hear every branch crackle underfoot, and really, really appreciate the size of an elephant. I’d recommend as an introduction to anyone- you can just pop out for an hour or so on the bikes before a late afternoon game drive- perfect for dipping your toe in the water.

Multi-day mountain biking: Karisia, Kenya

Mountain Bike Safari in KenyaIf you’re a serious mountain-biker and love nothing better than getting dusty, dirty, and down with the animals, then a multi-day mountain biking safari could be the answer.

Together with our friends at Karisia in Kenya, we’ve put together a mountain biking safari in the Laikipia plateau in Kenya. We’ve limited it to 3 days of cycling, followed by some time in a vehicle for the saddle-sore, but we can make it as long as you like.- even cycling between safari lodges instead of flying. While we don’t like to gamble, we’re fairly confident that your warrior guides, and the camels who carry your kit, will keep pace with you no matter how long you want to keep pedalling for!

Serious adventure, Serious luxury: Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

On safari at Singita Boulders, Sabi Sands, South AfricaSerious adventure needn’t mean a compromise on serious luxury. If you want the adrenaline thrill of cycling down dusty tracks, watching elephants from the saddle, but don’t want to rough it in the evenings, then Singita Sabi Sands is the perfect solution.

Not only are you smack in some of the best leopard-viewing territory in Africa, at the end of the day you’ll be returning to a seriously lovely room, easily large enough for a London estate agent to describe it as a “spacious, one-bedroom apartment”. These come complete with a decanter of something warm, delicious nibbles and a plunge pool to wash off the dust. Singita has a wine cellar to die for (we made sure to sample it on your behalf when we visited), fantastic guides, and a gorgeous area to explore.

Biking and the beach:

Mountain Biking at Pumulani, Lake Malawi

Though we’re huge fans of mountain biking on safari, if you’re just not quite sure about heading into the wilderness on two wheels rather than four, there are some fantastic options for biking that aren’t quite so wild.

A mountain bike is a fantastic way to explore the villages that line the shores of Lake Malawi.  Every single visitor that we’ve ever sent on holiday to Malawi has commented on just how warm and friendly the local are. For once it seems that a country really does live up to the tourist board slogan (in this case- the “warm heart of Africa”). Stepping away from the confines of a vehicle is the ideal way to meet the local community, and make hoards of tiny new friends amongst the children of the villages.