Stark contrasts colour the South African wildlife scenario. On the one hand, we live in perhaps the most diverse and beautiful place in the world. And on the other hand, many of the incredible natural resources and wonders we live alongside are endangered or threatened due to human encroachment.
Spending money on travelling and tourism is certainly a way to help preserve these natural resources. But if you're after a little more direct way of combining your love for conservation with your love for travel, we've sources five of our favourite adventures in aid of making SA a better place.
Gondwana Game Reserve's family-friendly 'learncation'
Gondwana Game Reserve, an 11 000 hectare private Big 5 reserve on the Garden Route has launched a 5-night conservation experience for individuals, families or groups who want to get more involved in Africa on their safari.
This means that guests can now be involved in wildlife and veld management, learn important bush skills and interpretation, as well as volunteer with the local community.
The research and findings from the program are fed back to Gondwana’s conservation department to assist in decision making enhancing the reserve management plan.
A typical day includes a 06:00 wake-up, game monitoring activities, environmental assessments as well as bush picnics and leisure time to appreciate the surroundings.
Interested in booking? The Conservation program starts every Monday at 1pm with departure mid morning on Saturday and runs all year around. The program is designed for 5 nights and can be shortened to a 3-night experience as well. No children under six.
One adult sharing will pay R10 500 for the experience.
Rhino Walking Safaris
This iconic Big 5 animal represents the plight of all endangered animals in the country, as the species itself is being driven to extinction in a most rapid way.
The best way to understand the struggle of these animals is to get to know them and see them in their natural habitats - where they are supposed to be.
Going on a game drive in places like the Kruger National Park is one way to do so. But doing a back-to-basics walking safaris is the best way to immerse yourself.
Rhino Walking Safaris specialises in luxury walking safaris in a 12 000 wilderness concession in the Kruger National Park. The concession shares a 15km unfenced boundary with the famous Mala Mala and Sabi Sands reserve, with an abundance of wildlife moving freely between the two reserves.
On the safari, you follow animal trails on foot through this environmentally sensitive area that offers the Big Five as well as a diversity of other wildlife.
The tour hosts a maximum of eight people only, and no children under 12 are allowed. On the safaris, two highly qualified guides will share their wealth of bush knowledge – from the identification of animals, trees, grasses, insects and birds to the medicinal uses of plants, folklore and basic tracking and survival skills.
What adds to this totally unique experience, is that you can walk to various 'sleepout' spots – elevated wooden platforms where you will be sleeping outdoors under the stars!
A 3-night Rhino Walking Safaris will cost between R11 000 and R14 000 per person.
Other Kruger Walking Safaris
As the Tour Guide of the Year for 2016 Jaco Buys puts it, 'being in the veld has made him a better man'.
He tells Traveller24 that "witnessing the impact the bush and the experience in the bush has on people’s lives is just incredible. You can see how people’s lives change in just three days. They get perspective."
If you'd like to get perspective, the Kruger Walking Safaris provide a much more in-depth experience to the Kruger than any game drive ever could. A great place to start is with Africa on Foot, a company specialising in Big Five Kruger Walking Safaris and game drives in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve which shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park.
On a walking safari guests will be led by experienced and professional game rangers through a wildlife area rich in game including lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo as well as hyena, hippo, giraffe, zebra and a whole host of other wildlife. In addition to walking safaris, Big 5 game drives and night drives are offered allowing guests to participate in a full spectrum of safari activities.
Rates per person per night range from between R2 000 and R3 000.
Become a Citizen Scientist while exploring the Globe
Citizen Science is not a new phenomenon, but more and more, this practice is combining travelling and conservation. In South Africa also, Cape Town based travel company Drive South Africa partnered with Google through the Google Street View camera loan program to capture 360-degree Street View imagery of South Africa’s top wilderness, cultural and historic sites for Google Maps.
Now, by using citizen science and field research, they are not only putting South Africa on the map (literally), they are also tapping into upliftment programmes in local communities in a bid to get underprivileged kids to start exercising for the benefit of research!
Over 20 national parks, eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and many more sites need to be trekked before the end of 2016 as part of the #TrekSouthAfrica campaign
– and the organisers are calling on South Africans to help put South Africa's trails on Google Maps.Read here to find out how it works, and how you can become involved.
Another company, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC
), a nonprofit organisation based in Bozeman, equips partners with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to unlocking solutions to the world's environmental challenges.
By leveraging the skills of the outdoor adventure community we are uniquely able to gather difficult-to-obtain data at any scale, in any environment.
Get green fingers with GreenPop
This is a perfect family activity that will not only leave a long-standing legacy (literally) but you will instill in your children a deeper understanding of the values of trees in our lives.
Greenpop is a non-profit organisation on a mission to reconnect people with our planet. With the help of thousands of 'treevolutionaries' as they call tree-huggers and planters, they have planted over 66 000 trees in three countries so far. And they are aiming to plant even more...
Hogsback’s incredible Yellowwood forests are home to the endangered Cape Parrot, Samango Monkey and other endangered species. By rehabilitating the wattle invaded land and planting indigenous trees in this unique cloud sanctuary, we will be growing diversity and enhancing the abundance of life in our threatened forests and adjacent grasslands.
This year, the festival is hosted by Terra-Khaya “Earth Home Project” with Greenpop partnering with us to host the tree planting day. All who attend can expect to enjoy hikes in Hogsback’s incredible forests, attend and participate in workshops, do yoga, plant trees, enjoy delicious meals, live music and visit the oldest Yellowwood in the Eastern Cape!
A two-day weekend pass for one adult will cost between R300 and R500.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Great Plain Conservation calls for public aid to relocate rhinos
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Why burn Ivory?
- Seal spotting: Here's how you can contribute to conservation from your couch...