Photo via gillespaveau @ Flickr
A safari might sound like a nice outdoorsy, environmental kind of vacation, but they often take a toll on wildlife in the areas you visit (even when you only take pictures).
But these seven companies take a social approach to their conservation efforts: By working with local communities, they turn wildlife viewing into a source of income for the nearby people, which leads to lower incidences of poaching and hunting. Travel to one of these seven countries to see how supporting nearby villages, artisans, and guides can have a positive impact on animal populations.
1. KenyaEco-Resorts' 11-day,10-night tour of Kenya singles out the country's ecotourism hotspots by booking stays at properties owned by residents of the communities you'll pass through (including Ambosell, Laikipia, and Masai Mara).
Since most of them border national parks, you get the best of both worlds: plenty of chances to see the native wildlife (including elephants, antelopes, lions, and hyenas) on game walks while patronizing businesses that make conservation a high priority. Plus, there's another long-term benefit: When it's in the best financial interest of the locals to keep wildlife populations safe, fewer deadly conflicts between humans and animals occur.
If you've always been in awe of Jane Goodall, then try the Inside Nyungwe tour from Rwanda Eco-Tours: This six-day trip takes you into Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to more than a dozen different primate species (from chimpanzees to Angolan black and white Colobus monkeys). The days are filled with hikes and nature walks that let you keep a silent lookout for the primates (and the 300 different species of birds that share the forest), while group tours offer opportunities to harvest tea, work side-by-side with local artisans, and learn about conservation efforts in the park.
3. South Africa
Safaris with The Earth Organization aren't just about seeing elephants, buffalo, giraffes, crocodiles, rhinos, and other South African residents -- they're practically a mini-course in conservation under the direction of Lawrence Anthony, best known for saving the animals in residence at the Baghdad Zoo at the beginning of the Iraq War.
You'll stay at his private reserve, Thula Thula, and take daily walks or drives along the same grounds where King Shaka, founder of the Zulu empire, once hunted. And if you're not into the rustic kind of safari, then the pools, wine cellar, and comfortable accommodations are an added benefit, while partial proceeds from the safaris support The Earth Organization's worldwide conservation efforts.
But that's just one stop on Nyanja Safaris Gem of Zambia tour: You'll also spend time at Lower Zambezi National Park and Kafue National Park, where you'll stay at lodges and camps owned by locals who also support conservation efforts and community outreach programs. The company also donates to the area's conservation projects, anti-poaching classes, and educational initiatives.