Sustainable Travel: Hands-On Community & Conservation Experiences in Africa

When you hear the words, ‘sustainable safaris’, what comes to mind? The relocation of wildlife, schools being built in rural areas, or safari lodges that run solely on solar power? It’s a BIG topic, and it’s no secret that the way we explore the world has evolved significantly in the last decade. Long gone are the days of enjoying luxury travel without thinking of impact, both positive and negative.

At Go2Africa, sustainability is more than just a buzzword - it’s woven into the fabric of everything we do. We believe that the best way to be an active contributor to the phenomenal work that is happening on the continent is to go on safari, and to be involved with hands-on experiences that enrich travel vacations in a way few things can. It’s our unwavering belief that together, we can protect our Earth’s most vulnerable destinations by transforming tourism’s impact on nature and people.

If you’re looking for ways to make your travel spend matter, we’ve rounded up some of the best Africa conservation and community experiences:

What Are the Best Conservation and Community Experiences in East Africa?

A Unique Conservation Experience at Usangu Expedition Camp
Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Asilia Africa’s new pioneering safari destination is set in the Usangu Wetlands within the largely unexplored Ruaha National Park. It embodies the essence of Africa conservation and the incredible efforts undertaken, to not only protect the land from being designated for agricultural purposes, but to conserve its wildlife and create meaningful travel experiences of contribution and positive impact.

You are given a unique opportunity to track collared animals on safaris (including helping to collar and de-collar elephant, lion, wild dog and leopard), support researchers in the research centre, and help with camera trap settings. These have been dubbed ‘Citizen Science Safaris’ and they are transforming the way we travel with purpose. The implementation of conservation-themed tourism is the first and most vital step to understanding what is needed to conserve the area and its inhabitants, and to preserve this incredible natural world for future generations.

Running for Change at The Serengeti Girls Run
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti Girls Run, Tanzania | Go2Africa

The Serengeti Girls Run takes place annually in late October and is hosted by the Grumeti Fund in conjunction with Singita. The Serengeti Girls Run is a charity event where runners aim to raise as much money as they can for women's empowerment initiatives in Tanzania.

All the participants are required to raise a minimum of $8,500 and contributions raised for the run are donated to the Grumeti Fund, a non-profit organization that carries out vital wildlife conservation and community development work in the western Serengeti. In 2021, Go2Africa’s Managing Director Maija de-Rijk-Uys participated and ecstatically raised over $10,000! She plans to run again in 2022 for travellers interested in joining her or making contributions. It’s a great test of endurance while helping to make positive change in the lives of Tanzanian women.

Running in the Serengeti Girls Run, Tanzania | Go2Africa

“We had the most spectacular wildlife experiences running among the wildebeest and zebras, being followed by hyena, and hearing all the bush noises you don’t hear from a safari vehicle: the loud bellowing of wildebeest, the nickering of zebra, and the giggling of hyena. In the end, we helped to raise essential funds to enhance the quality of education provided to the youth in local communities, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue careers and livelihoods." Maija de-Rijk-Uys - Managing Director

Luxury Electric Safari Vehicles & Wildlife Research
Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Ol Pejeta Bush Camp is a traditional bush camp on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, in nearly 100, 000 acres in the Laikipia region of Kenya. The camp places great emphasis on conservation and sustainability practices including the opportunity to enjoy the future of luxury African safaris, electric safari vehicles.

Home to our planet’s last remaining northern white rhinos, wildlife encounters are nothing short of spectacular. Whether you are silently viewing them from an electric safari vehicle or gaining fascinating insights into modern wildlife conservation by aiding researchers with data and monitoring, lion tracking with a researcher, or learning how to use radio tracking equipment, this is as hands-on as it gets - undoubtedly a top-notch African conservation experience.

Help ‘Re-Green’ Africa on a Hot Air Balloon Safari
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya | Go2Africa

One of the best ways to see Africa is from the sky. Hot air balloon safaris begin just before dawn and this particular flight path follows the natural winding course of the Mara River. For first-time balloonists, the feedback is always centred around the absolute stillness - suspended in a basket as the first rays of the African sun kiss the landscape.

Not well known to many, much of the unique riverine forest that lines the banks of the Mara River has been lost over the last few decades. This is because of a range of factors that include tree disease, riverbank erosion and increased grazing pressure from herbivores. Governors’ Balloon Safaris and Seedballs Kenya have come together to curb the problem and you can play your part. All you need to do is purchase a bag of African wild olive tree seeds and throw handfuls of them over the plains during your flight. This helps these plants reclaim their native habitat and it restores biodiversity along the river - a win for experiences that make a difference.

Learn from the Ancient Batwa Tribe 
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Making fire with the ancient Batwa Tribe, Rwanda | Go2Africa

Volcanoes Safaris has developed a Batwa Resettlement Project and Heritage Tour at Mount Gahinga Lodge. The Gahinga Batwa community comprises over 100 adults and children that have had no permanent home since they left Mgahinga National Park over 25 years ago. In 2018, Volcanoes Safaris built a permanent village for the Batwa community and their families on about 10 acres of land to allow them to build homes, a community centre, and have land for agricultural and recreational use.

The Batwa Cultural Heritage Site represents a significant commitment to the Batwa tribe from Volcanoes Safaris and the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT). Built on the Mount Gahinga Lodge property, the Heritage Site consists of a demonstration-based herbal garden, a small collection of traditional huts, and a short trail that allows the Batwa to demonstrate how they used to live, hunt, and collect honey and other resources from the forest.

Immersive Gorilla Conservation Experiences
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

We have partnered with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGF) – the pioneer in mountain gorilla conservation – to offer our clients a deeper and richer gorilla trekking experience when visiting Rwanda and the Ellen DeGeneres Campus. These African wildlife conservation experiences will help raise funds for the non-profit organisation, all proceeds going to their local children’s outreach program.

Our immersive gorilla conservation experiences comprise of:

  • Behind the Scenes Campus Tour – a two-hour guided tour of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus with a DFGF researcher.
  • Gorilla Trek with a DFGF Researcher – one of the best ways to have a sustainable gorilla experience with one of the people on the ground.
  • Private Gorilla Conservation Master Class – A one-on-one exclusive with a representative of the DFGF.
  • Silverback Sundowner – Tour the exhibits, sip a cocktail and meet up with gorilla experts eager to share their experiences and answer questions.

Chumbe Island Coral Park
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Visiting the private nature reserve of Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar | Go2Africa

Chumbe Island Coral Park is a small island off the coast of Zanzibar and is a not-for-profit private nature reserve that was developed to protect and preserve one of the last coral islands in the region. Chumbe Island Coral Park is the first privately established and managed Marine Protected Area in the world, and the only one fully funded by ecotourism. Local fisherman were recruited and trained to become the island’s custodians, leading guests into a paradise of untamed beauty.

You can explore the islands stunning coral reef sanctuary and coral rag forest, relax in exclusive eco-friendly bungalows, dine on traditional Zanzibari cuisine, all the while supporting conservation and vital education efforts. This is the ultimate Robinson Crusoe holiday with an African conservation experience twist.

What Are the Best Conservation and Community Experiences in Southern Africa?

Aid in Vital Conservation Initiatives 
Marakele National Park, South Africa

Rhino conservation experiences at Marataba Conservation Camps, South Africa | Go2Africa

Dart, track and monitor Africa's wildlife at Marataba Conservation Camps in Marakele National Park. One of South Africa’s most innovative conservation models and home to a thriving population of endangered white and black rhinos, Marataba supports repopulation to various locations across the continent. Funds raised by these conservation experiences go directly into funding tools such as microchipping equipment, radio collars, and camera traps.

Spending time with the conservation team and the Managing Director/Lead Vet for the reserve, Dr. Andre Uys, you will learn all about the intricacies of what it takes to preserve the wildlife. You will also participate in identifying, monitoring, tracking and collecting data on large mammals including rhino, elephant, and cheetah – some of Africa’s safari heavy-hitters.

Marataba is a public-private collaboration that aspires to be a leading African conservation initiative by sustainably managing ecosystems and keystone species for generations to come. They are committed to driving a financial model which supports the long-term African wildlife conservation of the park while maximizing sustainable socioeconomic opportunities for surrounding communities. Everything that is done at Marataba is underpinned by their three founding pillars: conservation, communities, and commerce.

Plant Spekboom & Get Involved with the Community
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Planting Spekboom at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa | Go2Africa

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve has a collection of intimate lodges, villas, and camps, providing understated luxury and one of the highest land-to-guest ratios in South Africa. Working through their social development partner, the Ubunye Foundation, they invest in projects that improve lives and create sustainable livelihood opportunities in marginalized rural communities. ​

When you stay at any of the lodges or camps you can participate in a variety of activities to get to know the people, aid vital conservation work and give back to the community which makes the Kwandwe experience possible.

Planting Spekboom is an important guest initiative - it’s a type of thicket vegetation that is native to the Eastern Cape and prolific on Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. If you're thinking of how to travel sustainably, helping to plant Spekboom is a great way to offset your carbon footprint - it's one of the top five carbon-storing vegetations on the planet! You can also offer your expertise, skills, and time by reading stories during the preschool morning, helping in the vegetable garden, assisting at the afternoon homework club, or offering basic computer training for children and staff.

Track Desert-Adapted Rhino at Desert Rhino Camp
Damaraland, Namibia

Desert Rhino Camp is set in one of the most untamed wilderness regions on Earth, Damaraland. This region is marked with simple beauty, arid-adapted wildlife and is home to the largest free-roaming black rhino population in Africa. Remote and exclusive, the camp runs in conjunction with the Save the Rhino Trust – contributing to the sustainability of the area and its inhabitants.

Black rhinos are critically endangered with fewer than 5,600 left in the world. It is here that you will engage with dedicated conservationists and local trackers for a unique game viewing experience, and witness first-hand the mammoth task of protecting key species. You will spend your days tracking rhino and encountering some of the largest populations of predators outside of the Etosha National Park, including desert-adapted lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena.

Shangaan Culture Comes to Life at Kambako Living Museum
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Zimbabwe

Shangaan people at the Kambako Living Museum, Zimbabwe | Go2Africa

Singita Pamushana Lodge is one of Zimbabwe’s best-kept secrets. It is found within the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, an area of about 60,000 hectares of wilderness in south-eastern Zimbabwe. Not only is it a luxury safari getaway, complete with private plunge pools and palatial suites, it’s a place that is deeply committed to African wildlife conservation and community upliftment projects.

The Kambako Living Museum is located just outside of the reserve and has been a popular excursion for guests who want to learn more about the local Shangaan culture. The Shangaan are directly descended from the Zulu tribes that split away from King Shaka Zulu at the beginning of the 19 Century and came to settle in this area. You will learn how to make fire from friction, water divining, bow and arrow making and immerse yourself in their traditional ways while directly contributing to their development.

Ethical Elephant Encounters at the Elephant Camp
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Ethical elephant encounters at Elephant Camp, Zimbabwe | Go2Africa

An upmarket safari lodge on the outskirts of Victoria Falls town, The Elephant Camp has worked together for years with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust to run the Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage. The sanctuary began in 1992 with four elephants (Jock, Jack, Jumbo and Miz Ellie), all orphans of the elephant-culling operations in the Hwange National Park in the 1980s.

Animal encounters in the name of tourism has come under increased scrutiny in recent years and in many cases, direct interaction with wildlife is to its detriment. But Elephant Camp are committed to caring for elephants that have been negatively affected by human actions and can’t be reintroduced back into the wild - it’s a long term and often costly responsibility to ensure their wellbeing.  In order to offset these costs, you can enjoy ethical encounters with these gentle giants and actively contribute to the efforts being made to protect and nurture them.

Ready to Start Planning your African Conservation Experience?

Our Africa Safari Experts have first-hand travel experience and will help tailor-make a trip that will not only be right for you, but make you an active contributor to the conservation of wildlife and community upliftment: