Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

Has the safari industry woken up to the state of the planet in 2014? This week Alan looks at innovations and changes in the safari industry. Do you really know how to pick out a responsible safari lodge? And what are your expectations on safari?  

The safari industry continues to change, to evolve, to innovate. It is consumer led. And as consumers what do we want?  The traditional? Fly in, jostle around in a jeep, take pics of the Big Five, throw down some booze in the bush and fly home? That is becoming as outdated as a pith helmet and long shorts. The new? Previously unseen landscapes, an emphasis on conservation, some genuine cultural interactions, and a curve to the creative. Mountain biking with giraffe, anyone?

Land & Community
Some groups have begun partnering with former ranches and farms to form land reserves for safari use. At Wolwedans in Namibia, nine former sheep farms became a wildlife sanctuary in the Namib desert. South Africa's Phinda and Zimbabwe's Matetsi reserves have also gone down this route. Ensuring that large tracts of land and animals are protected. And helping to reopen traditional migration routes.

Some safari outfits are leaning towards personal interactions with local communities. In Botswana the cultural hit-and-run attitude of awkward photo ops with ‘tribesmen’ in ceremonial clothing is being replaced. Instead, visitors have the opportunity to meet with school kids. Or even join the eight-night Ju/'hoansi Bushmen initiation hunt. Now this is Africa!

And conservation. Yes, people care about this, and it’s showing. What is becoming obvious is that we all have a role to play. Tour operators, safari lodges, visitors on safaris, people writing blogs about safaris...the list goes on. In South Africa Sabi Sabi Reserve gets kids involved. Lessons include respecting the bush, reading maps of the area, and tracking animals. As a client of a tour operator there is much you can do to improve your knowledge of conservation. And, more importantly, make a difference while you are here.

Africa’s Finest
A book that has recently come across my desk is Africa’s Finest by David Bristow and Colin Bell. This is a seriously beautiful photographic collection of Africa and much, much more. In their own words, ‘The Africa’s Finest team spent three years searching for what we believe are the real eco-heroes of the safari industry...we conducted probably the most extensive environmental assessment of the African safari industry of its kind ever undertaken.’ Everybody and anybody going on a safari in Africa, should read this book. It’s a roadmap to making the industry sustainable, and can help you decide where to responsibly direct your tourist dollars.

And to leave you with news that still makes me smile: in September 2013 we heard the last of the hunter’s gunshots over the plains of Botswana. Safari hunting (common throughout Southern Africa) was officially outlawed by the government of Botswana. Now that’s innovation...


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