How we could show some support for the operators who have given us our most treasured memories on safari. By Craig Rix
ake a moment to think of the one truly special place in Africa for you. Perhaps it is a lodge or camp you return to regularly, or the site of your first safari or encounter with an animal you’d longed to see. Maybe it is the scene of a particularly memorable family trip, or even a quiet spot you escaped to at an important time. Is there one park you would choose to visit if you could return to Africa only one more time?
For me, I think of Somalisa Camp and The Hide in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, where the extended family from around the world gathered for days of laughter with the guides, silent early morning walks looking for rhinos, nature trails for the kids, and lions roaring right outside our tent through the night. My favourite photo (the Three Wise Men, above) of my father, uncle and our guide, Foster, captures the two most valued influences in my life: family and Africa.
For my wife, Sherry, it would be South Luangwa National Park, where she returns every year or two—as often as she can—to lose herself on the banks of the river sketching on an Art Safari. Thornicroft Lodge has become her Zambian home, where she is met on every trip by the same warm welcome of familiar faces.
Our daughters would head back to the endless, empty white beaches of the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique, for lazy days in the sun where we felt truly disconnected from our everyday lives, utterly and completely free, of everything.
Where would you go and why?
(Why not tell us about it? Perhaps your ideas can encourage others? If you are happy to do so, we can share your thoughts on our Facebook or Instagram, or in the print magazine. Send your short explanation to [email protected])
Now imagine how you would feel if you were unable to visit that place again.
We all know that with tourism suspended so many lodges and camps across Africa will find it increasingly difficult to survive the longer this shutdown continues. Most have already had to lay off or furlough many of their staff, but the knock-on effect is more far-reaching. Most support community projects, anti-poaching teams and other activities in their areas, which are crucial to the protection of the wider ecosystem.
We know how grateful operators across Africa are that so many travellers have chosen to postpone their travels rather than cancel outright. This means you don’t miss out and ensures the money stays in the system, providing a lifeline for so many of these projects.
But what if you don’t already have bookings in the system? Is there a way you can help? We would urge you to see if there is a way you can offer some assistance at this difficult time, even if it is not financial. You may have some expertise or time you can offer. Reach out to them and see what they may need.
In terms of offering financial support, most operators are now making it easier for you to contribute directly to their community or conservation programmes, so explore the websites of your favourite lodges and make a donation.
I wonder if there is also the option of setting up an arrangement with a lodge whereby you can pay some money now, which can be credited against the cost of your safari whenever you do eventually travel? Like putting down a deposit on a trip without knowing exactly when you might take it.
Undoubtably, there may be complications with this. You may have to accept the risk that if that lodge did close permanently before you travelled, you may not receive any financial protection or recourse. And it may work only if you were going to book directly with the lodge, as the sales chain adds complications—although there are many amazing tour operators (especially the smaller specialist companies) who would be as flexible and helpful as possible and are hugely invested in supporting their lodge suppliers. Perhaps the trade-off is rather the provision of some sort of value-added service rather than a credit.
The point is, speak to the lodge or lodges you treasure most, or the operators you usually travel with, and see if they may be willing to do some sort of deal. As you know, Africans are resourceful people with an infallible ability to “make a plan”, to find solutions to any problem or challenge. No doubt they will be as accommodating as possible and hugely grateful in return for your assistance at this crucial time.
And if you aren’t ready or able to offer some sort of financial contribution at this time, do still reach out to them and show them your appreciation and support. Simply knowing that you care and are looking forward to visiting them again will mean so much to them.
Rather than include an exhaustive list in this article, over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing on our social media some of the great projects and initiatives supported by tourism activities across Africa. It is truly inspiring to see how your trips make such a big difference. So do keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram accounts and share posts or show your support wherever you feel is most appropriate.