Expanding your horizons
And making your holiday count
Living in one of the world’s richest countries, it’s easy to take what we have for granted – we pop to our well-stocked shops, drive on well-maintained roads (bar the odd pot hole and congestion!), have free education and healthcare, enjoy freedom of speech and democracy and are warm and dry in our homes. When we travel to more remote and undeveloped parts of the world, it becomes all too apparent that these are luxuries not everyone is lucky enough to enjoy. There is huge debate about what constitutes responsible tourism, but one thing is for sure, travel can be an incredibly powerful way of educating ourselves and our children – be it about animal conservation, fragile ecosystems, culture, astronomy, archaeology, sport or history. At Bushbaby, we always love to hear about and promote successful community-led tourism initiatives. Here are three of our favourites:
Madikwe Game Reserve
The area was declared a reserve in 1991 and is now home to approximately 66 large mammals and roughly 300 bird species. The North West Parks and Tourism Board, the local communities and the private sector are all involved: the private sector funds the construction of game lodges, community lodges are owned and run by local people – creating a healthy economic environment; and the park board manages the infrastructure and day-to-day operational management of the park. It has also become renowned for supporting several thriving packs of the highly-endangered Wild Dog. The reserve is certainly one-of-a-kind and a true hidden gem.
Elephant Hills, Thailand
Following years of de-forestation, illegal logging, begging and malnourishment awaited many of Thailand’s elephant population. Today, well-run and caring tourism initiatives such as this offer a sustainable life and income for both Elephant and Mahout (the elephant caretaker). At Elephant Hills, visitors are given the chance to get close to these majestic animals so they can experience how unique they are and understand a little of their situation in Thailand. More ethically aware than we have been in the past about elephant conservation and well-being, there is no elephant riding at Elephant Hills – instead they have taken a more responsible approach, called the Elephant Experience. This extraordinary encounter with their 12 gentle giants has won multiple awards for animal welfare already.
Huaorani Eco-Lodge, Ecuador
A trip to the Huaorani Ecolodge, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where you stay with the Huaorani people – one of the most isolated ethnic groups on earth – is a unique, life-changing experience. Aside from the spectacular natural setting, what better way to learn about indigenous culture and the challenges of modern life than staying in the company of the native people whose goal it is to preserve their culture and landscape? Don’t expect too many home comforts, but instead return enriched by the active-but-cultural eco-tourism experiences, focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability.
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