Citizen science, active holidays, sustainable travel. Call it what you like, the trend towards doing some good on your vacation is gathering momentum.
From the bush to beach, opportunities abound for you to get off the sun lounger and put your mind and body to good use on your next adventure. You can choose to tap into your safari guide’s knowledge, or work alongside researchers who are leaders in their field. It’s not always cheap, and you’re expected to get your hands dirty, but these three escapes offer invaluable insight into some of the world’ most exciting conservation projects.
Track lions in Usangu
Once a hunting concession, the pristine Usangu wetlands feed into river systems crucial to many of southern Tanzania’s wildlife areas, but they were only added to the country’s Ruaha National Park in 2006.
Safari operator Asilia Africa is now offering expeditions into these remarkable wetlands, offering a unique eco-tourism experience with a conservation mindset in a partnership with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and Tanzania National Parks. For adventurous travellers it offers a hands-on conservation experience with guests getting involved in placing of camera traps and tracking lions with telemetry, game collaring and biodiversity audits.
Accommodation at the Usangu Expedition Camp is in four comfortable expedition tents, all with en-suite facilities. Beyond the research work, days will be filled with wetland excursions on boat or canoe, and walking trails through grasslands. Usangu is open only during the dry season from June to November.
Monitor pangolins in Maputaland
Prized across Asia for their scales, pangolins have become a poster-child for the fight against Africa’s illegal wildlife trade. Today guests at andBeyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal have the chance to bolt on a pangolin conservation experience to their luxe big five escape.
The reserve is home to a project to re-establish Temminck’s ground pangolin in the area, where it has been extinct for decades. Guests join the specialist conservation teams and researchers in locating these shy and elusive animals, enjoying a front-row seat to research in the field. All fees go towards the he care of the reserve’s pangolins. including identity tags, equipment and veterinary costs.
On the march at Marataba
Forget about simply ticking off the big five. At Marataba Conservation Camps — situated in a 21,000ha privately managed section of Limpopo’s Marakele National Park — you can get some hands-on conservation work.
That could mean a bush walk doubling as a snare patrol near the fence line, or reseeding overgrazed plains with new grasses. Elephants are a blessing and a curse here, but a longitudinal tree census on foot helps to keep a close eye on their impact on the landscape. You’ll be accompanied by guides, ensuring that each moment of positive impact is also the opportunity for an immersive bush experience.
And you’ll get to kick back in luxury at the end of the day. Choose between the six tented-suites of the Explorers Camp, with its lawns and glorious views of the Waterberg , or the more luxurious Founders Camp on the banks of the Matlabas River. The chance to make a wild impact is just a few hours’ north of Jozi.