A kayaking adventure across the Okavango Delta

Looking for an African safari experience with a difference? Ecotourism experts Natural Habitat Adventures are launching a new tour that seeks to transport travellers back to the era of the early African explorers.

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Botswana: Kayaking the Okavango is a rare chance to paddle your way across 120 miles of the country’s Okavango Delta. Leaving the four wheel drive behind, travellers can expect to get up close with a range of wildlife, as well as explore this great African wilderness via the low carbon, and peaceful, means of kayak. Hear the rustle of wildlife in the reeds and the call of native birds, only to be broken by the sound of water dripping from your paddle.

The point-to-point trip, which Natural Habitat claims is the first of its kind, will explore the varied habitats of the delta from flooded marshes and dry islands, to seasoned floodplains which are home to many big game and predators. From your kayak you’ll enjoy an eye-level view of the plethora of birdlife living among the channels and lagoons.

The expedition will be led by Natural Habitat Expeditions CEO Olaf Malver who has designed this unique trip in conjunction with local partners in Botswana. From offering sea kayaking trips for the past two decades, he knows that travellers are likely to see a wealth of wildlife including hippo, crocodile, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, kudu, impala, lion and leopard. Fortunate guests may also spy the less frequently seen cheetah, sable and wild dog.

Itinerary

The 7-night/8-day trip takes place twice in 2014: 29 July – 5 August; and 12 – 19 August. The trip begins with a short chartered flight from Maun to Nguma Island in the permanently flooded northwestern Okavango Delta. It finishes at Moremi Crossing, followed by a return flight to Maun. The adventure accommodates 10 travellers with 5 nights of wild bush camping as you traverse the delta daily. Guests stay at a deluxe safari camp on the first night and final night of the trip. Paddlers should expect to kayak for around 6-7 hours a day over 6 days in the delta (with one layover day in the middle). If you wish, a 4-day/3-night luxury safari camp extension can be booked if you want to stay a little longer.

Recommended for… Those who love a challenging, sporty adventure in a wilderness environment.

Be aware that… A reasonable level of fitness is required as you will be kayaking for several hours a day almost daily.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • A low carbon, low impact opportunity to experience African wildlife
  • Natural Habitat Adventurers (NHA) are the world’s first 100% carbon-neutral travel company offering responsible travel and eco-conscious expeditions across the world since 1985
  • NHA is a travel partner of WWF

 

For more information, including prices and booking, visit www.nathab.com/expeditions

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Competition time! Win a holiday to Tanzania

It’s 2014 and our friends at NGO Frontier are celebrating 25 years of conservation, volunteering and adventure holidays (Happy Birthday Frontier!). To celebrate they’re giving you the chance to win a two week volunteering holiday for two people to the beautiful country of Tanzania.

Choose from either a beach conservation, wildlife conservation, or teaching and beaches volunteer holiday on Frontier’s original project site of Mafia Island, Tanzania.

To enter, all you have to do is ‘Like’ the Frontier Official Facebook page, then enter your email address into the sweepstakes. But hurry, you have until 31st January 2014. The winner will be notified by email. Good luck!

teach

Established in 1989 as a non-profit conservation and development non-governmental organisation (NGO), Frontier has been an innovator in creating quality volunteer programmes across the globe. Frontier’s first projects started in Tanzania as a partnership with the WWF to create the world’s first successful multi-user marine park in a developing country, a marine park which volunteers still work in today and one that exemplifies Frontier’s aim of creating long lasting and sustainable results. Since then, Frontier’s has grown to operate over 330 capacity building projects in over 60 countries spanning 5 continents, making Frontier a truly international organisation with a global impact.

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Namibia: Volunteering in the world’s largest conservation area

Guest blogger Kat Ogilvie, of NGO Biosphere Expeditions, profiles one of their award-winning trips

Namibia is a leading example in the field of nature and wildlife conservation and the protection of animals and the ecosystem, not only in Africa, but in the world. Almost half of Namibia is under some sort of protection, whether it’s through national parks, communal conservancies or private game reserves. All of the work undertaken by Biosphere Expeditions contributes to the rich biodiversity of Namibia.

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The work – safeguarding big cats, elephants and other species of the African savannah

This expedition will take you to the beautiful Khomas Hochland (highlands) in central Namibia to conduct a survey of elephants and African cats, mainly leopard, but also cheetah and carcal, and their interrelationship with humans and prey animals such as giraffe, eland, kudu and zebras. As part of a small team you will learn some bush skills and then follow elephants and cats on foot or in the expedition vehicles to record information about the animal’s behaviour patterns. You will also set camera and live traps, conduct game counts and you may assist with the cat capturing and collaring, All this in effort to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and create a sustainable future for all.

Accommodation – comfortable bush camp style

The base consists of stone chalets with beds, linen, mosquito netting and furniture. There are hot showers, toilets, a communal lounge, rest areas with hammocks, and a kitchen.

Biosphere Expeditions has amassed several awards and this trip in particular has been honoured by National Geographic Traveller magazine’s Tours of a Lifetime list. It has also been honoured in the Wall Street Journal’s Best Volunteer Travel list and the Business Insider’s Best Volunteer Vacations list. Biosphere carefully select long-term projects always run by local scientists that make a significant conservation impact.  They don’t just go there once; they keep going back until the work is done, even if it takes years. By contributing, the work you put in is the reason why the research can be carried out.

Recommended for… Anyone looking to take part in award-winning conservation projects that make a difference. You don’t have to have any experience or qualifications and there are also no age limits so anyone can get involved.

Be aware that… Most of the work will be done from vehicles; however, you also need to be able to walk for at least 5km, even when it is hot and in broken, mountainous terrain for some of the activities.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • One of the expedition’s scientists was made a laureate of the environmental prize Trophée de Femmes of the Yves Rocher Foundation for work on this project.
  • Data collected by expeditions in Namibia has helped local and international partners make arguments that have led to the declaration of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA TFCA.
  • The KAZA TFCA is the world’s largest conservation area spanning five southern African countries; Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, centred around the Caprivi-Chobe-Victoria Falls area.
  • As a result of this on-going project, fewer lions, leopards and cheetahs have been killed in farmer-predator conflict due to the extensive data collection.

 

For more details, prices and booking visit www.biosphere-expeditions.org 

About the author: Kat Ogilvie writes on behalf of Biosphere Expeditions, an NGO dedicated to genuine achievements in conservation and real transparency through expedition reports and scientific publications. Find out more about Biosphere Expeditions’ wildlife volunteer projects.

Why responsible travellers should beware of lion parks

Guest blogger Erin Sparks, Placement and Volunteer Manager at PoD Volunteer, reveals the hidden shame of lion cub attractions

For many people, the idea of getting to play with, cuddle and even bottle feed lion cubs comes high on the ‘to do’ list lion cub (PoD Volunteer) when travelling to Africa and offers a once in a lifetime opportunity. However there is a darker side to this attraction.

This form of petting tourism is becoming increasingly popular, especially across South Africa, both to tourists who visit a lion park for a couple of hours and to volunteers who choose to spend a few weeks helping at these parks. Visitors and volunteers are told that they are saving lions in the wild by supporting these parks – but here are just some realities to make you think twice…

Problems for hand-raised lions

Many park owners claim to be releasing their hand-raised lions back into the wild. There are numerous issues with releasing hand-raised lions into the wild. These lions will always associate humans with food (as they have always been provided with food from humans while they have been growing up). Hand-raised lions will still have their natural instincts; however they will not have the same natural fear of humans that wild-born lions have, which will make them more likely to come into conflict with humans after their release.

Welfare of lion cubs

These lion parks make a considerable amount of money from tourists who pay for interactions with cubs. Generally, cubs that are aged between one and three months are used as these are most ‘suitable’; they are small, photogenic and at an age where the size of their teeth and claws mean that the damage they could do to tourists is limited. However, young animals (like humans) need a lot of rest and sleep whilst growing. On busy days when there are a lot of tourists wanting their chance to play with a lion cub, the cubs are not given time to rest. Regular interaction with humans can also cause health problems with the cubs. Many cubs in these facilities have been known to die of stress-related diseases and they can suffer injuries by being incorrectly handled by inexperienced staff, volunteers or tourists.

Damage to health

In order for the parks to be able to offer interaction opportunities with cubs, they are taken from their mothers after just a few days to a few weeks (depending on the facility). This can lead to viral, respiratory and nutritional problems with are common amongst hand-raised predators due to substandard milk formulas being used to replace the mother’s milk. This can lead to lower immunity and the regular contact with humans can cause the cubs to contract diseases such as ringworm (often passed from visitors’ own domestic cats at home).

Pressures on lionesses

The removal of cubs from their mothers at a young age also leads to problems for the mother herself as the lioness can go back into oestrus sooner than she should. This allows the park owners to breed from the lionesses at a much more regular rate than lionesses in the wild would reproduce. This in turn allows a constant supply of cubs that can be used for interactions.

The lion breeding industry is growing and with it so are concerns of welfare issues for these lions. Most volunteers and tourists who go to these parks do so unknowingly and with the best of intentions. When questioning the conservation ethics of them, they are told that they are helping to increase numbers of lions in the wild, but evidence of this is hugely lacking.

Canned hunting

Male lion (PoD Volunteer)These facilities need a constant supply of cubs at the right age for interactions, where they are still cute for photographic opportunities, small enough to cuddle and of little danger to visitors, which begs the question, what happens to these cubs when they are too old for interactions? There is no straightforward answer to this but there are a number of agreed possibilities that are widely accepted within wildlife circles. Many of the lions are sold to private collectors but the most commonly acknowledged destination for these lions is into the canned hunting industry. Canned hunting refers to the highly controversial act of raising an animal within a confined area and then hunting the animal within a confined area in order increase the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. Therefore visitors and volunteers at such facilities are unwittingly supporting the canned hunting industry.

There is a lot of money in this industry as people are willing to page large amounts of money to shoot a lion, and canned hunting makes this possible for people who have limited time and hunting skills as the animal is in a confined area. The money that can be generated from selling lions into this industry is enough for lion parks to sell their lions that have previously been used as interaction cubs to canned hunting facilities where tourists can have the ‘ultimate hunting experience’ by shooting a lion.

Avoiding the worst

It is of paramount importance that PoD only works with projects which are sound in their conservation ethics, where the project is truly needed and where volunteers are needed to assist with their work. We do not believe in working with projects which offer nothing towards the conservation of the species that they work with or where they simply offer an ‘experience’ for the volunteer such as hand-raising and cuddling lion cubs, especially when the future of these cubs is so bleak.

To view PoD’s carefully selected animal placements click here: www.podvolunteer.org/animals.html

To read more about PoD’s responsible travel policy click here: www.podvolunteer.org/responsible-travel-policy.html

Have you had an experience of one of these lion parks or projects? How do you separate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ in terms of animal conservation projects? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter using @Goodtrippers.

 

Teach in Ghana – an educational experience

Guest blogger Ellie Cambridge, of NGO Frontier, profiles a volunteering opportunity with Ghana’s new generation…

school children in GhanaGhana is a land of contrasts featuring vast areas of land brimming with animals and birds, a stunning coastline, mountainous terrain and the highest waterfall in West Africa – fancy volunteering there? The people are renowned for welcoming visitors, and with education hugely important to local communities, you’re bound to discover a warm welcome if you join this teaching project.

Education provides Ghanaian children the opportunity to move away from less well paid trades and into something that could give them a better future. Many schools in Ghana rely heavily on the help of volunteers. Frontier’s Ghana Teaching Project gives volunteers the opportunity to help underprivileged children do something special with their lives.

The workteaching English in Ghana

While earning a TEFL certificate, volunteers will teach English to the pupils of a local school, mark their work, prepare homework, develop lesson plans and help organise extracurricular activities, such as sports clubs. Much of the teaching work that volunteers do requires creativity and a flexible approach in order to make learning fun and memorable for the children. In order to prepare for the teaching, volunteers are encouraged to sign-up to a training weekend to get their TEFL certificate off to an excellent start.

 

Accommodation

Volunteers stay in a homestay which provides ample opportunity to really get to know the Ghanaian culture and lifestyle by living with a local family. Volunteers are provided with three delicious meals a day, eating traditional Ghanaian dishes. The homestay is part attached to the community school where volunteers teach (your daily alarm may be the children singing as they arrive for school!).

 

school child in GhanaRecommended for… Anyone who wants to make a substantial difference to Ghanaian children’s lives, have a passion for teaching and are willing to get heavily involved in community life.

Be aware that… While clean and comfortable with everything that volunteers need, the accommodation is fairly basic. The food will be nutritiously well-balanced and filling, but may not be exactly what you are used to, so it is always good to be prepared for this difference.

 

‘Good’ credentials:

  • The project provides constant and dedicated education for children that otherwise may not receive it
  • By building English language skills, volunteers directly contribute to the development of Ghanaian business and the economy by increasing children’s communication skills, influencing their career choices later in life

 

About the author: Ellie Cambridge works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Find our more about Frontier’s volunteer projects and ethical adventure trails and gap year planning.

 

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Ta-Dar! Escape to the Dar HI Eco Lodge, Tunisia

Heard of a ‘dar’? It could be your new Tunisian eco escape…

Tourism in Tunisia is slowly on the increase again as independent travellers seek out the vibrancy and exoticism of northern Africa. And stylish eco hotels and lodges are popping up all over the area, many in the form of ‘dars’ – boutique hotels converted from townhouses and mansions.

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One such dar, which proudly proclaims its eco credentials (and is therefore a safe bet for any ‘Goodtripper’), is the Dar HI Eco Lodge and Spa located in the historic Nefta town, southwest of Tunis, on the edge of the Chott El Jerid desert (a location that has played backdrop to the Star Wars films to name but a few). The lodge area includes date tree gardens and shaded terraces in which to relax.

Dar HI is super stylish with contemporary design throughout using a mix of natural materials, Arabian inspiration and zingy, uplifting colours. It even houses a ‘laboratory’ for PalmLab – a network dedicated to researching modern uses of the palm tree, whether in cooking, skincare, architecture and design. Dar HI displays many of the project’s pilot designs in its interiors.

Accommodation:Dar HI Pill house

The 17 rooms are based around four concepts: The Pill Rooms (high above ground with exceptional views); The Troglodytes (reminisent of the traditional troglodyte homes of Matmata, each room has a private terrace and is linked to the others by a circular communal space); The Dunes (at sand level these rooms are inspired by bivouacs and the natural, cave-like spaces the wind creates in sand dunes); Dar Malika (a traditional house in the village, perfect for families who still wish to use the hotel facilities).

Facilities:

The natural source of hot water beneath Dar HI means the available hammam and swimming pool remain warm with no need for additional energy to be used in heating. The on-site spa offers the usual range of treatments you’d expect alongside some Arabic specialities including Arabic massage and warm sand scrubs (using sand from the nearby desert).

Food:

Organic food is served in the restaurant which is housed in a lovely caven-like space where diners can watch the chefs at work in the open-plan kitchen. They also grow and cook their own vegetables on-site.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Sustainable design and interiors throughout (including hosting PalmLab)
  • Natural hot water source used for pools and hammam
  • Organic food served in the restaurant (using homegrown produce)

 

For more information, including prices and booking, visit www.dar-hi.net/en

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Volunteer diary (Part 2) – wildlife monitoring in Makalali

Guest blogger James Bailey shares the second and final part of his diary – this time volunteering with Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation in South Africa’s Makalali game reserve (read part one here)

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Monday 12th November
Week one in Africa has come and gone and it was now time to leave Lapolosa Wilderness. We were up, loaded and on our way by 06.00. The destination was to Hoedspruit where were picked up by Rangers from Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation, a volunteer organisation that runs research on the Makalali game reserve.

There was an orientation and briefing before settling into the well-equipped camp. Had the opportunity to get to meet the other volunteers, some of whom had been there for at least a week, others much longer. The ID books came out when a small snake slithered across the porch… A good torch was handy to get from dinner back to the bedroom. This wasn’t to avoid stubbing your toe but to shine into the long grass to make sure you weren’t being watched.

Tuesday 13th November
Up at 05.30 for  06.00 drive: one of my duties for the week was to check the Nissan was road/bush worthy. When it comes to cars I know nothing so I had to pay particular attention when I was being briefed by Ranger Tamsyn. As part of the monitoring services that Siyafunda provides for the reserve we did a set route drive. Another responsibility of mine was to record all sightings and behaviour of pachyderms. Luckily this didn’t include warthogs (who technically fall into the category) there are far too many of them and I was busy enough announcing the GPS coordinates of the general game.

The great thing about having an open camp was that anything can walk through. During the afternoon we had plenty of nyala and warthogs grazing on the fresh growth created by the lawnmower.

For the general game drive that evening I set off in the trackers seat. The drive was very productive from a pachyderm perspective; a herd of ten elephants and three rhino were noted. The rhino came right at the end of the drive and blocked our road. We had to sit there in the dark until these gentle giants decided to move on.

Wednesday 14th November

Lion cubs in South Africa (c) James Bailey

Up at 05.15 for our rhino walk and headed to the northeast of the reserve in the Landcruiser. On finding some tracks (12 hours old) we

set off on foot looking for them. We tracked the rhino for about 2km before losing it in thick bush. We did a big loop around and headed back to the Landcruiser. The whole trip was about five hours, no major game to report, but we did see a boomslang in a tree.

On our return, a leopard relocation team had arrived to trap a leopard that had become too familiar with the camp – it had already taken the resident tabby! They set up a trap behind the common room next to the volley ball court and baited it with an impala caracas.

A great game drive this evening, we spent one and a half hours watching a lioness and her four cubs. Afterwards I played my part in cooking dinner. The whole African experience is having such a profound effect on me, it’s simply making me very happy.

Thursday 15th November
Up at 06.00 and we were taken out to clear a road, I got the tracker seat which is such a great experience, it certainly wakes you up first thing in the morning. We spent the best part of three and a half hours chopping down trees and bushes, lots of knob thorn which made the job particularly hard and painful.

The evening game drive featured only general game. That was until we came across a lioness walking up the road with purpose. She was definitely heading to camp with the not-so-discreet smell of the dead impala guiding her in.

When she reached the clearing she saw the grazing giraffe, wildebeest and zebra – a sight you’d expect on a documentary. She watched them for a good ten minutes before stealthly moving into the thick bush. The game headed from the clearing into the bush but then suddenly came thundering back out having wandered into the path of the lion! Five minutes later all hell broke loose with the lioness launching into the mixed herd. With the hunt right behind the camp it made it very real that were living amongst wild and dangerous animals.

Friday 15th November
Headed off a 06.00 for our morning game drive to monitor buffalo which we located using telemetry. We watched them, and warthogs,

Warthogs in South Africa (c) James Bailey

in the dam for a while before driving on, during which we saw a rhino and calf as well as some good sightings of kudo.

The evening game drive was pretty uneventful but we did see a bull elephant. I spent the whole drive in the trackers seat which was a bit over-the-top for a 3.5 hour stint.

The first group had arrived at our make shift camp site about an hour before us and had got a couple of fires going. They’d chosen a dry sandy river bed. We were given our instructions – go to the toilet in pairs and we’d each have to do two hours sentry duty. However, it never got to that: after our dinner there was a big thunderstorm, one load went home early as with no tents they didn’t fancy getting a good soaking. We followed them about thirty minutes later with the lightning getting very close.

Saturday 16th November
Up at 06.00 – which was a lie-in. Today we were working close to camp on erosion control. This involved shifting trees and bushes that had been cut down to create a clearing to attract plains animals such as white rhino and cheetah. This was all moved down the road to bush pack an area that had previously been eroded. The day was hot, perhaps our hottest at 37 degrees centigrade. I spent most of the day in shady spots around camp chatting and trying to recover from the early morning dehydration and too much sun.

We went out for a short game drive in the evening, under three hours. Didn’t see any high profile game, certainly none that I needed to write up. One highlight of the drive was taking a look around a delapitated lodge which meant I spent the rest of the drive day-dreaming about restoring it to its former glory. A quick change when we got back and then off to a neighbouring reserve, Mahalla, where they run a bar every Saturday night if they’re not too busy with guests.

Sunday 17th  November
Adam took a group into town to visit the reptile park, on the way out, about 100m from the gate there were two female lions sitting alongside their wildebeast kill.

On our return we stopped at the kill, the lions looked stuffed, the two of them were big bellied and panting. Arrived back at basecamp but very jealous of those we’d left behind – they had two bull elephants visit the garden!

That night I stayed up into the early hours talking in the dark and listening to the night. We had a lion roaring to the left and a hyena to the right. Awesome listening to them but the lion was definitely getting closer. With the dead impala stinking in the leopard trap we thought there was a good chance that the lion was making a bee-line straight for us. We made a controlled but not very dignified exit back to our rooms.

Monday 19th November
Accommodation on safari (c) James BaileyUp at about 06.30 desperate not to waste any of the last day in bed. We sat around drinking tea and eating rusks until it was time to go. We passed the kill spot but nothing left from yesterday, the whole carcasse was gone in less than 24 hours.

The long journey home gave me plenty of time to reflect on my trip.  I’ve had a truly great experience in Africa. Whilst I’ve been many times before, this trip has been different. I think it’s the hands on practical experience. It is hard work but I love the daily routine of getting up with the sun at 05.30 and going to bed at 20.00/21.00. The major event of the night being dinner which is an actual social event rather than something spent in front of the telly. The people you’re with are all like-minded and a pleasure to spend time with, they all have their own very distinct personalities and experiences.

I always felt safe in the bush but there are moments when you realise how dangerous things are and you can’t become complacent. Whilst it’s exhilarating you must know the boundaries and respect the animals. Meeting Adam (Australian) and Tamsyn (English) who had both taken a year or two out to study as professional guides has made me think seriously about doing something similar. There’s a very good chance I’ll return to Africa in the not too distant future.

If you missed Part 1 of James Bailey’s volunteer’s diary – read it here

Booking: James’ Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation project trip was booked via Enkosini, a registered South African trust and a non-profit conservation project of The Lion Foundation. Enkosini works locally and internationally to encourage and promote a positive attitude towards wildlife and to insitute conservation-based employment. They believe that education and collaboration with the local community are keys to conservation.

For booking and further details of all their volunteering projects, visit www.enkosini.com (E: info@enkosini.com, T: +1.206.604.2664)

James Bailey

 

About the author: A Yorkshireman who lives in London but pines for Africa. Zoo advocate with habitat protection the ultimate, and don’t get me started on climate change nay sayers. Lets off steam through running, cricket and rugby.

Follow James on Twitter via @jhcbailey

 

 

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Frontier profiles wildlife and teaching projects in Tanzania

Guest blogger Jenny Collins, of NGO Frontier, profiles the volunteering projects on offer in TanzaniaChildren in Tanzania

Tanzania, in East Africa, is a fascinating country and a great place to volunteer. It consists of a large area of mainland as well as three main islands: Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia where Frontier’s main projects are based. The Indian Ocean borders the country to the east providing ample opportunity for world class diving, while on the mainland your surroundings will alter from the coastal tropical lowlands to the inland deserts and northern mountains, including the famous Mount Kilimanjaro.

Frontier currently runs two dozen volunteering projects in Tanzania (see the full list on their site) – they broadly fall into these areas:

Marine and Wildlife Conservation

Marine life in TanzaniaDiving projects are based within the Mafia Island Marine Park where volunteers stay on a basic beach camp – getting a chance to really get back to nature.  Volunteers stay in communal bandas – huts made from makuti (woven palm leaves), poles and mud, sleeping on beds constructed from sustainably harvested wooden poles. The “shower” is a jug or a bucket of water and cooking takes place over an open fire.

As well as the diving and marine conservation work volunteers can also get involved with the community outreach and environmental awareness work in the local villages, taking turns to cook, tidy and clean the camp, clean and oil the compressor, rinse dive kit and help with a wide variety of other essential camp duties.

Visitors can experience camp life on the new wildlife projects which are based in the same area. The main focus is to learn a variety of techniques required to monitor local biodiversity effectively. This includes conducting a range of wildlife and socio-economic surveys to help gather the data required. Frontier use various (humane) trapping techniques allowing volunteers to get up close with stunning frogs, birds and maybe the occasional bush baby.

Teaching and Community Projects

Taking part in teaching and community projects can be a great way to really become part of and learn from a community – it will also give you plenty of opportunity to practice your Swahili! Whether you choose to work in an orphanage, school or within an NGO, you will make a real difference to the communities. Accommodation is basic but comfortable in volunteer houses near to the project sites. There is also the opportunity to take part in sports coaching for those with a passion for it (anyone fancy arranging a 5-a-side match with local school children?).

AdventureTrekking in Tanzania

If you fancy more of a physical challenge then Tanzania Adventure projects – which includes climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – are perfect. On arrival volunteers stay in the safari town of Moshi which offers the first glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro.

On the trek, accommodation is either tented or in huts along the trail. Challenging yourself with one of nature’s ultimate tests, reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain – the “roof of Africa” – will be an experience you’ll never forget!

Recommended for… anyone looking to learn about Tanzania and wanting to give something back to the local people – there are a variety of projects for different interests and lengths to suit.

Be aware that… As with any volunteering project in a developing country, work can be hard (this isn’t a ‘lie on the beach’ holiday) but your help is of great support to the local community and wildlife.

 ‘Good’ credentials:

  • Frontier works alongside local communities and organisations to make sure that the Tanzanian people benefit and that the projects can continue after Frontier leaves
  • Food for people on camp is sourced from local villages
  • The projects help provide income for local people

 

About the author: Jenny Collins works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Find out more about Frontier’s Tanzania projects see all their opportunities to volunteer or take part in ethical adventure travel by visiting http://www.frontier.ac.uk.

See our Good Work section for more reviews and profiles of volunteering projects.

 

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Mkulumadzi lodge, Majete, Malawi

Mkulumadzi (by Robin Pope Safaris), Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

E: info@mkulumadzi.com / T: +265 (0) 179 4491 / 5483

www.mkulumadzi.com

Opened in 2011 in Malawi’s rejuvenated Majete Wildlife Reserve, Mkulumadzi is Robin Pope Safaris’ second camp in the country, after Pumulani (www.pumulani.com), a beach lodge set beside Lake Malawi.  A stay at Mkulumadzi brings you into a reserve that has successfully re-introduced mammals including the critically endangered black rhino – ongoing projects ensure the local community has a stake in the success of the area.

[gdl_gallery title=”Mkulumadzi” width=”125″ height=”110″ ]

Accommodation: Mkulumadzi consists of eight luxury chalets set in 7,000 hectares of private consession. The lodge boasts eight chalets (doubles, families and ‘honeymoon’ available) set on the banks of the Shire River, shaded by giant leadwood trees and wild mangos. Each chalet has a spacious bedroom and lounge, ensuite bathroom (with a large sunken bath overlooking the river), large outdoor ‘rain’ shower and private viewing deck where guests can sit back and enjoys the relaxing sounds of the river. The bush chalets are luxurious and spacious with contemporary furnishings, some crafted from locally-sourced materials. They are flooded with natural light, giving you the sense of being in the forest without compromising your comfort and privacy.

Each chalet has a sloping vegetated roof planted with indigenous species such as succulents, aloes, shrubs and grasses. This minimises their impact on the environment and keeps them cool in the hot season. The whole lodge is solar powered with a back-up generator.

Facilities: The lodge has a restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, a lounge and terrace, a bar, shop, swimming pool, viewing deck and a lapa for evening campfires. Afternoon tea is served on the terrace, and on most nights dinner is served beneath the stars.

Activities: Game drives are available with longer excursions exploring the far reaches of Majete. Walking safaris are highly recommended – routes that follow the Mkulumadzi and Shire River are especially scenic with an abundance of birdlife and large mammals. Early mornings are the best – and coolest – times for walking. There are also escorted hikes to the top of Majete hill. Boating safaris on the Shire River offer another great way to view wildlife – the banks are popular with elephant and buffalo; you’ll also spot hippo, crocodile and an abundance of birdlife. Viewing hides are set overlooking a waterhole with a range of regular visitors (buffalo, elephant, black rhino, sable antelope, eland) offering plenty of wildlife spotting and photo opportunities. Guests can also choose to visit the nearby village and community centre giving you the chance to experience Malawi outside Majete, its local culture and people.

‘Good credentials:

  • Mkulumadzi supports a number of community projects in Majete and the surrounding area
  • Employs local people providing a steady income for the community
  • Robin Pope Safaris supports the school, health clinic and pottery workshop built by African Parks
  • Stays at Mkulumadzi help support a sustainable wildlife reserve and encourages further conservation projects
  • Chalets are built with ‘green roofs’; solar power is used throughout the lodge

 

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Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge, Morocco

Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge

Tighanimine El Baz, BP 5323 QI, Agadir, Morocco

T: +212661488504

www.atlaskasbah.com

(Review by Amal Benaissa)

[gdl_gallery title=”Atlas” width=”122″ height=”115″ ]

Located a few kilometres outside Agadir, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge appears from a distance perched high on a hill overlooking a beautiful green landscape. Nestled within the Argan Biosphere, it is the first eco lodge in this area of Morocco. The Argan Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage site bordered by the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas Mountains, and open to the Atlantic in the West. Both the hospitality of owners Helene and Hassan and the commitment to sustainability make this place very special.

Accommodation: There are a total of eight rooms and three suites (55 m² in size) that mix Berber and European décor harmoniously. Spacious and clean, each room has an en-suite bathroom (note: there is no TV).

Restaurant: All delicious meals are served in the restaurant of the Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge; the terrace of the restaurant offers breath-taking views of the mountains and adjacent plains. Pre-selected menus offer a sample of Moroccan cuisine; you can also request a vegetarian option. Foodies can take lessons with the chef in the kitchen of the Kasbah. My favourite bit about the food was the traditional Berber bread, made in front you in the outdoor stone oven by a local Berber woman.

Facilities and activities: Guests can also enjoy the swimming pool, massage room and Hammam (Moroccan steam bath). There are many activities on offer upon request (and dependent on the number of participants) including an astronomy night to watch the stars with professors from Agadir, bird watching, native language classes, Moroccan pottery classes, yoga and meditation, hikes, donkey-rides, surf classes, mountain bike rental, day trips and more!

Recommended for… Those who love outdoor activities! While the ecolodge is great for rest and rejuvenation, the range of activities on offer which make the most of the incredible location, are second to none.

Be aware that… The remote location (it’s a 20 minute drive from the city) means there is little or no wifi and weak phone reception (but then isn’t that for the best…?!)

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge was granted the prestigious Responsible Tourism Award from the Ministry of Tourism of Morocco and the International Green Key Eco Label from King Mohamed VI Foundation for the Environment
  • Water conservation: the lodge uses mixer taps, double flush toilets, intelligent irrigation for the garden, and uses biodegradeable cleaning and bathroom products
  • Energy conservation: 80% of the electricity and all water heating comes from photovoltaic panels, they use low consumption light bulbs, and maximise the use of natural lighting and ventilation
  • Waste management: observe the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), and leftover vegetables are used as animal feed
  • Organic fertiliser is used in the garden where local and endemic plants are grown
  • Emphasis on seasonal produce and local/non-pollutant products
  • The lodge showcases local, traditional architecture with interior and exterior walls made entirely of natural materials (mud brick walls and tradelakt)

 

About the author:

Amal Benaïssa

Amal Benaissa is a Doctoral Researcher at LSE with an international spirit and a love for discovery

Follow on Amal on Twitter: @EvolvingSun

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