September 25, 2012
The word “safari” has been related to an outdoor tour, usually in East Africa, where humans experience the natural world and its inhabitants, untouched by hands. But how eco-friendly is a safari if it involves stepping into natural habitats? This question has created a new type of safari called the Eco-Safari.
Today’s technology, and the work of naturalists around the world, has made the Eco-Safari possible. This brings a new kind of expedition into the wild with two objectives.
• To inform and raise awareness of nature’s need of our collaboration as species on this planet.
• Make this exploration take place with minimum impact on the habitats being studied.
Domestic organizations such as Florida EcoSafaris, and African organization Eco Safari Adventure are a few examples of efforts applied by tourism initiatives to incorporate vehicles or means of exploration that are less invasive, more fun and memorable.
Florida EcoSafaris, for instance, has created two additional tours from their two-hour eco-safari exploration in a four-wheel-drive vehicle: the Zipline Safari, and the Cypress Canopy Cycle, the first of its kind in the U.S.
The Zipline Safari consists of a two-and-a-half hour expedition up to 68 feet aboveground, and as fast as 30 mph. Patrons hang from the newly installed zipline over the Florida Everglades. This form of transportation does not release harmful gasses into the atmosphere, doesn’t destroy the habitat’s flora or fauna, is minimally invasive and gives guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Cypress Canopy Cycle is based on the same concept, soaring over the Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area, to experience the natural world first hand. This time instead of hanging from a zipline, patrons pedal their way across with a Canopy Cycle vehicle for an hour round trip. It may be used by guests ages 10 and up and supports weights up to 275-pounds.
Eco Safari Adventure, sponsored by the Laurence Anthony Earth Organization, also offers original expeditions to study the beautiful landscapes of South Africa, specifically the historic, former private hunting grounds of King Shaka aka the warrior who created the Zulu empire.
These Eco-Safaris function at a much larger scale than the Florida Eco-Safaris, offering five-to-eight-day-long expeditions in the Thula Thula Exclusive Private Game Reserve. Yes, it is as luxurious at it sounds.
At first sight, this idea may appear to stray from the concept of eco-friendly. However, the Laurence Anthony Earth Organization works toward a much bigger picture. Their site describes the organizations as an “international, non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of the vital partnership for survival we all have with the natural world and bringing down-to-earth solutions to environmental and conservation situations, in order to effectively reverse the dwindling spiral of health, life and sustainability.”
In other words, their ultimate purpose is to come up with a workable, long-term solution to environmental problems. And in order to do so, they must address and benefit the greater number of elements involved in any situation, including mankind’s global expansion, commerce, industry, people, jobs, plants and animals.
So what makes their safaris eco-friendly? First, their purpose is not profit, but preservation. Since The Earth Organization runs them, incoming funds go to the preservation of the Thula Thula camp, and the communities, flora and fauna that inhabit the area.
The camp itself provides jobs for the locals, as employees or by bringing tourists to the artisan markets. This unique destination is home to the “Big Four” (elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo and leopard), and other wildlife including giraffe, zebra, crocodile, monkeys, kudu, springbok, along with over 350 species of birds. The camp is sustainable and has more than a decade of green tradition. It utilizes, supports and protects the natural resources of the area through eco tourism.
Organizations keep researching ways to keep safaris as green as possible. This is fairly new, considering that the Oxford Dictionary defines safari as meaning “an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat, especially in East Africa.”
Today, tourism organizations in Africa and the U.S. encourage an eco-friendly expedition, without any hunting or harm done to the animals and their habitats.
Safari comes from the late 19th century Kiswahili world, “safara,” which means to travel. The objective of such a trip should be awareness, knowledge and admiration for the natural world and nothing but. Organizations like Florida EcoSafaris and Eco Safari Adventure are making sure that is exactly what these trips are all about.