With the spotlight firmly on the eradication of questionable wildlife activities in Africa, conservationists and tourism players have shared some truly unique and worthwhile experiences that the travel trade can offer their customers and that won't put the continent's wildlife at risk.
Lion cub petting, although often a drawing card for travelers, will soon be a thing of the past. But wildlife conservationist Colin Bell explains that when one is in pure wilderness environments in Africa, there is no need for gimmicky, unnatural wildlife encounters activities for entertainment or adrenalin.
"The best, the most interesting, the most fun activities are the old, tried and trusted, safari activities. Turn back the clock; immerse yourself in the most natural and purest environments in Africa, and everything will happen to you," he said. "Nature and all its wildlife in Africa will give its visitors the most fun and the most innovative holidays -- especially if one is traveling to areas where there is no WiFi.
"Traveling to these truly wild places creates shared experiences. Going back to one's early roots is the most innovative and rewarding form of travel anyone can have on this planet, as travel to wild, remote places in Africa affects us positively in so many, many ways. The days of phony, contrived, brutal, cruel wildlife experiences are thankfully coming to an end, and people will be better off as a result of that."
Related: Green Safaris launches ecotourism camps in Zambia
Bell said it is important to look for safari destinations and lodges to offer a wide variety of activities. Conventional morning and afternoon game drives are slowly being replaced by lodges that offer a far wider range of activities focused on wildlife, nature, culture, cuisine, wines and being on foot, in hides and sleeping under the stars.
Here are some conservation activity suggestions from some of the top conservationists and tourism players on the continent:
Train with K-9 anti-poaching units
At Singita Sabi Sand, travelers can visit the highly effective K-9 anti-poaching unit. The unit, which is based at the private reserve, has achieved immense success, and the area hasn't lost a single rhino to poaching in the past five years. The dogs perform multiple functions, from pursuing intruders to sniffing out rhino horn and ammunition from vehicles and bags.
K9 Anti-Poaching Unit training session at Singita Sabi Sand from Singita on Vimeo.
Participate in ocean research
Through conservation education travel, Mantis supports the conservation of marine species including the great white sharks in the waters off South Africa. They offer the opportunity to take part in ocean research alongside marine biologists, conservation of marine species and community outreach work. Travelers from all over the world can enjoy the opportunity to experience unique marine-related projects in the biodiversity-rich environment of the Greater Dyer Island area in Gansbaai and gain exposure to various marine species like great whites, southern right whales, dolphins and many marine bird species such as the endangered African penguin.
Work with the Kope Lion conservation team
Nicole Robinson, AndBeyond's chief marketing officer, said guests of AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge have the opportunity to interact with the Kope Lion conservation team to get a deeper understanding of its day to day operations and what it is like for the Masai to live side by side with wildlife.
Travelers will spend time with the Kope Lion team and discover how these dedicated conservationists are fostering coexistence with lions within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Working closely with local communities, they are creating a sustainable "corridor of tolerance" that will reconnect the divided crater and Serengeti lion sub-populations, ensuring their long-term survival. This insightful experience will give visitors the opportunity to understand the challenges and complexities of wildlife and human coexistence.
Accompanied by a Kope Lion researcher, travelers start with a short walk to check on one of the Panthera camera traps. Then they'll be driven through Masai villages and a diversity of habitats, including the lush crater rim, sparse grasslands and a beautiful secluded forest spot. Here they will meet one of the Kope Lion Ilchokuti (lion guardians), who will talk about his work protecting lions.
Help with the annual game count in the Kalahari
Once a year, Gondwana Collection Namibia is offers the public the opportunity to take part in the annual game count in the Gondwana Kalahari Park. The count provides valuable data to the park management in terms of game numbers and diversity.
Participate in rhino conservation
Travelers can walk in the steps of giants and embark on an authentic safari experience focused on rhino conservation at Mantis Founders Lodge. Rangers take guests on guided bush walks and explain how the rhinos (mainly southern white rhinos) are tracked, monitored and protected. At specific times throughout the year guests are also offered the opportunity to be part of a veterinary health check on Munu, the blind black rhino who lives at Founders Lodge, having been rescued after a territorial battle with another rhino.
Marcelo Novais, general manager, North America, Ker & Downey Africa, said a highlight for most of his clients is a rhino notching experience which sees clients track rhino by helicopter, witness the darting of a rhino and actively participate in vital conservation tasks alongside conservationists. This educational experience is available at Phinda Private Game Reserve and Ngala.
Go on a gorilla or monkey trekking experience
Murray Gardiner, CEO of Giltedge, said visiting Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda for golden monkey trekking and gorilla trekking helps support the local communities, as all the trackers and porters are Rwandan.
The opportunities for unique and worthwhile conservation experiences are limitless. And as Bell points out: "It's not often that having fun on holiday makes you a genuine conservationist! Africa is the exception! Every safari helps to sustain jobs and creates the revenues in some way to help manage, sustain and protect Africa's wildlife reserves."