20 Ways to Experience Africa Responsibly
Responsible Travel in Africa

“Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species”

Sir David Attenborough

Africa is revered as a destination famous for its countless flora and fauna species, and for its dramatic variation of landscapes.

Seeing this fascinating place is more accessible than it has ever been, and yet with such travel opportunities comes great responsibility. 

Africa remains beautiful only because of travellers like you, who are always looking for new ways to travel more mindfully. 

Responsible, sustainable African tourism has little to do with typical eco-tourism, such as being energy-conscious and reusing towels. Instead, it is a more involved process that includes a variety of big and small things that you can do before, during and after your African tour. 

You should never underestimate the power of even the smallest of actions, as you never know just what a little bit of conscientiousness can do for our wonderful planet, our only home. 

Since you are here, you are probably looking for new and little-known ways to travel more responsibly, and we have just the guide for you.

Responsible African Tour Tips

20 Ways to Treat Africa the Right Way

  • Research Your Destination Completely

We live in a glorious age of knowledge and information. 

Although in the past you might have had to become a frequent visitor to the nearest library or buy all of the latest travel magazines, with the internet at your fingertips you have every opportunity to fully research your African travel destination of choice. 

Conventional travellers will generally only look at things like accommodation, activities, must-see attractions, prices and travel requirements when researching their destination. 

Savvy, responsible travellers like you should research all of that, and also things like the destination’s cultural complexities and nuances, commitments to sustainability and eco-tourism travel packages, how to avoid unethical activities and products, how to be more carbon neutral throughout your travels and also how you can respect the wildlife and the beautiful places you will be visiting. 

  • Visit Crowdless Places 

Tourist-heavy destinations often suffer the greatest negative impacts. 

You can just imagine the damage that can be done to an ecosystem that is frequented by crowds of people who are perhaps not as keen on the idea of responsible travel as you are. 

Just think of the many travellers who visit the Kruger National Park each year vs the limited number of visitors who travel to some more obscure, but just as beautiful and wildlife-filled private game parks, like Sabi Sands or Balule. 

When you opt for those little-known destinations, that the typical crowds are not interested in, you can be sure that you are not contributing to the harmful impact that tourist-heavy destinations experience. 

  • Slow Down a Little 

Most of the world is a rushed place these days and sadly our rushed mindsets tend to leak over into our holiday plans, often spoiling the adventure. 

Trying to see and do it all while on an African tour not only diminishes the pleasure of your trip, but it also has an impact on the destination. Rushing from one place to the next means more carbon emissions and also more impact on the infrastructure and things like water sources. 

Instead of rushing through your trip, or thinking of this holiday as the only one you’ll ever have in Africa, you should plan for future holidays and slow down on this one. 

Besides, a slower trip will help you form a much deeper connection with the people and places you see. 

  • Get Your Hands Dirty

One of the unique attractions in Africa is the various, ongoing conservation efforts and programmes that take place all over the continent. 

From wildlife protection and preservation to ecosystem programmes which aim to restore the natural flora in an area, there are plenty of ways that you can play a role, even if it is a small one, by participating in such programmes. 

Generally, such programmes welcome the help of volunteers, and if getting your hands dirty sounds like something you want to try, you should research and book just such an experience. 

  • Support Local, Always 

Globalism is a fascinating thing and while it is nice to know that you can get your favourite Starbucks drink at an African Starbucks franchise, why would you want to when you can try out local coffees?

When in Africa, shop and support Africans by buying local. 

Stay in locally owned lodges and eat at local restaurants. Opt for African tours guided by locals and buy souvenirs from local craftsmen and women. 

When you shop local you are doing the local community the greatest good, by not only stimulating the local economy but by also telling your friends and family back home about the great experience you had and showing off the stunning things you have bought. 

Responsible Shopping on an African Tour
  • Shop Smartly 

Travelling through any African destination, you will eventually come across rustic outdoor markets, filled with the hubbub of life and all sorts of wondrous items for sale, most of which are made or sourced just for tourists like you. 

Such markets are for the most part a must-visit because they will give you a real feel for the destination you are touring. 

But behind the enthusiastic sellers, there are always one or two dishonest stall owners who might just try to sell you something that could land you in legal trouble. 

Don’t even entertain the thought of buying things like animal skins, fur, tortoiseshells, ivory, coral or any other animal products. None of these items are ethically sourced, and most are illegal.

  • Do Eco-Friendly Activities 

Low environmentally impactful activities, such as cycling tours, horseback riding, and nature walks, not only tick the boxes of responsible travel but these activities will also often give you the greatest joy and appreciation for the holiday you are having. 

  • Research Your Itinerary 

Most travellers will fully trust that the tour company they are travelling with is doing all of the work for them, in terms of making sure that each accommodation, each activity and each destination is eco-friendly. 

This is not, however, always the case. 

As the responsible traveller that you are, it is important that you do the research yourself. Once you have requested an itinerary option, go through it with an eagle eye and research everything, to make sure that it aligns with your vision. 

  • Pack the Right Way

Packing smart means travelling light, bringing and taking home only what you absolutely need. You can do this by organising your luggage with packing cubes and by using lists like this one as your guide. 

When packing, you should also include a material, reusable shopping bag. This will remove all temptation to purchase a plastic bag when you go shopping. 

As for what you bring along, you can save space by using travel-sized products, like shampoos and toothpaste, and by using shoe organisers.  

  • Off-Set Your Travel Carbon 

While this is a hugely contentious modern issue, the responsible traveller will look for ways to offset the carbon they have created during their holiday, even if Taylor Swift doesn’t. 

Tourism is only responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, and while the debate over whether this is good or bad (in terms of the percentage, not the carbon) is quite complex and although everyone seems to be sitting on different sides of the fence, the fact remains that we travellers get to help our planet by off-setting our carbon. 

There are a few simple ways that you can do this. 

You can start by having a look at the airline you are choosing, to see what their offset policy is. You can book a direct flight, which will remove the need to have more than one flight. You can also choose to stay longer in one destination during your trip. You can book a cheaper, economy-class ticket. You can pack light. And you can book your African tour with a tour operator who prioritises eco-conscious travel.

Carbon Emissions African Tour
  • Go Paperless 

The temptation is to print all the travel documents you might need, and while it is always a great idea to have a physical copy of your passport and your visa, you should as far as possible try to go paperless. 

Store your documents on a Cloud-based server, for extra safety, as you will be able to access such documentation from anywhere so long as you have internet access. 

  • Choose a Land Travel Destination 

Africa is a massive continent, and getting from one place to the next often means flying. And air travel compared to land travel is quite carbon heavy. 

As far as possible, when planning your African tour, try to keep your destinations close enough so that you can travel by road. 

Travelling by road might be taking the longer way around, but you will see so much more by land than you would for the sky, so you can think of the bits in between as an extension of your adventure. 

  • Don’t go to the zoos

This one might sound a bit controversial to some, but it needs to be said. 

When in Africa, you will have ample opportunity to see wildlife thriving in their natural habitat. It is unlike anything you would have ever experienced before and you will leave each destination with such a deep respect and love for the wildness that Africa is so well-known for. 

Zoos might have their place, depending on who you talk to, but not in Africa. 

Wildlife in zoos can be depressed, not well taken care of, and living behind a cage is no life for them. 

If it is wildlife you’ve come to see, then see them wild and free, as nature intended. That is what a responsible traveller would do. 

  • Eat Well and Eat Ethically 

Africa is a flavourful continent and you will be able to find a huge range of restaurants, cafes and bars, all locally owned and with a locally created menu. You will even find a selection of local drinks, including some of the world’s best wines and craft beers. 

Do your research about the restaurant you are eyeing before visiting it, to find out more about where it sources its food from and whether or not the food is organically grown. 

  • Don’t Use Single-Use Plastics 

Every responsible traveller has probably read this particular tip countless times, but it is worth repeating. 

Eco-friendly reusable water bottle
  • Respect the Wildlife and the People

Again, this is a travel tip that has been constantly mentioned in each and every travel list. 

Don’t touch, feed or harm any wildlife, and always be kind to the people you encounter. This is not even as much about being responsible as it is about just being a decent human. 

  • Give Back 

Eating locally, travelling locally, and shopping locally, already does the communities you are visiting so much good. 

If you want to do a little bit more, and you have the means to, consider giving a donation to a local charity, rather than giving money or gifts to the people. 

The local charities will know where the need is, but to play on the safe side, you should once again do some research about the charity before giving your donation. 

  • Recycle Your Waste 

If you do find that you buy something like a plastic bottle or paper products, you can always recycle them. Many of Africa’s bigger towns and cities have public recycling bins, where anyone can dispose of their waste in the appropriate bin. 

  • Turn Off the Aircon 

One of the biggest luxuries in Africa, especially during the summer months, is having an air conditioner. Most lodges will specifically advertise the fact that they have such an amenity because guests enjoy them so much. 

The problem is that sometimes guests leave the air conditioner on all day, while they are out on an adventure or a safari. 

As a responsible traveller, you should make sure that you turn your air conditioner off when you are out of your room, or if possible, if you can withstand the heat, you should try to go throughout your travels without using one at all. 

  • Spread the Word About Your Holiday 

Africa is the mother continent, and everyone should visit her at least once in their lifetime. 

When you get home from your incredible African tour, you should tell your friends and family all about your time here, but when doing so, also educate them about the benefits and ease of responsible travel. 

Supporting Locals on an African Tour

The earth is all our home; the only home we are likely to ever have. And her future health is in the palm of our hands. 

You should always aim to be the sort of traveller that you would hope to see in your own country.