From extended expeditions to deep fireside conversations, travel has the power to transform us. When done well, it can also make a positive difference in the places we visit – a fact I recently learned on a safari in southern Tanzania.
As a nature lover, I often plan my trips around the local fauna. Sure, I follow responsible wildlife tourism guidelines, but driving around in a safari jeep doesn’t necessarily help the animals or ecosystems I admire. Getting my hands dirty installing camera traps to help researchers study wildlife in an unexplored and once heavily hunted area of southern Tanzania? It’s a bit more like that.
And it turns out that’s part of a growing trend of the 2020s: regenerative travel. The idea is to go beyond sustainability, which focuses on minimizing negative impacts, and instead have a net positive impact on the place you visit.
During my trip to safari company Asilia’s new Usangu expedition camp in southern Tanzania, this meant installing and monitoring camera traps and uploading animal photos to the citizen science database iNaturalist to help researchers assess and monitor local wildlife populations. Guests can also help with collar programs to track big cat movements. These experiences felt even more enriching than a traditional jeep safari, and they contributed to Usangu’s goal: to help conservationists from partner organizations like the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute better protect this understudied ecosystem.
Usangu is one of a growing number of experiences that enable globetrotters to leave a positive footprint. Given the community and environmental strains of the past decade of unchecked (and largely unchecked) tourism growth and a post-pandemic jet set resurgence, this shift could not come at a better time.
“Tourism has suffered badly [hit] during Covid for reputational reasons; Regenerative travel is one way to rebrand tourism,” says Sue Snyman, Director of Research at African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation, noting that this is particularly important for engaging local residents. Years of negative impacts on tourism have left some communities questioning why they want tourism in the first place. “When communities see that travelers are making a real positive impact, they will understand [what tourism can do].”
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