Does anyone still travel ECO-style?

Sep 26th, 2007, 06:46 AM
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PS: I forget to say - with all three options a, b and c you can get the same luxury of accommodation.
nyama is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 06:57 AM
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Option A

HariS is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 08:04 AM
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pixelpower: "A lot of the $ you pay is for exclusivity and abundance of wildlife, luckily not for friggin private plunge pools."

Not always. I already published the following example about Busanga Plains (Kafue/Zambia) in the "worth the money?" thread (

old Shumba Camp (2005 rack rate): about 250 US$ (sharing/single)
new WS Shumba Camp (2006 rack rate): more than 600 US$ (sharing)

In 2005 there were two camps (14 pax) in the same game viewing area, in 2006 four (24 pax).

The price difference is only for staying in the luxury of a 120,000 US$ tent.
nyama is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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Pixel: this is a great topic and I think the point that needs to be emphasized is in your opening statement -- that we should mind how a lodge handles natural resources, and to go wider look at how our travel and decisions impact the environment.

I would caution everyone though that all of us are consumers of resources and there can be no innocence, everyone of us can have a finger pointed for a choice or preference that we have -- that's the nature of consuming. We all fall under the Law of Unintended Consequences even if we think our indulgences are pure.

For example: the buzz issue that started this was wasting water for a luxury bath and potential pollution from draining it. This was taking place at a relatively high density lodge (60 people per night) where drives are limited to defined tracks. A heavily used footprint to be sure but confined to a certain limited amount of space.

Yet later in this thread Pixel (I share this preference too) states the willingness to pay for an exclusive experience with abundant wildlife. I'm going to assume this equals an intimate camp of 12 people per night in a private concession with off road driving. Under this preference to serve the same 60 people at N. Crater Lodge it will take 5 camps in remote private concessions. As Nyama just pointed out it takes resources and leaves impacts on the land to build and continuously supply these camps. Footprints for tourism will have just been added to 5 wilderness areas. It likely takes more energy to supply these camps by flying in food etc. as opposed to the above choice on its well established driving route. Just the added pollution and resource depletion to bring in your dinner almost certainly exceeds the environmental cost of taking the bath at the location on the driving route that allowed easier provisioning for 5 times the people. It's clear what a slippery slope there is.

Our tourism can bring enormous benefits and if we all stayed home there would unfortunately not be the economic driver needed to conserve African wildlife and wild areas but there is always going to be costs.

To answer the original question I try to be an eco-traveller but I'm surely a tourist too and hopefully an ethic will continue to evolve where people examine these issues and try to figure out the best approaches creating a demand for camps/lodges to make good decisions. I am very focused on supporting camps that are owned by or deliver strong benefits to local people. I have planned my next trip around some camps that I think are ahead of the game on some of these impact issues, which need to be organized and defined in some way so those that do care can be educated when making choices.

For example, I'm visiting Mapula Camp where they have built an airstrip. Apparently most airstrips in Botswana are maintained with a toxic chemical but this strip is built in a manner to avoid this impact. To be honest I don't even remember the details but will ask and write it down while I'm there but it was an issue that I never would have thought about. Luckily someone out there did care and decided to do it better than many others are.

Likewise, I will visit Delta Camp which only uses bio-degradeable products as soaps, shampoos, etc. to protect the Delta. This seems like it should be the standard but its the first time I have seen such a policy promoted. Likewise they make it a point of emphasis that when the supply plane is emptied it is taking all non-degradable trash in the other direction away from the Delta. Most camps are not telling you what they do with their trash which I will assume means its nothing to brag about.

Thus, I feel like I am trying to make some very eco-sound decisions but there is a lot to learn. Despite making some good decisions I am flying everywhere, they are luxury lodges that have swimming pools and being November I plan to enjoy a daily plunge, and I will be intruding into vast wilderness areas. Without our visitation though I think the area would be over consumed for the local populations short term gains and the wildlife and people would fare much worse over the long haul.

As for doing it at home I think that should be very important -- that's where most of us are for 48+ weeks a year unless your name is Lynn or Michael and I'm happy to say we still have some phenomenal wildlife here in the USA that needs just as much help as Africa's.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 08:51 AM
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Regarding the above mentioned camp: I've also seen all the destruction to nature caused by the construction of this new camp, mainly by the heavy trucks that transported all the wood for the platforms, bridges and the huge plunge pool deck. The main track to Shumba - no longer usable for that season; channel crossings destroyed over a width of 40-60 metres - nothing left of vegetation. All this in a national park. And after the destruction of the main track, the operator came out with a real exciting solution: helicopter transfers for the clients (CO2? huh?). This is marketed as "low impact" and "environment friendly".

Pred, you are right, without tourism no conservation. And luxury tourism does a lot for conservation, especially in remote areas.

But sorry, sometimes I find this all really perverted.
nyama is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 12:29 PM
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I'm sure you do what you can and that you know more than most but I don't accept statements as not knowing enough as a good enough excuse. Knowledge is something accuired and that knowledge is available if time and effort is put to it. Internet can give you most of the answers, if double checking the facts from very unrelated source.

The knowledge can be accuired if you want it bad enough.

And, as said, if more of us live environmentally sane (like giving up those damn SUV's for one) in their every day life the negative impact will be that much less.

None of us can live 100% environmentally correct, unless you live completely outside society, but improve in steps and do all possible. We just have to give up some materialistik luxuries for other qualities in life.

I know that when I leave this earth I've had less of a negative impact on this Earth than most, and I've given up most luxuries and society status for a better world. I will feel at peace that day and welcomed by mother earth.
WayuU is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 01:23 AM
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These changes at camps like Shumba etc etc., has a lot to do with travel agents too, right? Forexample, by converting them into ultra-luxury lodges with silk duvets, heated plunge pools and the like......they do charge a fortune, but, the travel agents pump them up for higher comissions? Hence, operators need agents and agents need commissions? simple?

HariS is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 04:14 AM
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You make a few assumtions on my part that are not entirely correct.

First of all, I did not start this discussion because I felt that someone took a bath with too much water. As I said; that person may just lack the information that I was given. Not her fault, right?
No, I started the discussion because I know that the crater has a water-problem. My guide told me about it. Lerai forest used to be much bigger, for example. And he told me a study revealed that much less water is coming down the slopes of the crater rim ...because of the lodges.
After that, I heard that a new lodge is opened (even though there are already too much vehicles in the crater, and even though they already tried to limit gamedrives to half a day maximum duration). In fact, was it not this Ngorongoro crater lodge that was lastly built?
Well whatever lodge it is... next I hear that they're filling bath tubs and throw around flower petals, etc... and I read how great everybody thinks this is.
So I start thinking; "now wait a minute, don't they realise?..." And THAT is why I started this thread. To make everyone aware; you CAN make a difference. If you do not want your lodge to spoil water, you can TELL them. A trend in tourism CAN be corrected, but only by the tourists themselves.

Secondly; I get your point about comparing two lodges, but I think the comparison is a bit flawed; two entirely different locations, each allowing a different level of human presence, etc... Plus you assume I would fly in and out of the delta. Would I? I'm going next year, but: no flights (only international). See? ;-)

Also, I hear everybody make remarks like; "not coming at all is even better" etc... well... if you commit suicide it's perhaps the best eco-move of all, lol. What I mean is; that's not what this discussion is about. It's about this; if you DO decide to have a safari, then pay attention to your ecological footprint there.


pixelpower is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 05:11 AM
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I guess you really don't get it.

The proliferation of "lodges" charging mega bucks so you can "see the animals" is down to you folk thinking that is the only way.

Like you must have all the comforts of home. But you are NOT AT HOME.

Isn't that the point?


You are somewhere else - and imho the proliferation of outrageously expensive places to stay (mainly for Americans who know no better) is just a new form of colonialism.

Like I've said before - this is the Africa board, allegedly, but Africa seems to have shrunk to a few "safe" countries where you agonise and debate over this "lodge" or that.

Most of you couldn't find Ghana on a map, but you are "Africa experts".

Oh well, enough said.

But you know, you really should start to think of "Africa" as more than South Africa, Zambia (though it is nice to see Zambia in there), Namibia (for the brave) and Zimbabwe (for those with no political antennae at all).

Oh, and you might just venture out to Kenya and Tanzania (very daring) or Uganda (jeez, where's that?)

And everywhere you go you plonk your culture in there.

Because you can't really live without the frills you would find in a hotel back home.

I would say "shame on you" but of course the interesting thing is, that the Africa Board cabal thinks it's perfectly OK and quite normal.

Now I think I'm going to go to xxx camp where they'll pick me up from the airport and put me in a nice bug free room, and serve a gourmet meal (while the local peoole eat mealie meal); And there'll be the best wines, and loads of hot water (where does that water come from, I wonder, and the power to heat it?). And I'll "see the animals" and take loads of photos, and that's about it.

chimani is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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“It's just that I felt that I had to point out to readers of that thread (who may be looking for the right lodge for their next safari) that they should mind how the lodge handles natural resources. Because in that thread, people were raving about things like a big bath tub with flower petals. Which is, let's be honest, not what a safari should be about.”

IMHO minding how the lodge handles natural resources is more than just a guest’s responsibility. During my first couple of safaris I was so overwhelmed by the beauty and diversity of the places I visited; I was mesmerized like an animal caught in headlights. Subsequently, I’ve broadened my experiences and understanding over time. Four years ago, while in a private vehicle I asked to be taken behind the scenes to see how lodges around the Crater dealt with their garbage disposal. Hmmm, what an eye opener that was and well worth the tip I paid. I was shocked by practices of a certain establishment on the Eastern rim (one of the lesser expensive lodges) and vowed to never stay there again.

So far on this thread folks have concentrated on the waste created by high-end lodges and the supercilious services they offer their guests. I think ALL lodge owners have responsibilities too:

Landscaping: Do they need to import exotic (non-indigenous) plants for landscaping? These need more water, fertilizer, pesticides and have long-lasting effects on the ecosystem.

Proper waste separation and disposal? This is a big one for me … individuals, lodges, camps; those climbing Kili could have a major positive impact.

Cut firewood consumption. There are alternatives. It comes down to cost, education and local commerce.

Proper sewage disposal: Recommend the installation of a wetlands-ecosystem around the lodges. The cost is staggering, but low-impact long term.

In short, the lodge stakeholders should have a long-term commitment to: Community, Conservation, and Commerce. Most of us only know what we have read or what we have been told by industry experts. Judging hot baths is only a small part of the picture. As many times as I have traveled to various countries in Africa (for business and pleasure) I realize that I am clueless as to what it is really like to “live” there and will always be an outsider. True sweeping change comes from the inside from those who have the greatest stake in the long-term outcome. As an outsider, I contribute, but they have the power to sustain precious resources.

Just another “limited” perspective…
Khakif is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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chimani, you make some pretty sweeping assumptions there.

Khakif - very well put!

Momliz is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 07:42 AM
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Ecotourism Kenya has an eco-rating scheme.
Nyamera is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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I confess that i am ignorant/don't know anything about any of the questions you have raised, but, really are there any lodges that get landscaping stuff done by using a foreign plant species? just to make it look pretty? - IMO the operators didn't find a good enough landscaping consultant that could use the available resources .... simple as that.

As to the bath water thing ..... without naming the author, i remember a trip report condemning the color of the bath water in a camp in Northern Botswana. Nothing wrong with the water, really(that's normal delta water)........ but, a lengthy report.

HariS is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Hari, re travel agents. I don't think that TAs play an important role in this decision making. They sell the products offered by the ground handlers, and they also provide valuable feedback from the market back to the ground handlers. The decisions are made by the camp/lodge operators and by the market (us).
nyama is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Thanx Nyamera
WayuU is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Most of the rated accommodations on the Kenya ecotourism list are fairly high priced and exclusive properties (OK really budget to moderate by Fodorite standards ). I'm not saying it has to be that way but those are the ones that currently have eco-ratings. Would you be willing to spend more to stay at these places (assuming you hadn't intended to spend that much in the first place)?
Patty is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 04:35 PM
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I think my comments were misunderstood. I didn't mean that I could waste Africa's resources because I save some at home. I just meant that I think you can enjoy some luxury while still being environmentally sensitive. A high level of service does not have to result in abuse of resources. If done properly, it can mean the exact opposite.

p.s. of course, I wouldn't take a bath in an area facing water shortages...duh!
hills27 is offline  
Sep 27th, 2007, 08:06 PM
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I agree that information is power, but I find it interesting that there are people making sweeping generalizations such as,

“….Because in that thread, people were raving about things like a big bath tub with flower petals. Which is, let's be honest, not what a safari should be about.”

Maybe not for you, but maybe for other people this enhances the whole experience. Just because you like your safari one way doesn’t mean everybody else does as well.

Here are a couple of items you all might find interesting about the crater and the challenges it is and has been facing (some of the info is a little dated, but interesting none the less…search under water, forest, etc.)
MonicaH is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 01:34 AM
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Since when is saying that a safari should not be abouth bath tubs with rose petals a generalisation? It is a fact!

These extravagant luxuries we've been seeing recently is a thing that only really popped up like the last 10 years or so, and it is a trend that seems to have no end. Quite on the contrary; it gets increasingly common.
Because of this, the ecological footprint of every individual going on safari is getting bigger and bigger each year.

Note again that I don't blame you nor anyone for taking a bath. But I'm just saying here, to everyone; time to inform yourself, and instead of taking the easy route (just savour all that extravaganza), please take the more difficult route: be aware of your ecological footprint, and try to minimize it.
For example; by choosing a shedule with a minimum of flight movements, by sharing vehicles (I can understand you don't like to end up with strangers, but has anyone here ever thought of asking relatives and/or friends to join you on a safari?) ...and also by minimizing the resources spent while you're in the bush.

I know this board is full of the people frequenting top luxury lodges in private conscessions, but is it wrong of me to say; please inform yourself?

By the looks of it, it seems my message works, as you've just posted two links to relevant info as well. ;-)

Note that I have read that crater report (your 2nd link) before. One of the authors is Richard D Estes, the guy who IMHO wrote the best book there is for a newbie going on safari:
(yes, of course I had a copy with me in Tanzania).
This study says that "a thorough hydrological survey is needed to determine the sources of the many perennial springs, with particular attention to Tokitok and Lerai inside the Crater". Take a map, see where those areas are, and then see where all the lodges are. I think everyone can add 1 and 1...



pixelpower is offline  
Sep 28th, 2007, 02:38 AM
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If it is as Patty says, that the eco friendly ones are the high cost ones, then I can definitely say that I can't afford it. It shouldn't HAVE to be more expensive, at least not much more.

I can't afford to both work with minimum wage all my life to "save the world" AND pay the highest prices on my trips. And I don't think I should be banned on traveling and seeing natures wonders because of that, I actually think I deserve to see them the few times I manage to scrape up some money each 4 years or so.
WayuU is offline  

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