From far-flung expeditions to deep fireside chats, travel has the power to change us. When done well, it can also positively change the places we visit—a fact I learned during a recent safari in southern Tanzania.
As a wildlife enthusiast, I often plan my trips around local fauna. Sure, I follow responsible wildlife tourism guidelines, but cruising around in a safari Jeep doesn’t necessarily help the animals, or ecosystems, I’ve come to admire. Getting my hands dirty installing camera traps to assist researchers studying wildlife in an uncharted and once highly hunted stretch of southern Tanzania? That’s a bit more like it.
And this, it turns out, is part of a growing trend of the 2020s: regenerative travel. The idea is to go beyond sustainability, which focuses on minimizing negative impact, and instead have a net positive impact on the place you’re visiting.
During my trip to southern Tanzania’s new Usangu Expedition Camp by safari company Asilia, this meant installing and monitoring camera traps and snapping then uploading animal photos to citizen-science database iNaturalist to help researchers benchmark and monitor local wildlife populations; guests can also assist with collaring programs to track the movements of big cats. These experiences felt even more enriching than a traditional Jeep safari, and they contributed to Usangu’s goal: helping conservationists from partner organizations, such as the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, better protect this under-studied ecosystem.
Usangu is one of a growing number of experiences allowing globe-trotters to leave a positive footprint. Given community and environmental strains from the last decade of uncapped (and largely uncontrolled) tourism growth, plus a jet-setting resurgence after the pandemic, this shift couldn’t come at a better time.
“Tourism took a bad [hit] during Covid from a reputation point of view; regenerative travel is a way to rebuild the brand of tourism,” says African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation research director Sue Snyman, noting this is particularly important for engaging local residents. Years of negative tourism impacts have left some communities wondering why they’d want tourism to begin with. “If communities see travelers having a genuine positive impact, they’ll understand [what tourism can do].”
Read the full article at Outside