Ecotourism Destinations: Southern Africa

Outdoors & Animals

Elephants drinking from Okavango, Botswana

Of paramount importance to Southern Africa, a perfect example of ecotourism is the region’s protection of its physical assets, including natural geographical beauty, an abundance of wildlife, as well as much exotic vegetation.

SOUTH AFRICA
More than half the population of South Africa lives below the international established poverty line. Tourism here is now starting to help turn this around. Through ecotourism, the local people are able to have a say in how they would like to develop the various parks they live in. Tourism supports the country’s biodiversity and alleviates poverty in South Africa through the creation of local jobs. The animals, unconsciously, do their bit as well. According to the World Bank, each lion in Africa accounts for US$27,000 in revenue received from visitors!

Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park amazingly employs around 60,000 people. Because each park employee in turn uses goods and services from the surrounding region, the park as a whole supports somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people. Benefits gained are better roads, hospitals, and schools, by the people living where ecotourism is utilized. In other words, your tourist dollar is helping towards these endeavours.

Kruger National Park is South Africa’s number one wildlife reserve and encompasses fourteen different ecosystems. It is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and boasts “the Big Five” – lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino, plus of course, a myriad of other wildlife species and birds. You can choose to stay at a private game lodge of which there are many located within the park itself, or stay at one of the hotels just outside the park’s perimeter.

Two wild chacma baboons grooming in Kruger Park, South Africa
Two wild chacma baboons grooming in Kruger Park

Cape Winelands
Within easy driving distance of Cape Town, the scenic beauty of the Cape Winelands provides an ideal sojourn. Some of the activities you can choose from are hiking, luxury farm accommodation, local produce markets, and restaurants… not to mention exceptional wine tasting opportunities. The most popular areas for wine tasting are Franschhoek, Paarl, and Stellenbosch.

Knysna Heads and Knysna Lake. Western Cape. South Africa
Knysna Heads and Knysna Lake

Garden Route
Another area of diverse natural beauty is the Garden Route, located along the south coast of South Africa. The name comes from the abundance of flora and fauna found here. The landscape consists of evergreen temperate forests, rocky beaches warmed by the Indian Ocean, tall cliffs, and dense forests. From June to December, you are able to spot whales and dolphins along the shore. Dotted along the coast are attractive towns like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, where you can eat fresh oysters and drink locally brewed beer.

St. Lucia Wetlands
The St. Lucia Wetlands, also known as Isimangaliso Wetland Park, is one of South Africa’s most beautiful wetland and coastal sites. It features coral reefs, long, sandy beaches, dunes, lakes with hippos and crocodiles, and swamps with birdlife. It is geographically diverse, with inspiring scenic vistas along its 220 kilometre/130 mile coastline. From the clear waters of the Indian Ocean, with wide, undeveloped sandy beaches added to a mixture of wetlands, grasslands, forests, lakes, and savannah, the park contains exceptional biodiversity qualities. There are a large numbers of nesting turtles on the beaches, along with an abundance of dolphins, and migration of whales and whale sharks offshore.

Hippo Feeding out of Water, St Lucia Wetlands, Isimangaliso, South Africa
Hippo feeding from water, St Lucia Wetlands

NAMIBIA
Nature conservation is a major part of every day life in Namibia. Over 40% of Namibia’s surface area is dedicated to conservation management. This includes national parks and reserves, communal and commercial conservations, community forests, and private nature reserves.

Etosha National Park
Of the ten national parks in Namibia, Etosha National Park is perhaps the most famous. Etosha is a wildlife sanctuary, world renowned for its excellent game viewing and its accessibility to the public. It hosts herds of springbok, gemsbok, zebra, and blue wildebeest, as well as smaller numbers of lions, cheetahs, and leopards.

Etosha Waterhole, Namibia
Etosha waterhole

Cheetahs
Then, there are the cheetahs. Namibia is estimated to hold between 25-30% of the world’s free-ranging cheetah population. So, as part of the collaboration between NGOs working in cheetah conservation, alongside an organization called WildTrack, systems have been developed such as the Footprint Identification Technique software, to be able to monitor this species using footprints alone. In this way, the number of cheetahs in Namibia is better recorded.

Accommodation Conservation
A good example of conservation is a company in Namibia which operates five eco-lodges. One of them is just a few kilometres from Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Guests at these lodges stay in rooms entirely lit and air conditioned by solar power. The company ploughs back part of its turnover into animal and plant species protection, such as the Save the Rhino Trust.

Desert Landscape and Grass, Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia, Southern Africa
Desert landscape and grass and Sossusvlei dunes

BOTSWANA
As a whole, Botswana has strong conservation policies. The government is keen to promote ecotourism but not at the expense of the natural wildlife. Great emphasis is placed on educating its citizens about the importance of  wildlife and coexisting with it to prevent conflict. Despite being dominated by the Kalahari Desert, Botswana is home to a wide variety of nature and wildlife, making it one of Africa’s top safari destinations. Many of the animals typically associated with the African continent, call Botswana home

Traditional San Bushmen Hut in Kalahari, Botswana
Traditional San hut in Kalahari

Chobe National Park and Okavango Delta
Botswana has a wide diversity of wildlife habitat including blue wildebeest, antelopes, rhinoceros, and 350 species of birds. There are more elephants in Botswana than any other country, the big cats roam free, and there is everything from endangered African wild dogs to aquatic antelopes. Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve (in the Okavango Delta) are the best known major animal viewing destinations.

Botswana is also home to most of the world’s San (Bushman) population. Known to have been inhabited for at least 100,000 years, the isolated hills here are decorated with thousands of rock paintings.

An interesting fact is that around 95% of the Chobe Game Lodge’s waste is sorted and recycled appropriately. Waste that cannot be recycled is burnt and the ash residue is used as fertilizer for the new tree plantings within the Lodge gardens, to increase the Chobe bushbuck habitat and create even more birdlife habitat.

Chobe Game Sightings Elephants and Jeep, Botswana
Elephant sightings at Chobe

ZAMBIA
With 19 national parks and 34 game management areas, 30% of Zambia has been devoted to conservation. Each park is unique and offers excellent African wildlife viewing. Perhaps the most famous park in Zambia is Mosi-oa-Tunya, also known as Victoria Falls. Zambia shares this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site with Zimbabwe.

Conservation Education
An example of conservation awareness is the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, a charitable organization that focuses on conservation education for local school children in the area of South Luangwa. The programme is comprehensive, innovative, and above all, fun! The education centre is located on the banks of the Luangwa River opposite South Luangwa National Park, a wonderful, unspoiled setting for local children to learn about the value of their natural environment, as well as conservation issues.

Elephant Herd Crossing Luangwa River, Zambia
Elephant herd crossing Luangwa River

ZIMBABWE
Zimbabwe is one of the countries which has helped drive ecotourism to become the fastest growing sector on the continent of Africa. It has recognized that ecotourism is a growing industry, adding to the local economy and creating work. It is estimated that the tourism industry now employs around 200,000 people. Projects have also been undertaken to build lodges on communal lands for ecotourism, in order for Zimbabwe to become thoroughly viable. This brings in much needed revenue from those who partake in wildlife watching around national parks and helps to preserve the natural environment.

At the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, the establishment has an on-site watering hole which attracts a variety of game such as elephants, buffalo, impala, and kudu – all visible from your bedroom window!

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Exterior, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Our Ecotourism Series:
Ecotourism – An Important Trend in Travel
Ecotourism Destinations: East Africa
Ecotourism Destinations: Southern Africa
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 1)
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 2)
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 3)
Ecotourism Destinations: Asia (Part 1)
Ecotourism Destinations: Asia (Part 2)
Ecotourism Destinations: Australia
Ecotourism Destinations: New Zealand
Ecotourism Destinations: Europe