Botswana takes sustainability seriously. It has to. Home to the world’s largest elephant population (as well as some other 169 species), four national parks and one of the seven natural wonders of the world – the Okavango Delta – it has long been one of Africa’s premier safari destinations. But to be one of the best, you have to be sustainable, as do the people that visit. Fortunately, sustainable tourism in Botswana takes many forms. So, whether it be championing underdog destinations, promoting authentic and sensitively planned indigenous experiences or recommending community-run camps over privatised lodges, you can rest easy knowing that while you’re having an out-of-this-world experience on a Botswanan safari, we’re helping you do your bit to look after it too.
- Undertourism in Botswana
- Philantourism in Botswana
- Community Based Tourism in Botswana
- Indigenous Tourism in Botswana
Overtourism isn’t a new concept. Shortlisted as one of The Oxford Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year’ in 2018, the phenomenon of popular destinations becoming overrun with tourists has long been a concern within the travel industry. Fortunately, we have a solution: undertourism. Championing underdog destinations that seldom make it on to ‘where to go’ lists as well as the lesser-visited spots of those that do, undertourism is all about embracing the road less travelled. And, in fact, just by choosing Botswana as your next travel destination, you’re already promoting the concept. Compared to the 100,000 Brits that visit Kenya each year – and not forgetting the some 430,000 that head to Botswana’s South African neighbour – only 42,000 travel to Botswana. So, if you’re concerned about tourist traps, or jeep queues as you try to snap pictures of giraffes on safari, you need not worry – they’re not a thing here.
In a nutshell, philantourism is the idea of choosing your next holiday destination based on where needs your spending money most. We believe, wholeheartedly, that travel should be a force for good so going to a down-on-its-luck destination reliant on tourism is a no brainer. Fortunately, Botswana is pretty lucky. Along with being one of Africa’s most stable countries with the longest continuous multi-party democracy in the continent, it has one of the world’s most advanced HIV treatment programmes and is also its largest producer of diamonds. Safari-based tourism remains an important source of income, though. Tightly controlled and notably upmarket, Botswana is well aware of its super safari status (you can see the ‘Big Five’ as well as zebras, giraffes and cheetahs here) and has introduced steep tourist taxes to keep the number of safari seekers to a manageable minimum. But don’t be deterred. If it’s the secluded safari experience you’re after, where it feels like just you and the world, Botswana is your best bet. Plus, knowing that your being there is having a positive effect on the community, well, that’s a feeling that just can’t be beaten.
Speaking of communities, the easiest way to spot sustainable tourism in Botswana is through its community-based projects. Kubu Island (known locally as Lekhubu) is a shining example. Prompted by fears of overtourism in the area, the dry island was safeguarded as a national monument in 1997 and bestowed to the Gaing O Community Trust who represent the local Mmatshumo people. What is particularly unique about Botswana’s camps though is that, compared to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, it has a fraction of the number. But what they lack in quantity they more than make up for in quality, especially where community-based tourism is concerned. Khwai Leadwood is a wonderful example of this. This luxurious camp, located in the eastern corner of the Okavango Delta, operates a sustainability-focused foundation that has funded training for female guides and basket weaving projects that aim to empower women and create job opportunities that also promote Botswana’s heritage and culture.
Sustainable tourism in Botswana goes beyond swapping swanky lodges for authentic eco-camps and putting money into the hands of local communities. It’s about immersing yourself in the culture, seeing the world through a different set of eyes and understanding the role its first inhabitants have as guardians of some of the world’s most precious planetary assets. In a country where 3.14% of the 2.3 million population identify as such too, a visit with them is a must on any Botswana safari. On a day with the ancient Zu'hoasi people you can accompany them on walks over the Kalahari Desert, observe ancient traditions (from hunter gathering to weapon and jewellery making) and learn survival tips in one of the world’s harshest environments. Apart from being a fascinating insight into Botswana’s nomadic world, it’s a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their increasing constraints and challenges in an everchanging modern world.
Written by Naomi Pike