You can help reduce your personal impact and lower your carbon footprint by choosing accommodations that make at least some attempt to be eco-friendly. The large concrete game lodges and beach resorts were built many decades ago without much thought about their impact to the environment. But these days, new camps are being built in a way that they can be completely removed and won't leave a lasting trace on the land. A number of camps have attained some eco-rating, and there is a big trend (particularly by the smaller places) to implement environmentally sensitive measures. Seek out places that have aimed to avoid the use of felled timber -- many responsible designers use only wood from trees that have been knocked over by elephants, for example, and the keenest architects are careful to use local materials as much as possible and create accommodations that blend organically with the landscape in which they're located.
Many camps make use of solar power (for electricity and hot water), and some restrict their use of generators, helping reduce their use of fuel. Game-drive vehicles are a necessary evil in the wilderness, but you can at least try to encourage your guides and drivers to be responsible and considerate toward the environment; discourage off-road driving wherever possible.
Choose lodges and camps that employ local people (not just in menial positions, but in posts that matter, such as guiding and management), and look for evidence of involvement in community projects (you'll usually get a sense of how involved a property is from its website). Often there's evidence of sustainable, responsible tourism practices in small details, such as how a curio shop is stocked. Is it filled with mass-produced goods with widely distributed brands? Or can your host show you the workshop where local communities are actively employed in the craft trade?
You can also make a difference in small ways. Where your room or tent has a bathtub, first find out about the availability of water before going ahead and thoughtlessly squandering a scarce resource. If your lodge or camp still provides drinking water in plastic bottles, make strong suggestions that they change over to using reusable glass bottles or -- better still -- provide filtered water in glass jugs in your room.
Another issue to consider is that many locals are involved in the tourism industry, and some, like the Maasai and Samburu, do so while maintaining their traditional lifestyles, customs, and dress. When encountering these people, do not stop and stare, but interact and share. And it is the local people who act as guides that can best show you their country. On another note, never take a photograph of a person without first asking permission.
For further guidance on operators that practice sustainable safari tourism, contact the Ecotourism Society of Kenya (www.ecotourismkenya.org).
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
- In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably.
- In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for ecotourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and Eco Directory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
- Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodation ratings.
- For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org).
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org.