Sustainable and environmentally-friendly tourist destinations in Southern Africa
International tourism market trends generally reflect a tendency for sustainable and environmentally-friendly destinations. In response to this 21st century trend, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has established one of the most progressive tourism initiatives, themed “Transfrontier Conservation Areas” (TFCAs). By Kwakye Donkor.
A TFCA is an area straddling two or more international borders where natural and cultural resources are collaboratively managed by the governments involved. These are being used to secure the ecosystems and biodiversity that underpin sustainable tourism development in Southern Africa.
TFCAs present awesome opportunities for the region to protect and preserve its biodiversity while delivering tourism growth opportunities to local communities. Eighteen TFCAs have so far been established and seven are in operation. The seven are; Ai-Ais Richterveld, Kgalagadi, Greater Mapungubwe, Great Limpopo, Lubombo, Maloti-Drankenberg, and Kavango-Zambezi. These TFCAs span across Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They can be packaged and marketed by tour operators worldwide to long-haul visitors preferring multi-destination, community-based, and environmentally friendly packages. Each TFCA is unique and has an investment development program that aims to unlock the respective investment potential for socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation.
TFCAs are home to a set of impressive natural attractions, diverse cultures, and sustainable tourism experiences in Southern Africa such as Victoria Falls, Fish River Canyon, Okavango Delta, and the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountain range. Every tourist will be enchanted, not only by the welcoming people, but also the region’s unmistakable pulse. These give tourists a reason to come and experience Southern Africa, an impressive natural destination where wildlife migrates freely within their home range, and local communities sustain their natural linkages and skills.
For tourists planning a trip to the region, Southern Africa’s multi-country travel tip for the month of May starts from Botswana. Botswana was named the winner of the 2014 AFAR Experiential Travel Award for Best Safari Destination. In the Selinda and Linyanti regions of northern Botswana, huge populations of giraffes, elephants, and antelope flock to the water of the Linyanti River and Selinda Spillway. Naturally, lions, hyenas, and other predators follow. The country evokes the thrill and romance of a vintage safari and offers guests the best overall authentic safari experience.
The stunning landscapes, pristine wilderness, fantastic game viewing, and birding year round are sure to please the adventuring spirit in travellers.
Camps here are modern, and tour operators are committed to sustainable conservation strategies. Botswana’s responsible tourism efforts, wildlife, and cultural heritage, make it a true leader in ecotourism. A whopping 38 percent of the land is protected for wildlife and nature conservation. Botswana government’s conservation and wildlife management policies, along with the Botswana Tourism Organization’s ecotourism strategies, ensure that Botswana’s tourism is sustainable for its inhabitants and future generations of tourists, while contributing meaningfully to the national economy.
Places that one would not want to miss while travelling in Botswana include the incomparable Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta known as the “Jewel of the Kalahari.” Gliding in a mokoro through the watery channels, visitors will see a staggering array of wildlife and birds, and experience the beauty and tranquillity of this truly iconic place. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve with its magnificent black-maned lions and seemingly endless savannahs is a blooming desert in the Botswana summer season. And Chobe National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. A sundowner cruise on the Chobe riverfront gives guests an up-close and personal view of elephants at play among hippos, crocs, and beautiful birds.
The magnificent sunsets and amazing stargazing of Botswana is a daily ritual that travellers look forward to, and guests may experience the outstanding small and often luxurious camps and lodges. There is never a dull moment on safari, with game drives, guided bush walks, elephant interaction, horseback riding, boating, authentic cultural interaction, and so much more. And the genuinely warm, welcoming, and respectful people of Botswana make visitors feel like treasured family − not tourists. For more information, go to: www.botswanatourism.co.bw
From Botswana, one can readily travel to any or all of the neighbouring countries of Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Angola. Beaches are a favourite place to visit with bars all filled at night and local music and dancing providing an animated and exotic atmosphere that mixes well with the mystery of the African nights. The country also offers incredibly beautiful landscapes such as the Serra da Leba Pass, the Tundavala Fissure in Huila province, and the moon-like surface near the city of Luanda.
Namibia boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib Desert, the Fish River Canyon Park, Etosha National Park, and the Kalahari Desert. Its people speak 9 different languages, including some of the Khoisan languages which include the “clicks” that present an enigma to most native English-speakers.
South Africa. Of great popularity these days with the recent passing of South Africa’s great Nelson Mandela are what is known as Madiba tours (Madiba is the fond nickname for Mandela). Tours generally include visits to locations in South Africa where numerous statues have been erected in his honour, and may include among others such places as the Mandela House Museum, Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre, the Mandela Rhodes Building, Nelson Mandela Square, Nelson Mandela capture site, and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Nelson Mandela Bridge, and the Apartheid Museum.
Zambia is known as the land of the legendary African walking safari, with Victoria Falls, the wild Zambezi River, abundant wildlife, and raw wilderness, all ready to be experienced in one friendly country. Recognized as one of the safest countries in the world to visit, Zambia’s welcoming people live in peace and harmony. And here, travellers will find some of the finest safari experiences on the planet, along with adrenaline-thrills or a leisurely playground in its spectacular waterways.
Zimbabwe is a land rich in diversity ranging from low-lying semi-desert to lush highlands strewn with forests and lakes. A trip to this magical country should include visiting the Grand Medieval Palace known as Great Zimbabwe, the mythical Kariba and mighty Zambezi bodies of water, and, of course, the majestic Victoria Falls which borders both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Just like the movie, ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’, one can travel between these countries by these various modes of transportation with border posts at the ready from country to country for car travel. Or one may also decide to sit back, relax, and enjoy allowing someone else to take care of their travel itinerary by booking a tour through a SATSA or Atta member.
There is no visa required for US and Canadian citizens to visit Botswana, and English is spoken here. Getting to Botswana is easy with access to daily flights from the USA to Botswana via a Johannesburg connection. The great news is Botswana is a year-round tourism destination – there simply isn’t one “best time” to visit, so making travel plans will fit in with anyone’s schedule. And with a climate that typically feels like summer all year long, Southern Africa is a favourite destination for tourists from Europe, Asia, and Australia. Travelling in Southern Africa is an unforgettable experience. This is a region of extremes, a world in 15 countries, passionately represented and marketed by the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA).
RETOSA is the regional institution responsible for tourism development and growth. The organization aims to increase tourism arrivals to the region through sustainable development initiatives, improved regional competitiveness, and effective destination marketing with strategic partners. For more information about RETOSA, go to www.retosa.co.za
About the Author
Kwakye Donkor is the Marketing and Communications Director at the Regional Tourism Organisation Of Southern Africa (RETOSA).