To me, each country we visit is an opportunity to support ethical tourism. And you don’t need to stay at the elephant sanctuary (although this is fun) or visit patients in an AIDS ward (although this is eye-opening) to do so.
Instead ethical tourism and travel is really about incorporating a humanitarian perspective in all of your overseas adventures. That’s it – be human! Easy, right?! Sure, but I’ll provide you with a few helpful hints anyway:
Know where you are: Doing a little research before you go will not only help you more fully appreciate your experiences, but also help you not to offend your hosts. For instance, if you’re traveling in a predominantly Muslim country like Tanzania and its Ramadan, be considerate and not to eat openly when the rest of the population is fasting.
Also, dressing modestly goes a long way toward respecting cultures that are more conservative. I always carry a light scarf in my bag to cover my shoulders or head when appropriate. (That scarf has also saved me from some serious sunburns too!)
Know the people: Take the time to learn a handful of words – Hello, Thank you and Beautiful are my favorites. It doesn’t matter if you pronounce them correctly, it only matters that you try. Locals will appreciate (and laugh) at your efforts to communicate with them in their own language.
Also try and introduce yourself to those in your vicinity. When we visited the famous Mzoli’s in Gugulethu during my recent Acacia Africa 19-day Desert Tracker safari, Mr. Mzoli himself was standing outside when we arrived. I went over, introduced myself, and thanked him for hosting us – and got a big smile in return!
Know their lives: Instead of just standing by and watching as a spectator, participate in the local activities around you.
If you’re at a market, buy a few pieces of fruit or a small basket. If you’re visiting a church or mosque, have a seat, sit quietly and share a silent moment of communal worship with those around you.
Having a conversation is also a way to participate in your surroundings. For instance, when our Acacia tour ventured off into the Okavango Delta for an overnight safari, I went over to our mokoro polers while they were fixing their dinner and asked questions about what they were making. (Porridge as it turns out. We all ate it – with beans!)
Engage & Enjoy!
There’s no better way to really get to understand and enjoy a new country than by opening yourself up and immersing yourself in the local culture. Your knowledge of a new land will deepen and your memories will be richer. And that’s what adventure travel is all about!
These activities were part of my Acacia Africa 19-day Desert Tracker safari from Cape Town, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia. It was an unforgettable experience and I highly recommend you check them out if you’re planning an Africa adventure!
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 10th, 2011 and is filed under On the Road.