Why do you travel?
As a photographer the immediate answer may be “To capture insanely awesome images”. But even if that was your answer, if you dig a bit deeper I have no doubt that you’ll find other more important reasons for your travels.
The purpose of travel is connected with building social relationships with like minded guests, opportunities to learn and grow, and exploring the unknown – both within oneself and in the physical world. It gives us the chance to be truly engaged in an activity, to develop new skills and to discover new cultures and wilderness regions. It brings us closer to ourselves and others.
Some of our guests have commented on how a seemingly simple safari experience has “shifted their perspective”, “given new meaning to their life” and of course from a photographic perspective, helped them learn new and exciting skill-sets.
Some experiences are as focussed on providing a moment in which you suddenly realise that you are actually alive as they are about providing photographic opportunities.
Almost without exception, safari experiences offer moments which are often remembered best without taking any images. Moments which make you pause for a moment of personal reflection. Moments in which you are simply present and soak up every last bit of the experience, including the odd pinch to ensure that you’re not dreaming.
For me personally, some of the most rewarding moments on safari are those spent exploring remote and wild areas which give you that feeling that “this may well have been what this place looked like 100 or 200 years ago”. Something which is becoming increasingly rare as human pressure on natural areas and resources increases on a daily basis.
Whilst these are all fantastic reasons to travel and may very well satisfy our needs and desires, there seems to be a shift towards more experiential travel (such as photographic safaris) and travel with a greater sense of purpose which extends beyond that of ones self.
Researchers make a strong case suggesting that “a fulfilling travel experience is not only about satisfactions. It is also about how personally meaningful we found our travel activities”.
Photographic tourism (which, in my mind is an all encompassing term which covers all non-consumptive utilisation activities rather than referring specifically to Photographic Safaris) is seen as a viable tourism model which can replace hunting activity and see vast tracts of land restored to their natural state.
Tourism certainly does play a role in conserving natural habitat and wildlife through the employment and strategic partnerships and initiatives with local communities which often will see conservation fees or donations to Charities and Trusts being used to make a difference on the ground. So, wherever you travel and choose to stay, the chances are that you have made a direct contribution to the sustainability of the region based on your conservation fees.
Is this enough though? I guess only time will tell…
As global awareness around the challenges facing protected areas and conservation areas increases, one thing is for sure. Eco-tourism of any kind can and must do more to raise awareness around the challenges we face around protecting valuable wildlife and natural resources.
I personally believe that human-wildlife conflict, poaching and habitat loss/fragmentation are some of the key driving factors behind the pressure on our natural resources.
I’m making a conscious decision to dig a bit deeper and identify the conservation challenges in each and every camp or region that I visit this year. Who knows what will be uncovered but, if there is an opportunity to raise awareness and perhaps even build a Conservation Orientated Safari to the region (as we have done with our Hwange Conservation Safari) then I am all for it.
Whilst the underlying purpose around each and every Wild Eye Safari is to change the way that people see the world, I’ll be travelling with one more purpose this year.
What is your purpose?
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