Sustainability isn’t a hippie thing, it’s a survival thing, and that’s why sustainable tourism matters. Here’s how sustainable tourism can be experienced on Sindabezi Island…
The world has taken our first, vital steps towards a greener future. They may have been baby steps, but at least they’re in the right direction. The truth of the matter though, is that for many people the idea of ‘sustainable living’ or ‘going green’, still conjures up images of people clutching placards whilst chained to trees. Far too often, sustainable living is viewed as something that just ‘isn’t for me’.
But taking care of our planet is the responsibility of every one of us, and we are looking to a far brighter future if we all do a little (and if we push governments to do a lot), rather than relying on the dedicated few ‘eco-warriors’ to carry the load. As individuals and as communities, we need to change our behaviours.
Schwabentraum outlines the harsh reality that if we don’t, our “ecosystem will collapse, numerous animal species will become extinct, habitats will degrade, and many more people will live in extreme poverty and die from lack of resources and especially hunger”. These are strong words, and painful realities to visualise, but they have been backed up by an ocean of scientific research. Clearly, we need to act, and soon.
Luckily, there are many ways to do so! And some of them even look suspiciously like going on an adventure.
Sustainability beyond your home
Our responsibility starts at home, with small steps like reducing waste, reusing, recycling and turning off our lights when we leave a room. Using a bike instead of a car when you aren’t going far, that’s an easy one. Finding a way to safely dispose of your mobile phone, that can be a little more complicated. But these are all simple changes that collectively make a small but real difference.
The next step is to think a little bigger. To contact your nearest government representative and push for environmentally progressive decisions. To be conscious about what you purchase and from where. In fact, one of the biggest things you can do is to support companies that are actively making a positive difference in the world. This is true when you’re at home, and equally so whilst on holiday.
As and when we feel safe to travel again, we all need to consider what we want to travel to look like from now on. When done right, travel can be a meaningful investment in conservation, sustainable development, education, and the future of our planet. Do you want an easy luxury travel experience, no matter the price, or are you willing to put a little extra time, research and perhaps (although not necessarily) money to ensure that the travel companies you use, the activities you do, and the properties you stay at truly care for their environment, wildlife, and communities?
It starts with booking airlines that offer carbon emission offset programmes (or companies like Sustainable Travel International can do this for you anyway), but it ends with a transformative experience both for you and those you visit.
An eco-island paradise
Introducing Sindabezi Island Camp. Located in the middle of the Zambezi River, just upstream from Victoria Falls, Sindabezi is a small and special place that you would be forgiven for missing if you were to drift by unaware. In fact, this is one of the very things that makes this island so alluring for savvy travellers from around the world.
Sindabezi is unique in many ways. It is owned and managed by Green Safaris, which is an organisation that prides itself on being at the forefront of sustainable tourism, green technology and building practices that minimises the environmental footprint of the entire safari experience. Sindabezi is also the little sister to the award-winning lodge, Tongabezi, which is just a short boat ride away on the riverbank.
Each of the camp’s five open-fronted thatched chalets, each blending into their natural surroundings. On arrival, you immediately experience the rare feeling of having a piece of wilderness all to yourself. The feeling, however, is short-lived, but in the best way possible! Before you’ve even dropped off your bags, you will find yourself absorbed in the happy sounds of some 400 bird species that call Sindabezi home. Even the property’s logo is a kingfisher, after some of the more recognisable residents.
When the late Ben Parker (founder of Tongabezi) first visited the island, he camped out to birdwatch early the next morning. On reporting to his colleagues afterwards, Ben said excitedly that in one day on Sindabezi he had seen more birdlife than in most of his childhood in the UK. This motivated Ben to share this experience with others and, more importantly, to protect and preserve this pristine space for its wild creatures.
Balancing sustainable tourism
This Zambezi hideaway successfully maintains the delicate balance of tourism and environmental sustainability. Nature continues to thrive, alongside a romantic and indulgent travel experience. Not an easy task that’s for sure, but Fodor’s recently named Sindabezi Island one of the top 10 eco-lodges in Africa. At the same time, this tiny isle is famous for attracting honeymooners that want a barefoot luxury experience.
Conservation-conscious travellers will be attracted to the fact that the island operates completely off the grid; those seeking comfort still enjoy piping hot water, gourmet meals, ice-cold drinks and intimate lighting. No Wi-Fi on the island encourages you to switch off and live completely in the moment, taking in nature’s gifts around you.
If you take the short boat-ride to Tongabezi, you will also get to visit the Tongabezi Trust School, known as Tujatane. This school educates children from Simonga Village and has grown from just 15 pupils to over 240 since it first opened. The staff at Tongabezi, Sindabezi and Tujatane are all from the local community and many have been working with Tongabezi for up to the full 31 years. It is their happy and friendly manner that makes a stay there so memorable, and it is evident that their lives changed forever when they found this opportunity on their doorstep.
The ‘where’ and ‘why’ of your next holiday destination
Not for a long time have so many people so desperately needed a getaway as they do now. The pandemic has put travel into hibernation, but perhaps this is an opportunity for us all. So whilst we dream about the ‘when’ of our next adventure, let’s encourage each other to also think about the ‘where’ and the ‘why’. And then we shall see ‘what’ a difference sustainable tourism can make on the world when we all band together.