By Sarah Davies
Eco-tourism – we hear it all the time but what does it really mean? We read about “green” safari camps who “contribute” to their local communities and “empower” staff but how can we really be sure that such lofty declarations aren’t just another clever marketing tool?
Recently I visited Jeffery & McKeith Safaris at Musekese Camp in Kafue National Park, Zambia. A short drive from Lusaka, Musekese is located on a spectacular bend of the Kafue River, surrounded by glorious miombo woodland, open plains and dambos teeming with game. Arriving at camp to an epic African sunset through the long grass, we sat around the campfire, to the magical background of hippo laughter, leopard coughs and hyena calls. The next morning we arose to an African wild dog kill just a few metres behind camp and were so privileged to be able to view Africa’s most endangered predator on foot.
However, breathtaking game viewing experiences aside, what really impressed me was Musekese Camp’s environmental practices. Owned and managed by two conservation graduates from the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute Phil Jeffery and Tyrone McKeith are passionate about ensuring that Musekese Camp’s footprint is as beneficial to the area as possible.
Most striking was the complete lack of a power generator – electricity needed for office equipment, internet and refrigeration is provided by solar panels purchased in Zambia. The safari tents are lit very effectively by solar lights. Water is drawn from the Kafue river and filtered for drinking purposes with plans in place to cease all use of plastic water bottles and use metal water containers for walking safaris and rooms. My morning shower was perfectly heated using firewood collected from dead trees only, with the bucket shower providing better pressure than my shower at home!
Admittedly there is still some use of fuel for game drive vehicles and boats but in their third season only, Jeffery & McKeith are gradually re-investing profit into solar equipment. These two passionate conservationists have built an impressively beautiful setup using locally sourced building materials including thatching grass, grass walls and reed mats from women in nearby villages. All of the timber, furniture and other decorative items are procured within Zambia. Vegetables are sourced from local villages where possible. Ten local staff members, most of whom have been working with Phil and Tyrone since the inception of Musekese, were initially employed to help construct the road to camp and have now been trained in various safari skills. Jeffery & McKeith are the real “green” deal and don’t even shout about it.
As well as supporting Zambia Wildlife Authority, Jeffery & McKeith also support GRI’s Kafue Conservation Project. The same size as Wales, Kafue National Park is the largest National Park in Zambia as well as being relatively unknown and underrated. It is one of the last real wilderness areas left in Africa, home to vital global carnivore population including wild dog, lion, leopard and cheetah as well as one of Southern Africa’s most important elephant populations. If you want to support conservation and eco-tourism I would strongly recommend a visit to Musekese Camp.