One of the more disturbing aspects of the COVID-19 crisis has been its catastrophic effect on wildlife conservation and community development in Africa. The admirable company Wilderness Safaris estimates that a single staff member supports on average seven other people; revenue from upscale tourism sustains schools and clinics; and just the presence of an active safari camp discourages poaching. So what is to be done? The mantra from the safari companies has been “Postpone, don’t cancel,” an exhortation to prospective guests to reschedule their intended trips for 2021. In order to protect conservation and philanthropic efforts, Singita has instituted a no-refund policy for reservations at its peerless properties.
Another approach has been taken by Angama Mara, a highly regarded lodge in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, which participates in the Buy Now, Stay Later program, which allows travelers to purchase bonds in $100 increments that mature after 60 days and can be redeemed for $150. Another initiative has been begun by the charitable foundation Wild Philanthropy, which has launched the African Tourism Crisis Fund to direct resources to African ecosystems and communities most at risk. Personally, I will be doing whatever I can to help the Zambezi Elephant Fund, founded by the legendary Zimbawean walking safari guide John Stevens. I intend to make 2021 the year of the safari. Having been confined at home for months, the allure of Africa’s immense open spaces is more irresistible than ever.