Volun-tourism – Africa’s new tourism trend is taking the world by storm
What is it that makes Africa so special? There is no question that visitors are captivated by the continent’s wildlife, magnificent landscape and the promise of wild adventure. It is no small wonder that holidaymakers are choosing African destinations again and again. These aren’t the only reason that Africa continues to hit the travel bucket list time and again.
‘There are so very many reasons why people are continually visiting our magnificent continent. A number of people are still coming to enjoy our wildlife, however what we are seeing as a growing trend is that visitors are looking for a more immersive experience. Instead of going out on a traditional game drive, they are wanting to walk trails with a guide, dive in a cage with sharks, leap off of a ledge on a bungee cord into a waterfall, or take a helicopter flip across the savannah,’ says Paddy Brearley, managing director of Legacy Hotels and Resort Group.
Africa’s landscapes and wildlife have indeed been its attraction to many visitors, not to mention the great diversity in climate as well as plant and animal life. Taking the southern African region into account alone, the landscape includes desert, savannah and tropical, giving visitors a wide range of wildlife and flora to see. However in and around all of this are her people and their myriad cultures too.
‘Many of our guests are also looking to experience the local culture in order to develop a deeper understanding of the people who live here. There’s a strong interest in discovering the real Africa. With this in mind, we’re seeing a strong upsurge in what has come to be known as ‘volun-tourism’. This kind of holiday gives travellers a chance to get involved with the communities they are visiting by volunteering in camps to work with wildlife or the community,’ Brearley adds.
The concept behind ‘volun-tourism’ is to allow visitors to contribute to the country they are visiting in some way. From shark conservation to propagating yoga amongst the Maasai, there are numerous options for people to choose from. Depending on an individual’s skill set, they may find themselves teaching English in a Lesotho village or supporting communities that care for gorillas in Uganda.
‘There are also a number of visitors who come for the adventure: the scuba diving and diving with sharks, the night life, biking or sandboarding on desert dunes. There is a definite resurgence in interest in Africa as an adventure destination. The extremes we see here are unlike anywhere else on earth and globally tourists want to be part of this experience,’ Brearley says.
As far as trending destinations go, Namibia with its dunes, history and ocean, continues to inch its way to the top of the list of African countries to visit and was within list of 50 countries to visit released by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Then there is always South Africa, that for 2018 has made the Lonely Planet’s Top Ten countries to visit this year.
‘There is so much to do and see in Namibia. The landscape is extraordinary, not to mention the wildlife you get to see while there. The Skeleton Coast is something to behold with its ship wrecks, and there is no way you can visit Namibia and not take a trip to the dunes.
‘Then there is always beautiful South Africa, with her beaches and mountains, wildlife and wine, vibrant culture and cosmopolitan cities. This year also marks the ‘Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy’. Aimed at honouring the legendary leader, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has put together a programme designed to inspire values-based societies, that will be supported by exhibitions related to transparency, service, respect, passion and integrity across the country, so if there is ever a time to visit South Africa, the time is now,’ he says.
Not to be missed, and worth a slot on everyone’s bucket list is the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. This impressive waterfall has lured tourists with its beauty and splendour, which is only second to the Niagara Falls in North America.
Another key driver for African tourism is the affordability of a luxury break in the bush or beside the ocean, which is still popular for those seeking simply to escape the rush of city life.
‘Regardless of how guests may choose to spend their leisure time, however, it’s important that whatever experience they choose is one that is fulfilling for them. We know that Africa’s allure is difficult to resist and she will be enticing visitors to her shores more and more in the future,’ ends Brearley.