Responsible tourism Awards logo
Responsible tourism Awards

Best for Wildlife Conservation

Best Wildlife Responsible Tourism
2015 Sponsor:

Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Development Council

Florida Keys and Key West

The Florida Keys and Key West is a 150 mile long string of tropical Islands located at the southernmost point of Florida’s mainland. In the Florida Keys you are a world away from the theme parks of central Florida! Visitors are encouraged to experience the island chain's priceless natural resources, and the therapy they provide the mind, body and soul.

Read more about this sponsor

Best for Wildlife Conservation

The Best for wildlife conservation - category is awarded to a tourism business or initiative that preserves and carefully manages habitat and wildlife species.

Explained: One of two categories this year focusing on animals in tourism, the focus of Best for wildlife conservation is on holiday providers, whether operators or conservation organisations committed to the conservation of habitats and animals in the wild and using tourism to achieve conservation objectives . This might include wildlife watching experiences, nature trails, places to stay or other holidays which otherwise benefit wildlife and habitats.

Previous wildlife and habitat winners include Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile; Zealandia, New Zealand; and Great Plains Conservation, South Africa.

What the Judges want: Integration of great holiday experiences with progressive and sustainable programmes in wildlife and habitat conservation, measures of success and ideas which can be adapted and developed by tourism providers around the world.


Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours was our gold winner last year. There were two silver winners in this category: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd in India and On Track Safaris in South Africa, Zambia and Uganda.

Gold award: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Echidna Walkabout puts wildlife conservation at the heart of all their wildlife tours. Which sounds like the norm but when income raised from tours is ploughed back into serious conservation research, this takes tourism onto another level. Such is the work of Echidna, which was founded by Janine Duffy and Roger Smith in 1993 in Melbourne, Australia.

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours is a social enterprise and for-profit company which offers tours around the wildlife-rich regions of south-eastern Australia and also in the Northern Territory. As well as offering tours, their area of research expertise is wild koalas, one of the animals they introduce to their guests on tours into the Australian bush. Educating guests about the koala's history and lifestyle is almost as vital to their conservation efforts as their eminent research has been, because they guide a lot of people who aren't wildlife experts at all, and whose attitudes they can change about saving wildlife generally.

The research began in 1998 when Janine discovered that koalas have distinctive nose markings, meaning that research could be done using photography only. This is in contrast to traditional research methods which capture, tag and radio-collar koalas - a procedure that is expensive, dangerous and highly stressful to both animal and researcher. Echidna Walkabout now has 19,000 photographs to contribute to their research, and a scientific paper outlining their method is being prepared for publication. Echidna invests a huge amount of time and profit in koala research annually, as well as to other conservation efforts such as improving and preserving habitats.

For more information see the Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours website.

Silver award: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd

Chambal Safari Hotels

Chambal Safari Hotels in Uttar Pradesh, is located on 36 acres of woodland and heritage farmland that has been owned by the same family since 1472. Now in the hands of birding enthusiast and conservationist Ram Pratap Singh, it has been transformed from its previous life as hosts of a bi-annual cattle fair and festival, to an eco lodge. Now part of the National Chambal Sanctuary, the lodge has not only put this wildlife retreat on the tourism map, but also been instrumental in saving and protecting their important habitats over the last fifteen years ago. At that time, the Sanctuary was under tremendous pressure to be exploited for sand mining purposes. Chambal Safari Hotels led a sustained campaign to stop this, educating villagers about not only the risks to wildlife and habitats, but also to local water levels if mining was to take place. The focus of Chambal has always, therefore, been to reassure the community that their inextricable link to their landscapes and resident wildlife is fundamental to their wellbeing and livelihoods.

Like all progressive wildlife organisations, Chambal has helped local people realize that they can also make a living from nature, from inviting and hosting tourists to enjoy the precious natural resources they have on their doorstep. And not take what must have felt like the easy way out, taking money from mining, or indeed poaching. Instead they now host visitors to celebrate the amazing abundance of wildlife here including gharials, marsh crocodiles, Gangetic River Dolphins, turtles, smooth-coated otters and over 300 species of birds. The ravines on either side of the river are home to striped hyenas, jungle cats and jackals. However, because this isn't a tiger sanctuary, the animal that all tourists want to get their eye on, it is under constant threat of being thrown back into the hands of industrialists. Something Chambal works tirelessly to lobby against while all the time protecting and conserving the wildlife that they treasure so dearly.

For more information see the Chambal Safari Hotels website.

Silver award: On Track Safaris

On Track Safaris

On Track Safaris lead small safaris to South Africa, Zambia and Uganda, although the work that really stands out for us is on leopards. This company has always had a mission to put conservation at the core of all its safaris. As well as offering all the usual elements of a safari, they invite and attract guests who want to play a role in the conservation of wildlife, not just capture them on camera for posterity. Consequently, they support non-profit conservation organisations, such as the INGWE Leopard Research program, which they created themselves to gather data on leopard behaviour and numbers. This was in response to the fact that although leopards are in significant decline, there was little data available to monitor this. In addition, leopards are still being trophy hunted, or shot because of conflict with livestock owners. On Track works on intense education programs with all of these parties, a task that requires much patience and understanding of the varying social and economic issues, in order to highlight the importance - ecological, ethical and economic - of keeping their leopard populations healthy.

And in terms of the safari themselves, they definitely are on track when it comes to offering a top experience for visitors too. As well as seeing a wide array of wildlife, guests are given the opportunity to be involved with their team of conservationists, helping to set trail cameras to monitor nightly happenings, or just simply take time to sit viewing an elephant, or a herd, in order to understand its behaviour. Taking notes, photographs as well as having that all important once in a lifetime experience. Except, guests love it so much, they keep coming back for more.

For more information see the On Track Safaris website.

Previous winners

2012 - Best for conservation of wildlife and habitats

A group or initiative working for the conservation of wildlife and/or their local habitat, such as a national park or wildlife sanctuary.

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile
Since 2000 the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve has conserved over 100,000 hectares of Patagonian temperate rainforest. The owners have changed the way in which they, and the local community, secure a living form this large piece of Patagonian forest, moving from logging to conservation and sustainable tourism. The judges were impressed by the scale of the transformation at Huilo Huilo.

Awards winner

Read more about our 2012 winners in the official Awards newspaper.

Previous winners

Winner: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi
"Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is a wildlife rescue, conservation and education centre in the heart of Malawi's capital city. Fending off developers, the centre has reclaimed and revived 90 hectares of urban wilderness to provide sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals, and promotes conservation to locals and tourists alike. It now takes over 20,000 visitors per year, showing its value as a centre for both the people and wildlife of Malawi."

Highly commended:
Africat Okonjima, Namibia
Great Ocean Ecolodge, Australia

Winner: ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, New Zealand
With a 500 year vision, Zealandia immediately stood out as an ambitious conservation initiative which engages with tourism to secure local support. But when you're trying to return an area to a time before humans - over 80 million years ago - it is this vision that is required! This unique conservation project is already a safe haven for some of New Zealand's most endangered native species. The ecological restoration of this urban wildlife sanctuary is well underway and through the removal of invasive species has enabled the successful reintroduction of species.

Highly commended:
Steppes Discovery, UK

Winner: Great Plains Conservation, South Africa
For incorporating a range of innovative projects across five African countries. Their work in the Maasai Mara is particularly impressive, facilitating the creation of an 80,000 acre conservancy, and guaranteeing regular payment to the local communities for the use of their land for tourism purposes – regardless of the number of guests. On an unequivocal basis, they provide protected revenue for the indigenous peoples of the Mara, reducing the negative social and economic impacts of tourism.

Highly commended:
Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT), Uganda
Way Out Experiences, Malaysia, Indonesia & Borneo

Winner: Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps, Kenya
For demonstrating that a high revenue, low impact tourism development approach can benefit the local Maasai, enabling them through developing conservancies and tourism in partnership with safari companies to create employment and community income and to conserve their land for wildlife.

Highly commended:
Turtle Conservation Project, Sri Lanka
Peak District Environmental Quality Mark, UK
Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil
Read about our winners