Responsible tourism: Burkina Faso & Niger tour, Sahel Explorer
This tour visits the Koure Western Giraffe Reserve, a sanctuary for the critically endangered West African giraffe. From a low of just 50 animals in Niger thirty years ago, there are now almost 200 of them - the reserve has played a crucial role in the survival of the species. It receives very few visitors and little funding - our visit here not only helps to channel funds to the reserve, and employment for local rangers, but it strengthens the notion that the wildlife here is worth protecting, in a time when Niger receives very few western travellers.
The trip also travels visits some very remote regions, which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining its pristine nature. The nature of this trip means that most nights are spent camping. We strive to ensure that we leave these areas as we find them and our team have been trained in strict no litter policies, meaning that we take all refuse to either be recycled or properly disposed of back in the nearest town.
Where there are tracks, we stick to them not always possible as there are few tracks in this area.
Our travellers are specifically briefed on not to buy souvenirs made from endangered species people in remote parts of the Sahel do not always have the same respect towards wildlife as most travellers will have, and can sometimes offer such things for sale.
As with many of the trips that we offer, this tour has a strong focus on local culture and different ethnic groups. Where possible we try to ensure that local people benefit from our presence.
We spend time with a number of different ethnic groups on this trip, from the Fulani to the Azna and Mawri, which are very traditional and live well outside the mainstream of Nigerien society. Tourism rarely reaches these parts and we recognise that we have a special responsibility to ensure that the encounters that we have are carried out in a responsible manner. We consult extensively with local tribal elders to ensure that our presence here is very much welcomed we feel that it is very important to be seen as guests here rather than outsiders come to merely look. We are able to spend time with the communities learning about their traditions and customs.
We are careful not to disrupt the traditional way of life of the people that we meet. As a way to say thank you for allowing us to visit, we bring traditional gifts, such as sugar, tea and so on we do not bring modern accoutrements that may change their way of life as we feel that it is important for all tribal groups that any move towards a more modern lifestyle is made on their own terms and not imposed upon them. We give gifts to the elders of the villages who will then ensure that they are distributed appropriately, rather than just giving them to individuals, which can cause problems, jealousy and fights within small communities.
Where small local shops exist within the villages, we encourage our travellers to but something, be it a cold (or not so cold, given the lack of electricity!) drink or a snack, so that we have some economic benefit, however small. We employ local guides from the villages to show us around not only does this give our travellers a greater insight into traditions but again it helps to put money into the local economy. Where possible we also encourage our travellers to spend their money with local businesses; for this reason we do not include meals where it is feasible to eat outside of the hotels, in order that local restaurants are able to benefit from the presence of tourism, rather than the income being channelled just to the hotel.
These are very traditional areas with certain codes of behaviour, and the people here are not that accustomed to outsiders. We ensure that our travellers are appropriately briefed in order so as not to offend local sensibilities. This includes photography while we recognise that many people are incredibly photogenic it is important for us to respect their wishes should they not want to have their photo taken, and our travellers are carefully briefed upon this.