Liberia tours

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2018: 28 Nov
2019: 27 Nov
2020: 25 Nov
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Liberia tours

Environment

This tour travels through some very remote regions, some of which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining their pristine nature. 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 in nearby towns.

Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – again in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off.

Our travellers are specifically briefed on not to buy souvenirs made from endangered species – people in remote parts of West Africa do not always have the same respect towards wildlife as most travellers will have, and can sometimes offer such things for sale. This also extends to bushmeat – it is quite common to find antelope, porcupine or even monkey served in restaurants, and we specifically advise our travellers against contributing to the depletion of local populations.

The chimpanzees on the chimpanzee islands that we visit were originally experimented on by the New York Blood Centre from 1974 and many of these chimps were bought from Liberians who were keeping the chimps as pets, for as little as $85.00. In 2005, the experiments stopped and sixty-six chimps were abandoned on these islands in Liberia.

In 2015, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took over care of the chimps and since then, their health has dramatically improved and birth rate is under control. The volunteers from HSUS canoe to the islands daily, to deliver food and to care for the apes- an increase from the every-other-day schedule the chimps used to face when they were dumped after being used for experiments. As part of an effort to keep the animals alive and well in all weather, there is a reservoir on each of the six islands in the area. The chimps have learned to fetch clean water when the dry season comes and the river becomes salty and dried out due to infiltration from the Atlantic. Every chimp can operate the reservoir system and they know where to press for fresh water to shoot out.

HSUS have a continued online fundraising effort to provide for the chimps and they need monthly public donations worth $25,000/£16,000 to feed and care for them. Jenny Desmond, an animal welfare and ape specialist and her husband Jim, who is a wildlife veterinarian, moved to Liberia in 2015 in hope of helping the chimps and had two main goals - improving the diet of the chimps and getting their birth rate under control.

We visit chimpanzee island to support the work of HSUS and everything they have done to ensure these chimps live out the rest of their lives as freely and as comfortably as possible. The chimps cannot be returned to the wild, as they have been exposed to various diseases and are completely reliant on people due to being captured when they were infants. We make donations to ensure the care of these chimps continues and it is heartwarming to see that these intelligent creatures, that have endured so much trauma, are now being cared for and are looking healthier and happier.

Community

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 some traditional ethnic groups on this trip, groups who rarely see tourists. 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 buy something, be it a cold 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.

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.

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