Kenya possesses a rich heritage of spectacular natural beauty that has endeared it to both tourists and scientists around the world. This beauty has earned Kenya six world heritage inscriptions. Today Kenya ranks 8th in Africa after Ethiopia (9), South Africa (8), Tunisia (8), Algeria (7), Egypt (7), Senegal (7) and Tanzania (7).
The heritage sites are Lake Turkana National Park, Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest, Lamu Old Town, Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, Fort Jesus in Mombasa and the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley. The world currently has an estimated 1,031 world heritage sites.
Maintaining these iconic sites has not been an easy task. Keeping them intact and relevant will equally not be a smooth ride. Too many things, including population pressure and irresponsible travel practices, seem to work against them every waking day. As a key stakeholder in tourism, you might not be able to directly influence population growth but you can support responsible travel in these 15 ways.
1. Travel with Reputable Operators and Qualified Safari Guides
Insist that your tour operator and accommodation facilities use only trained and certified safari guides. They are well-versed in the fragile ecosystems to be careful while visiting and they would know what needs to be done whenever around such environments.
2. Support Eco-friendly Accommodation Facilities
Try to stay at lodges and safari camps that look after their environment and support local conservation projects. Doing this goes a long way in cultivating a social culture among businesses to care for the environment that feeds them. You could ask them for their eco-rating before booking with them, for instance.
3. Respect Local Cultures and Promote Community Benefits
Support projects and properties that benefit local people through employment, social development and the preservation of traditional livelihoods. You could, for instance, try to establish how much of the money you pay goes to local development initiatives. Most lodges and camps in Kenya mention this on their website and other marketing material.
4. Keep to Designated Roads
Please encourage your driver to stay on roads or designated tracks when visiting our national parks and reserves. This ties in strongly with point 1 above. Using qualified guides significantly reduces your chances of veering off such designated tracks.
5. Minimise Animal Disturbance
Many wild animals, such as cheetahs, become distressed when they are surrounded by several vehicles, or when vehicles get too close to them. Please keep noise to a minimum and never try to attract the animals’ attention. The guys at The Conservation have scientific justification for this.
6. Stay Inside your Vehicle at all Times
Do not stand on the roof or hang out of the window of your vehicle while inside the parks, and refrain from getting out of the vehicle except in designated areas. Doing so poses a great danger to your life.
Usually, in situations where a wild animal attacks people, the animal is always at a disadvantage and may be put down because of an irresponsible act by a visitor. By keeping to park rules, we reduce the chances of an attack by a wild animal thereby increasing the chances of its survival.
7. Keep to the Speed Limit
Most parks and reserves have a speed limit of 40 KPH so keep to this limit as you enjoy your game drive. Always remember that animals have the right of way at all times – even outside such protected areas.
8. Do not Feed the Animals
Feeding wild animals can upset their diet and lead to an unnatural dependence upon people. This may set a very dangerous precedence where animals that were naturally ‘wild’ become too familiar with humans hence increasing incidences of human-wildlife conflicts, especially in human-inhabited areas near parks and reserves.
9. Take Care not to Disturb the Ecological Balance
Please do not purchase, collect or remove any animal products, rocks, plants, seeds or birds’ nests from the wild, or alter the natural environment in any way. Doing so is a sure way of triggering a chain reaction to the possible extinction of fragile ecosystems such as corals at the coast.
10. Take all your Litter with you
Litter and garbage pose a great danger to wild animals. Please keep all litter with you, and be extremely careful with cigarettes and matches, which can cause major bushfires.
11. Protect the Marine Environment
Please take care not to touch or stand on coral reefs, and never dispose of any litter on the beach or in the sea.
12. Never Buy or Remove Animals or Shells from the Sea
Do not catch fish or remove other creatures from protected areas and avoid buying starfish, shells, or any products that derive from turtles, whales or other endangered species. This way, you can practise responsible travel by helping to preserve decades of conservation work trying hard to our marine heritage alive.
13. Avoid Buying Under-size Crabs and Lobsters
Avoid restaurants and hotels that serve under-size crabs and lobsters. They are contributing to the rapid demise of these species.
14. Support Traditional Coastal Livelihoods
The Kenya Coast is perhaps at the top of Kenya’s premium tourism offerings. Indeed when people talk about Kenyan tourism, 80% of the time the Kenya coast features. By supporting responsible travel at the coast you help keep it amazing. You can do this by one, supporting inland market areas, where traders are making an effort to keep their business off the beaches. Two, you can avoid giving money to children on the beach, which encourages them to stay away from school.
15. Respect Local Cultures and Customs
Always dress in a respectful way when visiting towns and villages – and never bathe topless on the beach.
With these 15 pointers to responsible travel in Kenya, we hope together we can keep Kenya a hotbed of spectacular landscapes and rich cultural diversity. If you have additional suggestions, Do convey them by leaving your comments below.