Purpose-driven travel is about engaging in experiences that contribute to sustainability and empowerment. In other words, travelling with purpose means travelling better. And, without even knowing it, the positive impact you are able to make by engaging in environmental initiatives and authentic cultural connections, will in turn make your experience so much more immersive and meaningful.
By putting ‘purpose’ at the centre of your travel experience, you get to make deep connections with the people and places you visit, while ensuring you minimise environmental impacts, protect the natural environment and biodiversity, and uplift local communities through fair trade. It’s an approach to travel that is more sustainable, responsible and ethical to all involved, giving back in a respectful way to those that call your holiday destination their home.
And you only stand to gain from the experience too. Purpose-driven travel is a more fulfilling and genuine exchange, which you’ll find out makes it more enjoyable (and unforgettable!) overall.
Be part of the conservation solution
With over one million pangolins becoming victims of wildlife crime over the past decade, it is understood that they are the most illegally traded animal in the world. This has pushed all eight species – divided equally between Africa and Asia – on the list of threatened species, ranging from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. That’s why protection of these fascinating ‘scaly anteaters’ is incredibly important if we want the future of the African wilderness to include them.
In Kenya, research projects have been established to better understand pangolin numbers and behaviours in the Maasai Mara, while also developing strategies to better protect and secure them. By supporting projects like these through visits and donations, you are contributing to pangolin conservation by enabling increased field research, anti-poaching teams, and surveillance based on latest technology.
The elephant population of the Maasai Mara are in a similar predicament as their small, shy counterparts. They could become extinct in just a few decades if current poaching levels in the area continue. There is an important natural corridor which the elephants use to move between different areas of the Mara in search of food and water. By keeping this corridor open for wildlife to move freely and with protection from poaching, the elephants are able to source enough food to survive.
And the survival of the elephants means the survival of the Mara. This is because elephants are ‘ecosystem engineers’ and play a critical role in shaping the natural environments where they are found. So, by contributing to conservation projects dedicated to monitoring and protecting elephants in the Maasai Mara, you are helping to save this special piece of Kenyan wilderness for future generations to come.
Support mediation efforts for human-wildlife conflict resolution
As in so many places across the world, there has been an ongoing and age-old conflict between the Maasai people and predators that prey on livestock. Lions, in particular, have suffered as a result of the backlash from disgruntled farmers, which together with other factors, have caused a steady decline in the lion population over the last two decades.
Intimately linked to this problem is vulture poisoning. In just 30 years, more than half of the vulture population in Kenya’s Masai Mara has been decimated. Seven of Africa’s 11 vulture species are on the edge of extinction, and 90% of reported vulture deaths in Africa are from medicinal use and poisoning. Vultures are often the unintended victims of poisoning incidents where humans place poison into carcasses to kill off predators like lions and cheetahs.
Like elephants, vultures are a keystone species, and are vital to maintaining the healthy functioning and resilience of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Then, without a healthy populations of predators, game animals like wildebeest, zebra and impala would be left to overpopulate and wipe out the natural balance of vegetation on the plains.
Dialogue and mediation efforts by conservationists with local community members are ongoing in order to find a solution that works for all involved in this complicated human-wildlife conflict. Scientific research is leading to a better understanding of the role of predators within the broader Mara ecosystem, and conservationists are dedicating their lives to vulture rehabilitation so that these birds can do their important work. By lending your support to these types of projects, you are contributing to the restoration of a healthy Maasai Mara.
Uplift people through respectful engagement
An essential part of doing purpose-driven travel right is engaging with and supporting communities respectfully, whether through visiting their homes, joining festivals, or buying locally-made goods. Unfortunately, many interactions with the Maasai community are ‘canned’. Being able to have unscripted and informal conversations with a Maasai safari guide about the culture of the Maasai and on key community traits is the most ethical and informative experience.
The Maasai are one of the few tribes in East Africa never to have been enslaved. To this day, they retain their colourful red clothing and unique cultural traits as a semi-nomadic tribe that has lived – relative to other tribes – harmoniously and sustainably alongside wildlife. While visiting a Maasai village, you will get to learn about ancient traditions as well as contemporary struggles and adaptations to modern life.
This involves a trip to their manyattas (mud huts), the broader village setup including security, healthcare, education and resource management, the livestock, and much more. Maasai artefacts and attire are sold at the village market, which is where you have the opportunity to purchase an authentic piece of handiwork, meet the creator behind it, and know that you are contributing to their financial well-being.
Like many indigenous communities, the Maasai are a disappearing tribe that has built up centuries of knowledge about the natural environment within which they live. From understanding the medicinal properties of a wide range of plants to interpreting the constellations in the African night sky, spending time chatting with your Maasai safari guide is a fascinating learning experience. Through active engagement and support, you can help those that know the Mara ecosystem the best to continuing living in and caring for it.
So when you go on your next holiday, travel better by making deliberate choices of quality over quantity, real happiness over checklists, and transformative experience over service.
Calvin Cottar is Director and Owner at Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa.
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