The industry is changing, and its changing fast. There is a growing demand for ever-deeper travel experiences - what some would call transformative travel. This trend demands an authentic and experiential holiday that reaches a deeper emotional level than ever before.
Many travellers to Africa no longer want to skim the surface of things but want to go deeper; to have a more meaningful experience where they feel that their travel experience has not only added positively to the places and people, they have visited but has also aided in their own personal growth. This innovative and conscious approach to travel inspires beyond the personal and into the community and can bring resounding positive change for conservation and sustainable tourism.
Recently we hosted an unusual tourism meets conservation safari at the Pilanesberg National Park, with a group of international veterinarians and animal behaviourists.
For the first few of days, we used telemetry to track down predators such as cheetah and the critically endangered African wild dog, with the exceptionally knowledgeable and passionate John Power and Andrew Rae. Then followed up with a series of white and black rhino notching’s with the Pilanesberg Rhino Protection Service.
This was a rare opportunity and an extraordinary experience for our guests to actively participate in a rhino notching. As the veterinary team flew overhead in a helicopter in search of the rhino, we followed in hot pursuit with an expert ranger in an open 4×4 safari vehicle. Once the animal was located and darted, the helicopter landed, and we had the never-to-be-repeated opportunity to touch the anaesthetised rhino during the notching procedure.
There are many reserves that are committed to the survival of Africa’s rhinos. Notching, tagging and de-horning are all ways in which this is achieved, and private philanthropy is aiding these reserves in this much needed conservation practice.
In this case ear notches enable researchers to correctly identify different individuals on the Reserve. Each rhino is given a unique ear notch number, and microchips are placed in the horn and body for identification and security purposes. Measurements, horn shavings and skin samples are also taken for DNA analysis.
This was an exceptional few days where we not only got up close and personal to one of Africa's greatest mammals in a meaningful way, but also contributed invaluably towards their protection and our scientific understanding of these iconic species.