How Might Tourists Visit Community-Friendly Eco-Lodges?

Supporting tourism ventures in which local communities have a genuine stake is not only good ethics, it makes for a much more enriching travel experience. One of the things the film conveys is that there is a broad spectrum of relationships between lodges and local communities: from places like Il Ngwesi that are wholly owned and operated by the community, to commercial ventures that provide employment but not much else to surrounding villages. We urge travelers to ask many questions, both before and during your trip, abou the relationship between the lodge operator and people nearby.

Milking the Rhino originator and co-producer Jeannie Magill is teaming up with Uncharted Outposts Safari & Travel Company to offer two safaris based on the locations depicted in the film. Info about the trips:

Kenya Safari
Uncharted Outposts and the Originator/Co-producer, Jeannie Magill, have combined forces to create a unique Kenya Safari based on the award-winning documentary, Milking the Rhino (MTR). Jeannie will be your guide throughout this amazing and insightful safari experience. The itinerary has been specifically created for viewers of the film, conservation minded people, and travelers sensitive to local cultures. MTR – Kenya features lodges and camps which are actively involved in the conservation of wildlife. These properties are supporting local communities and practicing environmentally-friendly policies.

After our first night in Nairobi at the Norfolk Hotel, we will board a flight to Il’ Ngwesi, the award winning Eco-Lodge located within a 16,500 acre group ranch on a rocky outcrop. The Il’Ngwesi Maasai have set aside 80% of their pastureland for wildlife conservation. Sitting on the veranda of the lodge, walking the winding paths to the cottages we have seen in MTR, watching elephants and guinea fowl drink at the waterhole, we feel as though we’re coming home to Il’Ngwesi. We are a part of the Il’Ngwesi’s (people of wildlife) success with community-based conservation and the increase in wildlife and biodiversity in the area.

Having “met” the Il’Ngwesi Maasai through the film, and now directly, our departure has the bittersweet essence of leaving behind close friends as we make our way to the airstrip and our flight to Sarara Camp. Sarara Camp is nestled into the side of the spectacular Mathews range overlooking the vast and remote Northern Frontier District. Hosted by the local Samburu, Sarara allows direct access to the indigenous culture and the opportunity for visitors to be involved with community conservation.

Traveling southwest across the Great Rift Valley we will venture forth into the famous Masai Mara for our next safari experience. Ol Seki Camp will be our home here, or as the Maasai say, enk-aji. Ol Seki Camp watches over the plains of Eastern Koiyaki. In this scenically rich environment we will enjoy prolific wildlife viewing and indulge in luxurious accommodations that reflect the beauty of the location. We will be invited to see current projects underway at Olesere Primary School as well as the Koiyaki Guiding School – the guiding school’s goal is to provide ethical, sustainable and responsible tourism in the Mara.

With our hearts and minds infused with the experiences of community-based conservation and eco-friendly accommodations in Kenya, we finish off this amazing journey with a treetop dayroom at the Ngong House in Nairobi before heading home.

Namibia Safari
MTR – Namibia is a unique safari that has been created by Uncharted Outposts and Jeannie Magill, the Originator and Co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Milking the Rhino. Jeannie will guide this safari to the “back of the beyond” with the same sensitivity to cultural norms that are exhibited in the film. MTR – Namibia offers guests an itinerary highlighting the scenery and people featured in the documentary. These remote locations and intimate properties offer the opportunity to interact with the indigenous people as well as the wildlife, bringing the realities of the film directly to the traveler. Namibia is a country defined by wide open spaces and ample blue skies.

After our first night in Johannesburg at the Southern Sun, we will board our flight to Little Kulala, a luxurious desert retreat situated in the Kulala Wilderness Reserve – the gateway to Namibia’s Sand Sea. Towering red dunes undulate against skies so blue they rival the colors seen in the Mediterranean. This locale had previously been used for subsistence goat farming where little indigenous wildlife remained. Yet after a removal program of stock fences and exotic species, the wildlife has slowly begun to return. The area has since been extended to adjoin the massive Namib Naukluft Park – and has become the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. With the creation of the Reserve arose an opportunity to study and assess the rehabilitation of this 37 000-hectare area after years of intensive subsistence farming. The Small Carnivore Project thus began in 2000 when bat-eared fox were studied on the reserve as an indicator species for land rehabilitation, followed by studies on aardwolf, black-backed jackal, Cape fox and African wildcat.

Our next destination is Desert Rhino Camp set within the 1 million-acre Palmwag Concession where Desert Rhino Camp works closely with Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), a highly respected NGO almost single-handedly responsible for the preservation of desert-adapted black rhino in the area. SRT focuses on the protection, monitoring and understanding of the local black rhino population. Community game scouts who were employed by the Trust to help with the patrolling and monitoring are now the camp’s trackers and guides. Guests gain an amazing insight into the ecology and conservation of this area. The camp offers an exclusive wilderness experience, a good dose of tranquility and the largest free-ranging population of black rhino in Africa. Jeannie, and the Milking the Rhino crew, met Simson, Director of Research and Community Outreach for Save the Rhino at this location the night before filming the translocation of the rhino scene.

We will continue onwards to Ongava Tented Camp located in Etosha National Park. Ongava Game Reserve was formed when shareholders of Ongava converted four unproductive cattle ranches into a highly productive 30 000-hectare private game reserve that is now a haven to large concentrations of wildlife. The Reserve forms a buffer between Etosha National Park and the farms to the south, thus enabling game such as lion, cheetah, hyena and small antelope greater movement between the Park and the private reserve. Ongava Tented Camp is tucked into a hidden valley at the foot of a dolomite hill in the privately owned Ongava Game Reserve. Ongava holds one of the largest rhino custodianships for the Namibian government in the country. It is one of the few private game reserves in Southern Africa that offer the opportunity to see both black and white rhino in a characteristically Namibian landscape.

Our last visit will be to Serra Cafema in the Marienfluss Conservancy. The community-based camp overlooks the Kunene River and the southern border of Angola. Serra Cafema is featured in Milking the Rhino; the relationship between the camp and the local village of Otapi is clearly shown in the film. The affects of tourism and the place the private sector has in community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) are unabashedly portrayed and debated in the documentary. Once nomadic people, the Himba are beautiful, intelligent and very brave to embrace the experiment of CBNRM. The benefits and the struggles of CBNRM are clearly outlined in the film as Oma so emphatically points out to John, the Namibian star of MTR. We will experience for ourselves how we, the tourist, and the Himba people unite in a dance called tourism.

We will end this journey, this safari into the vast wilderness of Namibia, richer for the experiences we have shared and the knowledge that only the “back of the beyond” can teach.

Book your Milking the Rhino Safari with Uncharted Outposts via this link