Deep Roots in Africa: Baobab Travel

Credit: Johnny Peacock/Flickr

Whether it’s eyeballing a lion or trekking in the Namib Desert, a holiday in Africa can be an awe-inspiring experience. However safeguarding these experiences so that everyone’s a winner can be a difficult task – Ryan Hewlett explores a travel provider who’s doing things the right way.

“Not only is it important for the destinations to be preserved, but also for the local population to benefit”

The Baobab is an impressive tree; tall and impossibly wide, the branches form a roof more than 20 metres in diameter. The tree itself may be several thousand years old – they are as ancient as the land in which they grow. Their long, outstretching branches resemble a mass of roots pointing towards the sky. Baobabs are steeped in mystique and there is an ancient story, which tells of how God planted the tree upside down.

Deep roots

Just like the tree after which the company is named, specialist eco-tour operator Baobab has deep roots in Africa. Founded in 2002 by environmental scientists Louise de Waal and Paul Giess, it was created to focus on providing responsible and sustainable travel experiences in Africa.

Born out of a combination of a love of travel and a desire to work with and support local communities, Baobab takes its customers to countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya and Zambia.

The holidays on offer range from a duration of several days to several weeks, and cover all bases including family holidays and honeymoons, wildlife safaris, beach holidays, local arts and culture experiences, and adventure trips.

Credit: Soaring Flamingo/ Flickr
Credit: Soaring Flamingo/ Flickr

The team handles everything from transfers to food – they visit and approve all accommodation, activities and operators in the destinations that they promote.

The eco-tourism trend is growing and becoming an increasingly popular means of exploration. However there is also a growing hunger amongst western tourists to visit remote destinations and see unique landscapes. These places are often home to some of the poorest people on the planet, therefore the very destinations that attract these tourists are often those that are most at risk of damage from tourism in the first place.

The environments that interest visitors may well contain natural ecosystems that cannot support large numbers of tourists, and are often populated by indigenous cultures, whose customs and traditions may be vulnerable to an overwhelming tide of western visitors.

Namibia (Jani Smith) (2)-minFair Trade Tourism

Therefore not only is it important for the destinations to be preserved, but also for the local population to benefit. One of the ways that Baobab ensures that this is the case is through The Fair Trade Tourism initiative. The initiative provides a tried and tested framework for fair and sustainable development in tourism, and ensures that local business have access to fair wages, safe working conditions and proper distribution of benefits.

Certification is not given away easily; obtaining it is a voluntary process and it demands high levels of support for producers and staff along the whole supply chain.

Just as with a coffee, tea, fruit and chocolate that are hallmarked with the familiar Fairtrade logo, the Fair Trade tourism certification is a guarantee of a better life for the businesses and people of the African nations that travel companies operate within.

South Africa (Jani Smith) (5)-minProtecting the Future

As part of the Fair Trade Tourism certification, Baobab Travel has signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. The code aims to provide increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in areas of travel and tourism. It is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By signing the code, Baobab has committed to implementing a series of measures across their operations that proactively protect children from sex tourism in the locations where the company works. The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct tackles a very real problem. In South Africa alone, at least 40,000 children are exploited as child prostitutes each year. Although South Africa is not a renowned child sex tourism or trafficking destination, developments like a growing tourism industry can create the perfect environment for the exploitation of children.

Baobab serves as proof that a business can provide the very best products and services for its customers whilst ensuring that whatever impact it has is positive, be it on the environment, the people it works with or the supply chain that services it. After more than a decade since its beginnings, the same passion and dedication drives the company today to bring about positive change. Baobab Travel continues to explore and develop meaningful holidays that inspire clients to slow down, really think about the way they travel, and embrace new experiences.