Anje Rautenbach is a Bay travel writer and a blogger who runs the travel blog, Going Somewhere Slowly. As a solo female traveller she discovers the nooks and crannies of the world in slow motion, fuelled by caffeine and a passion for storytelling
Be more responsible when you travel
One of the easiest things to do is to throw a blind eye to all the go-green initiatives, animal rights’ petitions and other sustainability campaigns. We shrug our shoulders, shake our heads and proclaim we had no idea. We ask for yet another plastic bag, leave recycling for next time and brainwash ourselves to think that that animal in a cage is happy and not abused.
Travel and tourism can often have a very negative impact on the environment due to human interference, lack of knowledge and the desire to follow in the footsteps of the travellers who came before us. But as travellers we have a responsibility resting on our shoulders and whether we are travelling around in South Africa or abroad we have a responsibility to respect, care and leave a positive impact on our environment. We have a responsibility to not shrug our shoulders and say next time, but to take act, stand up and speak out because if not now, when?
There are 8 simple things you can do to be a more responsible traveller in South Africa and abroad:
1. Do not waste water
Water is a precious resource which is not abundantly available and crystal clear in many parts of the world. Whether you are visiting a place with or without water restrictions and/or shortages, always close faucets, do not take your royal time in the bathroom and drink your glass of water at a restaurant because chances are that a glass half full will be emptied down the drain.
2. Say no to plastic
Every single piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists and even though this fact is shocking, more and more plastic is being produced every day and our oceans and marine life suffer the consequences. Before you use any plastic ask yourself if you really need it, because I can assure you that you are quite capable to drink without a straw. Use glass bottles (it is much healthier any way), have a shopping bag ready and remember to reduce, reuse and recycle.
3. Do not litter
Clean up after yourself and throw your trash in a trash can or better, a recycling bin. If you see someone else’s trash lying around, be a grown up, be responsible and pick it up.
4. Keep your rhinos off social media
This week we celebrated Rhino Week, a week focused on raising funds for rhino conservation as well as awareness. If you spot a rhino in the wild keep your photos off social media, even if your geotag is off. Rhino poachers are unfortunately smarter than your smart phone.
5. Support local tourism initiatives
Shop and support local businesses as much as you can; eat local, travel local, buy local and explore with a local guide to discover more about the people, their culture and their traditions.
6. Do not go on trips that involve animal interactions or captive animals
To live in captivity is no way for any animal to live, no matter how small or how big. Animals in captivity are unhealthy, they get ripped away from their mothers at an early unstable age, they suffer through pain, neglect and abuse, they are bored, they don’t have any freedom and they are under severe stress.
Animals are not here to entertain us and it is of utmost importance to avoid and raise awareness around the following animal activities often offered to travellers:
• Elephant riding – elephants are beaten and chained up for human entertainment. There is NO such thing as ethical elephant riding.
• Swimming with dolphins in captivity – dolphins swim vast distances in the wild but in captivity they are confined to small pools with chemically treated water.
• Petting cheetah, tiger or lion cubs (or grown felines). Please visit www.bloodlions.org to understand the dangers behind cub petting and how something which might seem innocent to you will probably end in a canned lion hunting situation.
• Walking with lions or cheetahs – a lion or cheetah is not a dog. Walk your dog. And again, visit Blood Lions to understand why you should not interact with lions and cheetahs in such a way.
• Circus performances or dolphin shows – A circus performance of an animal dressed in clothes and doing funny things is not a result of monkey see, monkey do but rather a result of monkey obeys or monkey gets beaten.
7. Do your research before you volunteer
Volunteering can be life-changing but unfortunately it can also have the complete opposite impact than what you have imagined. Do your research and do your research again to ensure that you will volunteer ethically and that your financial and physical support will have a positive impact on the people or animals you volunteer with.
8. Respect cultures, traditions, beliefs and other religions
Adhere to the customs of the place that you are visiting and respect their culture. One of the things you can do to show respect is to dress respectfully (especially at religious sites) and also to treat people with respect when it comes to photography – think before you click. Do your research before your visit; know what is considered taboo, know the meaning of hand signals and know what is perceived as respectful. Remember, “a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable” – Clifton Fadiman.
We have a responsibility to not shrug our shoulders and say next time, but to take act, stand up and speak out because if not now, when?
See more from Anje at goingsomewhereslowly.com