World Environment Day – Part 1: DumaTau hailed as an Ecolodge.

Jun 5, 2013 Conservation
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Recently, Wilderness Safaris was honoured to have two of our camps, from our suite of about 65 camps, feature in National Geographic Traveler’s Top 25 Ecolodges in the World.  This is without doubt a massive achievement for us and one we are very proud of.  In light of World Environment Day, we thought it would be fitting to discuss what makes these worthy of such recognition and how different each camp’s contribution is to the environment.

The two camps named in the top 25 were Damaraland, situated in the Kunene Region of the western interior of Namibia and DumaTau, perfectly positioned in the biodiversity-rich Linyanti region of northern Botswana.  The reasons for these two camps’ inclusion into the Top 25 were quite different, attesting to the fact that our 4Cs (Commerce, Conservation, Community, Culture) approach to sustainability is working well and brings out the best in different areas and countries, positively contributing to the environment.  In part one, we discuss DumaTau and how it also fits into the World Environmental Day theme of “Think, Eat, Save”.  Next week in part two we will discuss Damaraland and how it contributes to the environment through a community-centred approach.  

Wilderness Safaris is well known for our commitment to minimising our operational footprint on the pristine landscapes in which our operations are based.  Known as the Environmental Management Systems (EMS) of our Conservation C in our 4Cs approach to sustainability, DumaTau has redefined our environmental standards.  DumaTau is situated in a rich ecosystem with an abundance of wildlife and is home to many of our conservation research projects funded through the Wilderness Wildlife Trust (WWT).  It is the actions mentioned below that have highlighted the “Think and Save” components of the “Think, Eat, Save” theme of World Environment Day.

But it was not the conservation initiatives or research benefitting the wildlife in this Wildlife Management Area that caught the attention of National Geographic; rather, it was the new standards that minimise the footprint of the camp.  It is very important to minimise any potentially negative impact that our camps may have on the environment and in so doing maintain the pristine state in which we found these wilderness areas.  DumaTau operates solely on solar power, with its backup generators only switching on for a few hours a week, leading to a saving of at least 85% in fuel use at the camp.  This not only reduces the carbon emissions of the camp but also the carbon emissions and potential impacts fuel deliveries have on this environment.  

Water is fast becoming a global concern as access to fresh water becomes rarer and rarer throughout the world.  It is therefore very important that we look after the fresh water that surrounds DumaTau.  Set on the banks of the Linyanti River’s Osprey Lagoon, we invested in state-of-the-art above-ground sewage plants to ensure that we treat all waste water effectively and do not contaminate these important water sources close to the world-famous Savute Channel.   

DumaTau also became the first camp in Wilderness Safaris to experiment with methane gas generation from organic waste, which links back to the “Eat” part of the “Think, Eat, Save” theme of World Environment Day.  There is always a significant amount of organic waste that is discarded from our kitchens.  Using biodigesters, the organic waste is fed into the system and begins to break down, generating methane gas as it decomposes.  This methane gas is collected and subsequently used as an alternate energy source to cook food at the staff kitchen.  Although we have had some problems along the way as we learn to best use and manage this new technology, this has provided an exciting addition to our EMS standards.  DumaTau has therefore taken a “reduce our footprint” view of World Environment Day and shows how we, as human beings and businesses, can minimise any potentially negative impacts on the environment – which ultimately allows the positive impacts we have on the environment to be maximised.

Next week in part 2 we take a look at Damaraland in more detail and discuss the ways in which it gives back to the environment through local communities and economic empowerment as we continue to celebrate World Environment Day.

Travel with Brett: Take your safari experience to another level and travel with Brett and go behind the scenes of what makes Wilderness Safaris a leader in sustainable ecotourism.  With Brett as your private guide, you will be granted an all-access pass and experience some of our conservation and community efforts first hand.  

About the author: Brett Wallington is the Group Sustainability Coordinator of Wilderness Safaris coordinating many of the sustainability initiatives across the 4Cs (Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture.  His passion is developing safari experiences that create a positive impact on the conservation of the area visited while making positive sustainable impacts to any local communities.  Respecting local cultures and introducing guests to these cultures also forms a crucial aspect of sustainable ecotourism.  After completing a degree in environmental sciences, Brett began his career as a guide in the Sabi Sands adjoining the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a passion of his that continues today, although with a slightly more directed purpose.


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By Brett Wallington

Brett joined Wilderness Safaris in May 2011 and has been a key player in the company’s progress towards adopting the 4Cs approach to sustainability. Recognised by the influential Mail & Guardian newspaper as a Climate Change Leader in 2014, Brett now heads up the US Sales Business Unit, based in Johannesburg.

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