NY Times, Seeing Zambia's Magnificent Wildlife & How to Help

Hi everyone - greetings from week 5 (or is it week 6?) of house quarantine in Portugal, where our two-week visit to my parents has been extended to at least three months. Still, despite inconveniences such as canceled trips and assignments and a largely uncertain future - compared to what many people are going through, Jess and I are totally fine. And although this was meant to happen this spring at some point anyway, so many people being confined to their homes meant that the New York Times rushed through one of my photo essays as the first part of their ‘the World Through the Lens’ series of virtual travel inspiration. You can find the full selection of images (and some lovely comments) here, and this is the print version:

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I have to say, I loved all the interaction - hundreds of comments, dozens of emails - that was the result of the Zambia article, and I’ve been asked to join NYTimes Travel editor Amy Virshup for a 45-minute live video interview and audience Q&A. However, there are a few things I suspect we might not be able to discuss in any great detail during that session, but that I still want to be able to refer to, and that’s what this blogpost is for.

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I’m glad people are discovering Zambia, albeit virtually for the moment. Like many other places, Zambia’s protected areas are going to be in for a rough time this year, as a lot of the conservation and community work being done is funded either directly or indirectly through tourism. It’s important to note that while many places might do well with a break from tourism, that primarily applies to areas that don’t rely on tourism.

Let’s start with Zambia as a travel destination though. I absolutely love Zambia - it (and specifically South Luangwa) was where I had my first African adventure as an adult, camping high up in a tree for three weeks, watching baboons and elephants walk below my tent on a daily basis. Since then I’ve stayed in so many great camps and lodges, so if you want to put together your own trip, the easiest thing for me to do is to point you toward my good friend Mario Voss at Hidden Gems of Zambia, a Zambia-based travel agent / ground handler. Mario grew up in Ghana and has spent his entire adult life living in the Zambian bush, and we’ve had quite a few adventures together over the years.

However, if you’re keen to travel with Jess and me then there is now an option for that, too. As a result of the Zambia article, we were contacted by Dazzle Africa, a non-profit travel outfit specializing on South Luangwa, and a few days ago they launched a 12-day Mindful Safari Adventure during which Jess and I will run regular photography, yoga and mindfulness sessions - in addition to co-guiding the trip. You can read more about this unique trip on our Mindful Adventures website.

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Now let’s focus on how you can support the Luangwa from home. How can you do that? Well, actually, booking a safari DOES help, because even if you’re not traveling now, the money you pay can be used to cover salaries, which puts food on the table, which reduces the incentive for local families to resort to snaring wild animals. Both the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and many of the non-profits listed below are largely financed by tourism. But beyond that, you can, of course, support these fantastic conservation organizations directly, with donations. I will only link to ones I have worked with myself, whose reputation is impeccable, and/or for whom Mario, or someone else whose judgment I trust completely, has vouched. So, in alphabetical order, here are a few options:

1. African Parks - of the 17 protected areas African Parks manage, two are in Zambia: Liuwa Plains and Bangweulu Wetlands. African Parks use a systems-based approach, from park management and conservation research to anti-poaching, community engagement, education, and healthcare.

2. Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust - conservation education & scholarships for Zambian children and communities

3. COMACO - supporting wildlife conservation and small-scale farmers in eastern Zambia

4. Conservation South Luangwa - protecting the wildlife and habitats of the South Luangwa ecosystem

5. North Luangwa Conservation Programme - protecting Zambia’s only black rhinos and largest elephant population

6. Wildlife Crime Prevention - undercover work & intelligence to disrupt the illegal wildlife trade

7. Zambian Carnivore Programme - conserving Zambia’s carnivores and the habitats they live in

These are all incredible organizations with passionate, dedicated staff, and they could really use your support in what will be a very tough year for many of them. As always, if you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to send me an email.

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