I always try to travel responsibly. Ethical travel is very important to me, but it’s not always easy to navigate around the issues of a country. Kenya and Tanzania are both poor nations, have endangered wildlife and vulnerable tribes. Its not always clear what is right and what is not. I did some research to help you travel these countries responsibly.
This is a difficult one. There are so many tours to the Masai that we skipped, because it felt like a tourist trap. Later our safari guide Richard explained that they are real Masai. They are just no longer nomadic because the government is making the kids go to school. That is why there is more contact with the ‘civilized’ world and the tribes are changing. They still have their traditions, but it sometimes feels they are solely performed for tourists now. During my time in Tanzania I met a guy who grew up in the Datoga tribe and he took us to see his family. It was one of my favorite experiences, so it is definitely on the list of things to do. If you do want to visit a tribe there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Go with a guide that speaks the language
- They are people and not there for your entertainment
- Ask first if you want to take a photo
- Don’t hand out money or gifts. (It can encourage begging and dependence on tourists)
Although well meaning, sometimes volunteering does more harm than good. That’s why it is so important to research your project. An orphanage is a way to make money in a poor country. This means some of the kids might not even be real orphans and may just be used to attract volunteers. There are also a lot of trips to local schools. This might sound like a good thing to do, but if they have tourist walking in everyday taking photo’s this is disruptive to their education. If you really want to help out, make sure you do something you are qualified for. Building a school with no qualification is not a good idea. And don’t forget to be honest with yourself. Would you still want to volunteer if you weren’t allowed to take photo’s?
Climbing the Kilimanjaro
So this is something I haven’t done on my trip, but I know many people who have. It’s one of the most popular activities in Tanzania. The biggest problem is the maltreatment of the porters. Some of them have to climb the mountain on flip-flops while carrying your bag and their not even making €3,- a day. What you can do:
- Choose your company wisely.
- Make sure to ask them questions about how they treat porters.
- Before you start your trip check if your porter has the right footwear.
- Give tips directly to your porter.
- Report it if you see a porter being maltreated.
Swimming with Dolphins in Zanzibar
So at first I was actually really excited for this activity. It seemed harmless as it’s in the ocean and the dolphins are free. Then I read a few reviews. Turns out the dolphins are being surrounded and chased by the boats. The people carrying out these excursions don’t watch the dolphins behavior and are not experts. I have heard of diving excursions in Zanzibar where dolphins approach the divers. This is a nice alternative. You have to be extremely lucky though and it is not a given that you will see them. However you will have a wonderful diving trip anyway and if they do decide to visit it’s an added bonus.
More travel tips:
- Wear appropriate clothing: Tanzania is quite conservative. Especially the coastal areas there are a lot of muslims there. Make sure to cover your shoulders and legs.
- Learn a few words in Swahili. The locals really appreciate the effort
- Make sure your souvenirs aren’t made from bone, fur or coral.
- Ask permission to take a photo of someone.