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As you may have heard, an American dentist has been identified as the killer of Zimbabwe’s most beloved lion. Cecil, a 13-year-old male, had six cubs in his pride — and they now face certain death from other male lions. Earlier this month, the dentist-hunter paid £35,000 (roughly $55,000) for the questionable privilege of shooting Cecil with a crossbow, tracking him for roughly 40 hours, shooting him with a rifle, then skinning and beheading his body. African lions are listed as a threatened species on the IUCN Red List, but both sadly and infuriatingly, in some countries, they can still be legally hunted.
This horrific incident signifies that additional research before booking a stay at a safari camp can be crucial to an animal’s life. To this end, TPG Editorial Intern Danielle Truglio shares a list of safari camps for sustainable, eco-friendly and lion-focused travel — and a few foundations where your contributions will directly help lions.
Started by five inspiring individuals who put their skills together in order to create distinguished projects in threatened habitats throughout Africa, this conservation organization and safari company coined the term “Conservation Tourism,” striving to provide quality guide-led experiences that are both sensitive to community needs and environmentally low-impact.
Great Plains’ remote, luxurious Duba Plains Camp is located north of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, on 77,000 private acres that serve as home to the Great Plains Conservation co-founders, as well as many lions. The Conservation’s Mara Plains Camp in Kenya is set on the Ntiakitiak River within the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, just a few hundred meters from the Masai Mara National Reserve. Guests at Mara Plains can explore more than 100,000 acres of land, home to a vast number of wildlife species, while still having unrestricted access to the Maasai Mara’s additional 375,000 acres.
Voted the #1 Safari Outfitter by Travel and Leisure, this luxury tour operator has been operating for more than five decades. The company prides itself on its commitment to empirical travel with luxury journeys that are completely unique and customized to fit each client’s style and budget.
Ker & Downey recommends Kwihala Camp, located in the frontier of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. Kwihala Camp offers high-end accommodations that include en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, as well as solar-generated electricity, laundry service, a mess tent with a lounge and dining area and nightly campfires. You may even get to witness lions hunting their prey.
Ker & Downey also recommends Namiri Plains Camp in the famed Serengeti, where the big cats wander. In addition to many prides of lions, the area is now said to hold one of East Africa’s highest concentrations of cheetahs.
Established in 1991, andBeyond has developed wildlife sanctuaries across the continent — and beyond. The company designs personalized luxury safaris in 15 African countries, and runs 33 camps and lodges in both Africa and India that impact more than nine million acres of wildlife-rich land.
andBeyond is known for camps such as Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and Botswana’s Xudum. However Sayari Camp, established in Tanzania just ten years ago, comes highly recommended by the company and is now considered one of the finest in Africa. Throughout the year you can find over 500 species in this amenity-filled, luxurious landscape — as well as roaming prides of lions.
In an effort to help preserve the lion population and prevent a death like Cecil’s from happening again, here are two worthy causes to which you can contribute:
The Serengeti Lion Project. This project at the University of Minnesota is one of the most ambitious carnivore studies in the world, spanning more than 40 years. For more information, explore the menu sections at www.lionresearch.org.
Ruaha Carnivore Project. As part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, this project aims to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania’s remote Ruaha landscape. For more information, visit ruahacarnivoreproject.com.
If you know of any worthy causes/foundations to which TPG readers can contribute — or have had an especially rewarding experience with lions via a safari company, please share them with us in the comments below.