Virtual safaris are keeping Londoners’ holiday dreams alive while funding vital conservation.
Safari tour operators including &Beyond offering virtual safari packages, including live-streamed ‘TV’, from the comfort of your sofa, having run 15 safaris this month for more than 121 virtual tourists.
Its latest package is a two-hour private deluxe virtual safari at Phinda Lodge, a private game reserve in South Africa, which costs $450.
The exclusive content, in real-time, is tailored to true enthusiasts or simply friends branching out from Zoom quizzes to enjoy drinks together over a safari.
&Beyond representative Lily Dodwell-Hill, 29, said: “There have been some amazing sightings, it’s really exciting seeing things happen in front of your eyes and having that commentary.
“It’s a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and gives people a chance to be involved.”
Other packages on offer include a one hour ‘chat with a guide’, which is popular with true enthusiasts and children keen to learn.
Guides previously avoided using too much technology as they felt that it was so important to bring people to nature.
Head guide at Phinda Lodge Jarryd du Preez, 31, said: “It’s been a fun challenge.
“We joke the guides have become ‘teacup celebrities’ because of the crazy Instagram following.”
He added they are not interested in making it ultra-professional which means visitors enjoy a raw experience as in real life.
With no long-haul travel for the foreseeable future it is vital to find new ways to keep the conservation going.
Phinda Lodge has a ‘three C’ approach of ‘care of the land, care of the wildlife and care of the people’.
Community projects through the Africa Foundation get 10% of guests’ fees and 70% goes to habitat maintenance, sustainability and conservation initiatives, including Rhinos Without Borders, the Lionscape Coalition and pangolin monitoring – the most trafficked mammal on earth.
Mr du Preez said: “We want to bring people as close to nature as possible and touch their hearts with wildlife, so they see the importance of conservation.
“We have an opportunity to impact thousands of people, potentially millions.”
Miss Dodwell-Hill said: “We don’t see an end to virtual safaris any time soon because it’s opening safari up to so many more people.”